Archive for the ‘Creative Solutions’ Category

Magic Mornings

Posted by heidi08 On September - 14 - 20161 COMMENT

This is a magical article from Michael Runtz of canada speaking about his recent visit to an Algonquin beaver pond.

A day of nature revelations

It was a cool and misty predawn when I arrived at Algonquin Park’s Argue Lake. Soon I was watching a large Beaver groom itself atop a feeding bed a mere 30 feet away. It was too dark for photographs but I was content just to watch.

Suddenly the silence was broken by the howls of wolves, emanating somewhere near the far end of the lake. I waited a few minutes after the magnificent chorus ended, and then I howled. The pack replied immediately.

I wanted to wait until sunrise before looking for the wolves. Half an hour passed and then dawn broke.

I quietly paddled my canoe to the far end of the lake, still shrouded with mist. Once there, I scanned nearby slopes for wolves, but saw none. I howled from my canoe and soon the wolves replied, but to the east.

With adrenalin coursing through my body, I watched to see if one might make an appearance. Excitement peaked when two dark forms scrambled down a nearby hill. But the animals were black, and Eastern Wolves are rarely that colour.

A Beaver slapped its tail, informing me that the dark animals had entered its space. Moments later, four Otters came snorting and huffing past my canoe, sticking their heads out of the water like giant periscopes to get a better view of me.

Half an hour passed and no wolves, so I paddled back to my car. I then struck out on foot, following an old logging road that ran parallel to the lake. I walked slowly and quietly, stepping on moss whenever possible.

After a while I left the road and bushwhacked eastward, moving slowly and avoiding stepping on sticks.

Eventually I came to a large pond. After several minutes of scanning, I spotted the head of a large wolf sticking out from Bracken across the pond from me. It stared in my direction, but I was hidden.

I howled, and it stood up and walked into full view. It howled back and began to bark, an indication that it was the pack’s dominant leader telling the intruding wolf to leave their territory. I barked back, and the wolf responded even more aggressively. After several minutes of exchanging vocal affronts, the beautiful animal walked away, content that the impudent intruder was not going to cross the pond.

It has been 26 years since I last had a chance (unsuccessful) to photograph a howling wolf. Thus, I was ecstatic to finally achieve a long-standing goal.

I was also delighted over my encounter with Otters, plus getting a picture-perfect shot of a Ring-necked Duck taking off in the mist. I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming; it was indeed a morning when Nature revealed herself wonderfully to me.

Ahhh we’ve enjoyed many a magic morning at our beaver pond, though we never got to see wolves. I am sure Mr. Runtz sleep-clock is broken too, and we probably both wake up at 5 even  when we aren’t planning too. The very first beaver I ever saw was  from the front seat of this canoe where I spent many a magic morning over the past 25 years. Fate and my cerebellum have decided I don’t get to enjoy the quiet paddle anymore so you can imagine how happy I am at this arrival to my porch, under which I will be able to enjoy magic mornings on forever more.






Calling all Girls

Posted by heidi08 On September - 12 - 2016Comments Off on Calling all Girls

Granddaughters? Nieces? Cousins who love wildlife? Read this and get really excited.


I wanted to let all of you conservation superstars know about a FREE wildlife photography workshop I am offering for teen girls. If you know of any girls, age 13-18, in Northern/Central California (or farther, if their parents can get them here), that are interested in wildlife photography, please share the attached flyer with them. Of course, the girls don’t have to be local to attend. I already have a couple girls signed up that are lucky enough to have parents willing to fly them out for the weekend. 

It is my hope that this free workshop might spark a few young girls to make the dream of being a wildlife photographer into a reality. Making it in this field takes confidence and persistence, which teenage girls don’t always have. When I was a teen, my life took many crazy turns – boys, family instability, etc – and there were a few landmark moments with professional women in various fields that helped to keep me from becoming totally lost and stay the course. Plus, we need more female wildlife photographers out there!

A few details: The free workshop is on November 6th, 2016 in Moss Landing, CA. There are 15 spaces available. All girls must have their own transportation to Moss Landing, CA, and must bring their own camera (this can be an SLR, point and shoot, or even a tablet or phone), EXCEPT for 2 low income spaces (in which we have camera gear and transportation provided). Applications are due by Oct 15th. 

Suzi at work

Beaver Mania

Posted by heidi08 On September - 10 - 2016Comments Off on Beaver Mania

Sometimes when you talk to reporters they can’t remember things if you say too much and you have to limit your comments to one or two key points and repeat them over and over.  Sometimes they get the gist, but not the details. Sometimes you can just tell they’re waiting to talk to the next person and are sick of listening to you. But every now and then you run into a reporter that remembers EVERYTHING you said so you better not say it wrong. Richard Freedman of the Vallejo Times-Herald definitely falls into that last category, I now realize. (Hopefully I didn’t get myself in too much hot water with the otter folks!)

Beaver mania comes to the Empress in Vallejo

Beavers don’t get the great PR like otters. You know, eating off their tummies in the ocean. Stuff like that. Even beaver crusader Heidi Perryman shrugs, “Everyone loves otters. They’re cute and don’t build dams. I’m feeling jealousy how easy otters’ lives are.”

Yet, the beaver, those buck-toothed, paddle-tailed rodents, play an integral role in the food chain and the environment, says Perryman.

Those dams they build hold back water, sure, but it creates more bugs. Fish eat bugs. Birds eat fish. Beyond more wildlife, the beavers have conserve water and in a drought era, it’s vital, Perryman noted.

A child psychologist when she’s not lobbying for beavers, Perryman joins Kate Lundquist as speakers this Friday at the Empress Theatre for “Beaver Mania,” an evening that includes the film, “Leave it to Beavers” as part of the Visions of the Wild festival.

Well I can’t deny it. I do feel jealousy. Ha!

Not only was the beaver saved in Martinez, it’s become the star of a huge mural and an annual summer beaver festival as Perryman created a nonprofit, “Worth a Dam,” with a website,

“I really wanted to persuade people not to kill the beaver. I didn’t expect to become an expert,” Perryman said. “I’m an accidental beaver advocate.”

It shouldn’t be surprising that beavers even live in Vallejo, said Perryman.

“We’re constantly expanding. We’re growing into places where they used to be and that’s not going to change,” she said. “At the same time, their population is recovering.”

Though humans may be concerned that beavers could overrun an area, it’s not likely to happen, Perryman said.

“Beavers are territorial. They don’t want to live around each other,” she said. “If one family has moved in, another will go off to look for unchartered territory and sometimes that’s an urban stream with a low gradient, trees on it, and nobody usually goes there.”

It’s interesting to me that one could look through the evolution of my beaver advocacy like analyzing the layers of stratification in soil and see where I crossed paths with a new teacher who taught me something I wanted to retain. Like the term “low gradient” applied to urban streams (from Greg Lewallen when we worked on the urban beaver paper) or the upcoming section on beaver resilience (from Leonard Houston’s address at the last State of the Beaver conference). I guess sometimes I listen too.

Beavers, continued Perryman, are a resilient bunch.

“They were the first animals after Mount St. Helens eruption (1980). And one of the first species after Chernobyl (nuclear explosion 1986),” said Perryman. “They have a lot of adaptive ability, so they’re coming to a city near you so we may as well learn how to deal with them.”

“Leave it to Beavers,” a 53-minute documentary by Jari Osbourne, “is a great movie,” Perryman said. “I know people will leave the theater thinking, ‘Beavers do a lot of things I didn’t know.’”

Visions of the Wild runs through Sept. 18, including “Beaver Mania!’ 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Empress Theatre, 330 Virginia St., Vallejo. Free. Discussions and documentary, “Leave it to Beavers.” For more, visit

I’m pretty happy with this article, and starting to get excited about the event. Solano county received its share of depredation permits in the last three years so I’d love to teach them something new about beavers. The theater is a lovely old restored venue and it will be really fun to watch our beavers and Jari’s documentary on the big screen.

Are you coming?


Is Rewildling good for England?

Posted by heidi08 On September - 5 - 2016Comments Off on Is Rewildling good for England?

Sometimes the messages that get the most listened to are the ones that come from people you don’t expect to send them. I mean if you read a column by me saying we should save beavers you’d think nothing of it and just toss on the pile of the nine million other articles I’ve written about the exact same thing. But if one day, quite unexpected, you opened the webpage and read my writing that beavers should be eliminated from streams because the cause cholera, you take notice. And actually stop and think, whoa maybe that’s true.

It’s not though. Beavers don’t cause cholera and I’ll never ever write that, but you get the point of the analogy right?

Mr. Cohen is is a columnist and political commentator for the Spectator and Observer. He’s one of those who supported the Iraq war and opposed Scottish independence. So it was pleasing to read this headline.

I’m sorry if rewilding hurts farmers, but we need it

Apart from crags and pockets of ancient woodland, the British uplands are manmade. Three thousand years before Christ, neolithic farmers felled the trees and gave us a landscape stripped to grassland by grazing sheep we take as “natural” today. Two thousand years after Christ, new forces are moulding the British uplands. They will bring back at least a part of what stone age men destroyed.

It’s hard to believe in an unequal country, where wealth and land are so unevenly distributed, but the ecology of the hills depends on popular approval. When public opinion moves, the hills move with it. However solid their drystone walls are, they will not be strong enough to hold back political change, climate change and changes in fashion, which affect the countryside as surely as they affect clothes and music.

Before the Romantic movement, most saw the Highlands as wastelands. Our love for them is a result of the romantic reaction against the Industrial Revolution, which in turn produced its own revolution in sensibility. Another revolution is upon us. It is easy to mock the rewilding movement just as it was easy to mock the Romantics. But I would keep the “Disneyland” jeers to a minimum if I wanted to get a hearing.

Rewilding the fells is not just townies forcing their naive fantasies on the countryside. It is a hard-headed policy: in a tiny way, it will help offset global warming; more tangibly, it will slow the floodwaters climate change is bringing. It will also be popular. If you doubt me, look at how many go to see the new beaver colonies in Scotland or the wetlands in East Anglia and Somerset. Or listen to the sympathetic hearings plans to reintroduce lynx to the Kielder Forest receive. Look even at the seeds on sale in supermarkets and notice how popular the wildflowers we once dismissed as weeds have become.

“Taxpayers should only pay public subsidy to farmers in return for things that the market won’t pay for, but are valued and needed by the public,” said the National Trust’s director general, Helen Ghosh, after the Brexit vote. Her shopping list included wildflowers, bees and butterflies, farmland birds, water meadows and meandering rivers, which themselves slow flood water.

You can mock her if you want, but your mockery won’t stop her. Romanticism was a reaction against industrialisation and rewilding is a reaction against global warming and the mass extinction of species. It is likely to be as uncontainable.

The notion that rewilding is a response to Global Warming and species extinction appeals to me. That it is rooted in the romanticism’s rejection of the industrial revolution gives it a prominence and a place in history. That our taxes should subsidize things that matter, and that wildflowers and beavers matter, that REALLY appeals to me.

That being said, I’m not convinced that increasing watershed or land complexity is bad for farmers. It’s good for water quality  and it’s good for bees both things their work requires. Making the countryside into a quilt of matching patchworks reduces its ability to survive all the increasingly horrific things that mother nature will be throwing our way. Better to diversify our landscape portfolio and let diversity itself be our seatbelt for the bumpy ride ahead. I am reminded of Brock Dolman’s discussion of the watershed as the ‘Lifeboat’.

I’m not sure what will happen with the save-the-farmers movement in the UK but I can’t see they’re helping their case much meanwhile by resisting and shooting beavers.

But maybe that’s just me.



You will Thoreau-ly enjoy this story, I’m sure!

Posted by heidi08 On July - 22 - 2016Comments Off on You will Thoreau-ly enjoy this story, I’m sure!

Yesterday was puppet day, and we got a lovely load of wildlife puppets from generous Folkmanis for the silent auction. Also the brochures are back from the printer and look lovely. We saved some money by trying out a new printer and are pretty happy with the results. Now there’s more good news, this time from Mike Callahan and Thoreau!

It’s nature vs. Thoreau at Fairyland Pond in Concord

There weren’t many beavers around back in Henry David Thoreau’s day. To the dismay of the great naturalist, though society proclaimed admiration for these brilliant and industrious creatures, beavers had been all but exterminated locally, for their luxurious pelts.

But bAR-160729572.jpg&MaxW=650eavers are back in Concord now, and their wonderful intelligence has put one specific beaver in direct conflict with Thoreau himself, or at least, with one of Henry David’s favorite spots.

hdtThe problem is, the stream being dammed is fed by Brister’s Spring, which is really just a trickle of water seeping out of the rocks of Brister’s Hill (part of Walden Woods. Some of that water, it is believed, originally seeped into the rocks from nearby Walden Pond itself.) The spring creates a little wetland and tiny stream that runs a few hundred yards and through a pipe under a trail in the town forest and then into the Fairyland Pond. The beaver built its dam just as the stream enters the pond, so when the water backs up, and it has already started to, it will flood the trail, the wetland, and Brister’s Spring. Anybody who’s walked around Fairyland Pond in the past few weeks knows that the trail is already flooded. The wetland and Brister’s Spring are next.

Luckily they are on good terms with Mike Callahan who’s coming out to help them meet this particular beaver challenge.

EP-160729572.jpg&MaxW=650&MaxH=650The third option is, fortunately, what the town’s Natural Resources Department is considering; running a narrow pipe at the bottom of the stream, entirely underwater, and literally through a hole drilled in the base of the beaver dam, so the water flows from the Brister’s Spring through the wetland, into the pipe at the bottom of the stream, through the dam, and finally into Fairyland Pond, without making any noise. That’s the key. The diverter lets the water flow through the underwater pipe silently. The noise of rushing water is like a “BUILD DAM HERE!” sign to beavers. It’s what attracts them in the first place.

That proposal comes from Mike Callahan of Beaver Solutions, Inc., who has helped Concord (and communities throughout southern New England) humanely resolve beaver/human conflicts for years. He built the diversion system at the open end of Fairyland Pond, where it drains, when another beaver started to dam that a few years ago, and has also installed “beaver deceivers” at Punkatasset Pond.

“I love doing this work,” Callahan said. “It’s humane. It allows the animal stay around, at least until its food supply runs out, and it preserves a lot of the beneficial aspects of their work for the environment.”

Fantastic! We here at beaver LOVE to read stories like this! Congratulations to Mike for using his good work to win over the local DNR, and congratulations to that young beaver who as crafted an expert pond in historic real estate. I’m sure Mr. Thoreau would be impressed! (But white pants to fix a beaver mud problem? Really?)

Speaking of impressed, I received a note from the Coyote Brush Visitors wednesday who stayed a little while after we left and happened to film this. Two beavers. Mom in the foreground and littler Dad on the right. Together again apparently!

A Present for Rusty

Posted by heidi08 On July - 14 - 2016Comments Off on A Present for Rusty

I never thought I’d ever really appreciate the noisy art of chainsaw carving. Clearly I was wrong.

The evolution of a beaver

Mr. “Rusty” Beaver was raised in a 12-metre (40-foot) spruce tree on a quiet residential street in the Canadian prairie town of Beausejour, Manitoba. After 78 years of slow growth in sandy soil, his journey west began when the lives of his mom, sisters and brothers came to an abrupt end in favour of a new residential development.

Fortunately for Mr. Beaver, he was rescued by Beausejour resident Russ Kubara, retired school teacher and chainsaw carver extraordinaire. Then it all came together. A new roof on Ron’s house decommissioned the flagpole that launched off the eave and a date for a road trip to Russ’s new home in Beausejour was confirmed.

Day after day, the 180-kilogram (400-pound) log was whittleCaptured down to a manageable 90 kgs (200 pounds). A large hole was bored through from top to bottom and an eight-metre (25-foot) flag pole already waiting with the Canadian flag mounted was inserted.

It was so fitting – Canada’s mascot at work chewing a tree at the base of the Canadian flag.

Ron thoroughly enjoyed seeing Mr. Beaver come into existence as he emerged from the spruce log formerly laying prone in Russ’ back yard. He is now securely fastened to a buried concrete base in his new home at the front of Ron and Lynne Kubara’s house in Surrey.

Mr. Beaver now has been christened Rusty – named for his creator.

You can’t imagine how longingly I’m looking at my front yard waiting for a beaver flag pole holder to appear! We of course need two: (one American one British). The creative process and repurposing is very impressive. And to think that lucky beaver is named for our own Napa photographer extraordinaire obviously! He sent this last night as a demonstration of beavers creating habitat for turtles.


Turtle and Beaver: Rusty Cohn


My buddy at NCHEMS helped with a  very odd request yesterday. This is a map of all the places in California that issued ZERO depredation permits last year. We can infer what that means, right? California is missing a lot of beavers.

no permits 2016But I of course saved the REAL news for last. Guess who was cheerfully swimming around Ward Street today enjoying that felled willow? Two lovely beavers as comfortable in that big pool as you please.

The habitat is so rich up there my lens apparently got distracted by a moth, but never mind. We know who that was.

There was no activity at all at the old dam, where we started the morning at 5. Does that mean they moved? Does that mean their vacationing? Does that mean they’ll build a dam at Ward Street when the rains start? I can honestly say, after a decade of beaver watching, and dedicated study that I have absolutely no idea.

Stay tuned and we’ll see.


Guess what’s good for steelhead?

Posted by heidi08 On July - 9 - 2016Comments Off on Guess what’s good for steelhead?

beaver phys

Dam good! Beavers may restore imperiled streams, fish population

Utah State University scientists report a watershed-scale experiment in highly degraded streams within Oregon’s John Day Basin demonstrates building beaver dam analogs allows beavers to increase their dam building activities, which benefits a threatened population of steelhead trout.

Bouwes is lead author of a paper published July 4, 2016, in the journal Nature’s online, open access Scientific Reports that details the seven-year experiment conducted in streams within north central Oregon’s Bridge Creek Watershed. Contributing authors are Bouwes’ USU colleagues Carl Saunders and Joe Wheaton, along with Nicholas Weber of Eco Logical Research, Chris Jordan and Michael Pollock of NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Ian Tattam of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Carol Volk of Washington’s South Fork Research, Inc.

When Lewis and Clark made their way through the Pacific Northwest in the early 19th century, the area’s streams teemed with steelhead and beaver. But subsequent human activities, including harvesting beaver to near extirpation, led to widespread degradation of .

Bouwes says these activities may have also exacerbated stream channel incision, meaning a rapid down-cutting of stream beds, which disconnects a channel from its floodplain and near-stream vegetation from the water table. He notes beavers build dams in the incised trenches, but because of the lack of large, woody material, their dams typically fail within a year.

“Our goal was to encourage beaver to build on stable structures that would increase dam life spans, capture sediment, raise the stream and reconnect the stream to its floodplain,” Bouwes says. “We expected this would result in both an increase in near-stream vegetation and better fish habitat.”

What really impressed us was how quickly the stream bed built up behind the dams and how water was spilling onto the floodplain, Bouwes says.

The researchers also documented increases in fish habitat quantity and quality in their study watershed relative to the watershed that received no BDAs and saw little increase in beaver activity. The changes in habitat in the watershed receiving BDAs resulted in a significant uptick in juvenile steelhead numbers, survival and production.

Go read the original research here. Maybe I have a simple mind but this graph makes me very happy.

Many  beaver fans have been talking about this for over a decade, but it took until 2016 for this work to be published at the watershed level, showing large scale advantages. If you want to know how long this has been in the oven, here’s a reminder.



This film was made in 2010, so you know the work was started before that. It takes a long time to document the effects that beavers have in creeks. Fortunately for us, this work just keeps attracting more and younger minds along the way, which means it can continue however long it takes to finally convince folk that beavers are  good news for fish.

Oh and I received my beaver festival hat yesterday, so I’m all ready.