Archive for the ‘Creative Solutions’ Category

It was Mary Obrien who inspired this graphic, back during her pod cast interview when she said abandon beaver sites were like ghost towns.

Ghost townNow it looks like the National Trust in Scotland got the memo!

NTS backs re-introduction of beavers to Scotland

Despite acknowledging that they’re not always “good neighbours”, the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) has become the latest organisation to add its voice to calls for wild beavers to be re-introduced to the country.

In a policy statement published today, NTS describes the Eurasian Beaver as a “a key element of our native fauna” and says its introduction will bring “many significant benefits to Scotland’s countryside, in terms of restoring native ecosystems, contributing to biodiversity, enhancing natural wetland processes, and promoting tourism”.

 ”The beaver is a crucial element in our countryside which plays an important role in the conservation of other wildlife,” said NTS’s Nature Advisor Lindsay Mackinlay. “Conservationists call it a keystone species because its presence has such a major impact on the natural environment and its wildlife. Scotland is currently much the poorer without it.

Hooray for Scotland! And hooray for the free beavers on the river Tay and all their supporters. This was truly a major accomplishment at almost every level; research, outreach, education and public subversion. Honestly I couldn’t be happier for them, and even thought it’s not yet official, its looking like the anglers will have to put up with the flat-tails.

Our own beavers were kinder to us last night, with four visible including Dad and Jr. We were treated to a full show because there was a newish mom with 11 baby ducks, a turtle, two green herons roosting in the tree, and a fair amount of beavers! It’s wonderful to be back in the season of life again, but we’re all impatient for kits.

Rusty sent this photo Saturday, which Peter Moyle was kind enough to ID as a large mouth bass getting eaten by a night heron. He said he is always happy when a native predator eats a nonnative one.

NH with fish

Night Heron eating large mouth bass: Rusty Cohn

World Wildlife Federation promotes Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On May - 22 - 2015Comments Off

CaptureSara Moore is a Sonoma-based climate writer and blogs for the WWF climate report. Guess what she decided to talk about in this issue?

California: The Rebeavering

The California case for beaver reintroduction is picking up steam.

Specifically, the case is being made for the benefits of beaver dams and their ponds to California’s high Sierra, where a disappearing snowpack is threatening the state’s summer water supply—and overall economy.

California faces peculiar beaver-reintroduction barriers not faced by other western states where people are starting to think of beaver ponds as a landscape restoration and surface water retention tool, like Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. And drought-plagued California might gain particular benefit from a new surface water retention tool.

Sara goes on to do a fairly deft recap of the beaver nativity issue and the research we did to prove it, and then even makes room for one particular city that decided to live with beavers.

Although individual cases of conflict can be solved (as they did famously in Martinez, CA, now the home of an annual Beaver Festival), there is a lack of information in favor of beavers as a way to solve problems. 

Thanks for the mention, but I think you’re wrong about missing information. We have tons of research on beaver benefits to salmon and riparian and carbon. What we’re missing is broadcasting and persuasion. There was a time I thought that more information would change peoples thinking, but now I realize that when people say ‘more research is needed’ they’re usually just stalling or looking for funding. There are about 20 people in the entire state whose minds could be changed by research about beavers. The rest are going to learn by watching, seeing, or getting public pressure. Come to Martinez and see for yourself.

The article ends on a cheery note:

So, the CDFW is cautiously showing interest in what the beaver believers have to say. There appears to be momentum behind locating and evaluating populations for possible increased protection. Sierra mountain meadows and their far-downstream neighbors, thirsty ranches and farms, may eventually see the benefits.

Hurray for beavers! Hooray for Brock and hurray for WWF. We need folks all over to be seriously thinking about this issue, at this starts the conversation nicely. If people want to learn more Sara has a great list of references at the end for further information and this introduces folks to the issues  very well. When you beaver photo gets into the WWF calendar I’ll consider it a real victory!


Can I complain now?

(I spoke with Sara back in April and our conversation was kind of unsettling. Of course I referred her to all the sources named in the article, and gave her background about all the states that allowed relocation. To tell the truth though, I’m surprised Martinez made it in at all, because she really wasn’t interested in solving beaver problems. She was interested in Relocation and couldn’t understand why I didn’t think it was the best idea EVER. As you can see, Worth A Dam, or my actual name appear nowhere in the piece, even when she refers to the papers we wrote on which I was second author (grr) – I guess I should be happy to get a link, and several links to articles on this website, an information source apparently so useful it isn’t even mentioned.)

This is me shaking it off. (Video of grooming beaver from Rusty Cohn at Tulocay beaver pond in Napa.)


Martinez Beavers go to Pacifica

Posted by heidi08 On May - 18 - 2015Comments Off

June 6th is my final beaver talk for a while and will be at the San Pedro Valley Park visitor’s center in Pacifica, ending one of the busiest 6 months of beaver-speaking I’ve known. It started with the SF waterboard in Oakland, then the State of the Beaver in Oregon, then the salmonid federation in Santa Rosa, then Trout Unlimited in Coloma, then SARSAS in Auburn and Safari West in Santa Rosa. Now there’s just one left and then I can focus on the festival.

San Pedro Valley SPV is a county park in the peninsula hills described as A vast area embracing the middle and south forks of San Pedro Creek, which are Steelhead spawning grounds, this park is nestled amongst the Santa Cruz Mountain range and the foothills of Pacifica. “ They also happen to be interested in having beaver, and originally contacted me thinking relocation might be an option. I explained that the only way to get beaver in California right now is to let them come to you and they invited me to come talk about benefits and solutions. They did an awfully nice blurb on their newsletter. I especially like “repatriated”.nice bioThey might not have all that long to wait. We have a beaver sighting 5 miles east at the water treatment facility, and a beaver killed on the highway 5 miles south. Since several forks of the San Pedro Creek flow through the park, the odds are good beavers will find their way eventually. underwater adaptions Since it’s a new crowd I thought I’d work on some new graphics, which is always fun.  This should remind me not to leave anything out when I discuss their physical adaptions! And this could be a good prompt for discussing beaver chewing of trees and why not to panic.

chewedBut the last was the most fun to do.  And really will be the most powerful. Because, in the end, it isn’t science that saves beavers. Even though it should. People don’t change their minds because of data.  We all learned first hand in Martinez, it’s not brains that convince. It’s hearts.

kits get a lift

A silly thing and three special things

Posted by heidi08 On May - 17 - 20151 COMMENT

First the silly thing….

Beaver cuts tree down, starts grass fire south of Saskatoon

Capture SASKATOON – A beaver caused a large grass fire Saturday, according to the Saskatoon Fire Department. The blaze was located near Valley Road, south of the city near The Berry Barn.  The fire department says the animal chew ed down a poplar tree which fell on a power line.

Those beaver arsonists are the worst! Smoking in bed, starting fires with their appetizer course, with zero regard for personal property. They obviously don’t know how hard it is to put up those power lines in the first place.

Now, let’s share in the wondrous developments at the Napa beaver pond, where Rusty has been patiently waiting for a glimpse of the new kits. Of course while he’s waiting there’s lots to see. Check out this weekends bounty.

He even got video of two otters at the sight having a little tussle. Megan of ROEP thinks it mighthave something to do with mating. How exciting!

Now for this truly stunning photograph brought to my attention by someone I can’t yet bring to your attention. Isn’t this BEAUTIFUL?

kit ride

This is the kind of photo that every wildlife watcher dreams of getting. That perfect moment when opportunity crosses your path and everything goes right. He writes that it’s a mother carrying her kit, which is a fair assumption. But we in Martinez know it might not be true. The most stunning footage I ever got was dad carrying both kits. And we only know that because of mom’s beautiful tail clue.

This is the kind of photo that saves beavers, so I hope Jeff doesn’t mind too much if I share. You can see Jeff’s remarkable work on flickr here.

And finally the best for last. Now pull up a chair and gather close because this is really important. First, a little background. In the films about Grey Owl they describe him doing a special call to bring the beavers. The way a duck call brings ducks. Which I would have ignored as silly if I hadn’t also read in a book about someone who hand-reared kits in Canada who said that their brother was a trapper and he taught her to call beavers. She noted that it was so powerful she would never teach anyone else because she didn’t want trappers to use it. So I was curious.

And then there’s Bernie Krause’s amazing recording of the beaver after the dam and his family was blown up. It sounds very much like he is mourning. But I after I heard it I always wondered if he was calling to find them. (Which is what we would do if our homes were blown up and we weren’t sure if our family members were inside.) I discussed this idea with him, but he was fairly disinterested. But then yesterday – out of NOWHERE – I stumbled on this.

I know that readers of this site mostly don’t click on the videos. Life is busy and who has time? Believe me when I say you want to see this. (I was so scared it would end badly I practically watched it with my eyes closed the first time. But nothing bad happens, trust me.) And this is really, really worth your time.

(I trust if you know any trappers, you won’t show it to them.) And honestly, don’t practice this call on our beavers because they’ve been through enough. But isn’t that amazing? Do you realize what this means? It means parents call kits. And beavers call each other. I am sure this is a youngish beaver, looking for his family. What surprised me was not only that it existed, but how very different the sound is from a kit whining. Almost like loud nasal mooing. Also I could hear the similarity in the young beaver answers, and hear how similar it is to our kits whining. It made me think that beaver kits are imitating adult speech – just like children!

Honestly, this is a big deal. Such a big deal that I got an email last night from Bernie Krause himself.

Free, furry nitrate-removal kits.

Posted by heidi08 On May - 15 - 2015Comments Off

Wetlands continue to reduce nitrates

Wetlands created 20 years ago between tile-drained agricultural fields and the Embarras River were recently revisited for a new two-year University of Illinois research project. Results show an overall 62 percent nitrate removal rate and little emission of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas.

Slowing down the rate of flow of the water by intercepting it in the wetland is what helps to remove the nitrate,” says Mark David, a University of Illinois biogeochemist in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. “The vegetation that grows in the wetland doesn’t make much of a difference because the grasses don’t take up much nitrogen. It’s just about slowing the water down and allowing the microbes in the sediment to eliminate the nitrate. It goes back into the air as harmless nitrogen gas.”

I’m so glad Illinois is looking into this. We really need to understand the ways to fix our streams. The EPA says that nitrates are leftovers from all the fertilizers and rodenticides farmers use. And that if the get into wells or groundwater they can cause illness in children or cancer at higher levels.

Exposure to nitrates and nitrites at levels above health-based risk values has adverse health effects on infants and children. The health effect of most concern to the U.S. EPA for children is the “blue baby syndrome” (methemoglobinemia) seen most often in infants exposed to nitrate from drinking water used to make formula.

Exposure to higher levels of nitrates or nitrites has been associated with increased incidence of cancer in adults, and possible increased in cidence of brain tumors, leukemia, and nasopharyngeal (nose and throat)  

As a rule Americans are against turning our babies blue or giving ourselves cancer. So we really, really want to get rid of nitrates when we can. And it turns out that just slowing down the water by making wetlands is a better way to do that than just about anything else. Even better than plants. Even better than building expensive bioreactors.

“Farmers generally prefer to install bioreactors because they don’t take up much space,” Gentry says. “A wetland requires about 3 to 4 percent of the drainage area. So, for a 100-acre field, you’d need about 4 acres in wetland. Although bioreactors don’t use much land, they also don’t slow the water enough during high flows. Research on their performance is still underway. Because water tends to be in the wetlands for a much longer time period, they are more effective.”

Wow, wetlands work harder for longer and they are supremely effective at getting rid of nitrates. We really need them! The article doesn’t mention it but they also have all these added benefits as a buffer zone for huge storms, and a stopping place for migratory birds, or habitat for wildlife. We should be working hard to protect them since they do this important work. Maybe giving a tax credit to farmers  that allow them?

The article also doesn’t mention a certain rodent that actually makes and maintains these valuable wetlands for free. Its name escapes me now. What was it called again?

I think it started with a ‘B’?

Mudding the dam Cheryl Reynolds

Mudding the dam Cheryl Reynolds

Thanks to BK for sending this my way.

Beavers don’t have Lodge Owners Associations

Posted by heidi08 On May - 14 - 2015Comments Off

Family of beavers face eviction from their adopted pond in Ada subdivision

ADA TOWNSHIP, MI – A family of beavers that has moved into a pond at the Ada Moorings subdivision may soon be evicted, despite the impassioned protests of neighbors who live in the surrounding houses.

The beavers have endeared themselves to nature-minded residents after building a lodge in one of the ponds dug to collect rain water in subdivision, located near the south banks of the Grand River east of Ada.

“The Beavers Have Returned!” cried a neighborhood newsletter that celebrated the return of the furry beasts to their historic habitat.

That’s not how the beavers are being welcomed by the board of the Ada Moorings Condominium Association, which governs the ponds and grounds for 151 homes in the site condominium development.

 The busy beavers’ efforts to block an outflow drain on the pond have upset neighbors, who worry the dam will cause water levels to rise in the connected ponds and create flooding in the neighborhood.

 Chris Beckering, the association’s president, said the neighbors have had to remove the dams almost daily to assure the flow of water through the ponds to the Grand River.

 ”As an association, we are concerned about damage to our infrastructure and potentially, our homes,” Beckering said.

Visible beavers! Supportive residents! And a negative administrative response! Could there be a better combination for a beaver drama in Michigan? Maybe Martinez can help – we’ve certainly been there, eight years ago when our beavers were busily stirring up terror in a town afraid of flooding. Neighbor pitted against neighbor in the single biggest event ever to happen to Martinez. This is right out of our playbook. Just look at this deeply threatening nonresponse from Mr. Bickering;

On Tuesday, May 12, the condominium association’s board reiterated its decision to contact the state’s Department of Natural Resources about the best way to remove the beavers, their homes and their infrastructure, Beckering said.

 ”They have put us in touch with a trapper,” said Beckering, who declined to speculate on how a trapper might resolve the problem.

 ”It’s not our place to tell them,” Beckering said.

That’s right. We just contact them, retain them and pay for them. We can’t be responsible for what they decide to do. Just like people aren’t responsible when they hire a hit man. Oh wait, that’s right, courts tend to think they are.

Well I tracked down everyone I could find and sent off the information and resources about what we did in Martinez. I even sent this Michigan radio program on beavers from a few years back just in case they could listen better to one of their own. If you never heard it I think you might enjoy it.

hileplay_audioOh and it’s getting to be summer and time for more beaver horror stories, how many new outlets do you think this will be on by tomorrow? It includes a grisly photo of the dead beaver, which you will have to go look at yourself.

Woman is savaged by an angry beaver: Neighbour stabs animal to death after seeing it tearing at his friend’s leg in Russia

 A woman in Russia who had her leg ripped open by an angry beaver was saved after a neighbour came running over and stabbed it in the head.

 But she felt a terrible pain in her leg and looked down to see a large animal had bitten into her calf. Miss Eliseeva said: ‘I was in complete shock and had no idea what it was at first.

‘I thought it might have been a dog that had jumped on me. It was quite dark but it seemed to be standing on its tail as it was so tall.

‘Then it he got on all fours and charged at me again. Its teeth were in my leg and it was furiously shaking its head from side to side.

‘I was screaming like a maniac and this man suddenly appeared out of nowhere and attacked the beaver.’

The woman’s rescuer, local man Hleb Yefremov, 54, said: ‘I heard the girl scream and saw this giant hairy beast attacking her.

‘I didn’t stop to think what it was, I just pulled out my knife and plunged it into the creature’s back. It was only later I realised it was a beaver and not a dog.’

I know there are rabid beavers in the world, and that beaver teeth are sharp. But why are these ‘unprovoked’ attacks always in kit season? Doesn’t that make it seem like there might be some perceived provocation on the part of the beaver?

What do other people do on the weekend?

Posted by heidi08 On May - 11 - 2015Comments Off

How was your Mother’s day? Thanks Rusty for the nice recap of your year of beaver watching in Napa. Beavers: Wetlands & Wildlife aptly posted this on their Facebook page and I feel it’s something we should all see.  If you’ve ever had your mother hold your chin while scrubbing something off your face that shouldn’t be there, you know EXACTLY how this feels.

Saturday night at Safari West saw a bouncing  crowd gathered for the beaver talk, many families with young children including a few of the attentive serious kind, and a few of the boisterous crying kind. It pretty different than the last few talks I gave and I did my best to adapt. We had dinner in the lodge with Marie Martinez (in charge of carnivores) and Danny Cusimano director of education and research. He  was a paleontologist finishing his thesis and talked about their work (currently doing a study on hand-rearing vs parental rearing) and looking at population successes. He also seemed very interested in hearing about our work and the primary challenges facing beaver in urban settings.  A few others dashed in and out during our dinner, updating them both or asking questions. It was definitely a dynamic place to be.

After dinner we came back to our luxurious tent, sat on the beautiful deck and drank a glass of wine while the light dimmed and the animal sounds took over. All night we heard the whooping lemurs, grunting flamingos and lowing whatevers in the distance.  It was wonderfully cold at night in those beautiful hills, and the beds were unbelievably comfortable and warm. We both slept like children.

Collages1In addition to the excellent overnight and jeep tour Safari West generously made a donation to Worth A Dam and presented a certificate for our silent auction.  I made sure to bring a list of wildlife friends I thought would be great speakers for the future and we swapped stories and ideas for how to engage people about nature.

Then it was home to meet Greg Kerekes for an interview. He was hired by the Guadalupe RCD to produce five videos on urban wildlife. The first was on Grey Foxes which you can see here.

The next is supposed to be on beavers. I expected a ten minute interview but ogreg's wifeur conversation lasted nearly two hours. He hadn’t really known the Martinez story before and he found it very interesting. His wife had an injury that meant she couldn’t climb the stairs so she was waiting in the car outside the whole time! ( You might remember her as the dancing beaver from our festival two year’s ago.)

Greg said he was surprised that I never seemed to say “um” or seemed at a loss for word like the others he interviewed. (Ha – plenty of practice!) We talked about beaver challenges, beaver benefits, beaver nativity, beaver depredation and the history of Worth A Dam. They were excellent questions  and he was a  great listener but I was exhausted by the end. Not sure how much of our conversation will find it’s way into his short film, but he said he was interested in doing a bigger project too and it would help down the road.

Fortunately for me (and the people I work with in my day job!) I’m off today, so I can rest and enjoy NOT talking about beavers. Then I can start focusing on the festival. (Eek!) The application that Lory was kind enough to fill out (all 19 pages of it) goes to the city just as soon as I can get the event insurance taken care of.

New festival