Archive for the ‘Creative Solutions’ Category

Hurry! Only 12 days left to call WS liars!

Posted by heidi08 On November - 18 - 2014Comments Off

Well, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of other opportunities, but this is an important one. Before we get down to work and roll up our sleeves, let’s have dessert first.

Searching for beavers on the Quabbin Reservoir’s restricted Prescott Peninsula

About 20 DCR biologists and volunteers stomped to shake off the cold Sunday morning, standing in a ring outside a small shack on the Prescott Peninsula as Clark set the plan for the annual beaver survey. Teams would split off, tramp through the woods to follow their respective streams, take down data on any active beaver lodges, then return to the shack for lunch.

Beavers were non-existent in Massachusetts for more than a century due to hunting and trapping, plus elimination of habitat. After the valley was flooded in the late 1930s, the beavers returned.

Clark said that after the beavers came to the reservoir, the population followed a pattern typical of reintroduction — explosive growth, followed by a crash as the habitat is oversaturated, then a steady leveling off.

No way, are you suggesting that the population actually regulated itself? Without trapping? Even when the Massachusetts voters imposed new restrictions on trapping in 96 and the population was supposed to explode? This is pretty outlandish stuff. Just how long have you been collecting this spurious data?

The first Prescott survey was held in 1952. The survey has been annual since the early 1970s, and some of Sunday’s searchers have returned every year for 30-40 years.

Holy Guacamole Batman. You mean they have 62 years of data on beaver population? And the effect of conibear restriction is somewhere in the middle? You know a statistician worth his pocket calculator could easily whip those numbers into a regression analysis that disproves the accepted lie about beaver population exploding after the new rules were applied? You do know that, right?

Well, maybe the reporter got that wrong. He seemed really distracted by the meat balls. He does say that people aren’t normally allowed in the area because it’s in the watershed. Ahem. (News flash:Every place on this planet is part of a watershed. Just so you know.)


Everyone ready? It’s November 18th so that means you still have 12 days left to tell Wildlife Services that their rodent management plan is ridiculous, oblivious  of the environment or science, and barbaric in the extreme. But those are just my words. You’ll find your own. Here’s Mike Settel from Idaho talking about what’s needed.

In Wildlife Service’s newest justification for ridding us of beaver you can find that bit of humor and others in a recent request for public comment on Wildlife Service’s “Aquatic Rodent” EA for North Carolina.

Don’t attempt to e-mail your comments because, according to their deputy director for environmental compliance Alton Dunaway, receiving comments only by FAX and snail mail will “modernize” their public involvement process. I recommend Faxing comments to (919) 782-4159…However, an e-mail you may find useful is for that of the author, Barbara Schellinger. 

Even though it is a North Carolina document, the rationale proposed sets a precedent for mis-information and obfuscation regarding wildlife management. Please FAX your comments and request that WS includes non-lethal mitigation as beaver solutions, provide current data showing beaver harm salmonids, and prove that beaver dams increase sediment pollution (there are other spurious claims that are suspect or dated, but you should read those for yourselves). Regards, Mike

Thanks Mike for putting us on the right track. Remember, what they get away with in North Carolina will become precedent everywhere. I will share just a little bit of their ignorance, but you should really go read the report for yourself here:

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources guidelines for management of trout stream habitat stated that beaver dams are a major source of damage to trout streams (White and Brynildson 1967, Churchill 1980). Studies that are more recent have documented improvements to trout habitat upon removal of beaver dams. Avery (1992) found that wild brook trout populations improved significantly following the removal of beaver dams from tributaries of some streams. Species abundance, species distribution, and total biomass of non-salmonids also increased following the removal of beaver dams (Avery 1992).

Beaver dams may adversely affect stream ecosystems by increasing sedimentation in streams; thereby, affecting wildlife that depend on clear water such as certain species of fish and mussels. Stagnant water impounded by beaver dams can increase the temperature of water impounded upstream of the dam, which can negatively affect aquatic organisms. Beaver dams can also act as barriers that inhibit movement of aquatic organisms and prevent the migration of fish to spawning areas.

Wow. Give it up for the USDA and author Barbara Schelllinger who was willing to dig back through 47 years of research to find the  completely bogus paper she just knew to be true! This woman is no slacker when it comes to bravely lying about beavers. Good lord, the letter almost writes itself. Although I personally feel that Issue 7 deserves the lion’s share of our attention.

Therefore, the breaching or removal of a beaver dam could result in the degrading or removal of a wetland, if wetland characteristics exist at a location where a beaver dam occurs. The preexisting habitat (prior to the building of the dam) and the altered habitat (areas flooded by impounded water) have different ecological values to the fish and wildlife native to the area. Some species may benefit by the addition of a beaver dam that creates a wetland, while the presence of some species of wildlife may decline. For example, darters listed as federally endangered require fast moving waters over gravel or cobble beds, which beaver dams can eliminate; thus, reducing the availability of habitat. In areas where bottomland forests were flooded by beaver dams, a change in species composition could occur over time as trees die. Flooding often kills hardwood trees, especially when flooding persists for extended periods, as soils become saturated. Conversely, beaver dams could be beneficial to some wildlife, such as river otter, neotropical migratory birds, and waterfowl that require aquatic habitats.

beaver in barDingDingDing! I found the opening! (Well, one of many actually.)  See in their effort to say “it’s a wash, really” beaver dams HELP some species sure, but they HARM others. So getting rid of them is a zero sum game with totally justifiable consequences. Just take the darter for instance!


Maybe we’re the only ones that remember there’s this famous case from Alabama in 2008 where the city of Birmingham was sued by The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (among others) for upwards of a million dollars over removing this beaver dam that was protecting  thousands of the rare endangered watercress darters. In the end the case cost the city some 4,000,000 dollars and dragged  out in court over 4 years. Am I ringing any bells, does this sound vaguely familiar?

The city “knew or should have known that removing a beaver dam and surrounding natural structures would potentially disrupt the water level of the Basin and its inhabitants,” the agency claims.

CaptureDam [sic],  this is gonna be fun. If you want to share your letters, send them to me and I’ll make sure they’re visible. I’m sure WS is hoping they can make it all the way to November 30th without hearing from you. Let’s disappoint them, shall we?

Last night, on the footbridge, I loved you best of all!

Posted by heidi08 On November - 16 - 2014Comments Off
I love her, in the springtime
And I love her in the fall,
But last night, on the back porch
I loved her best of all!

These shocking lyrics reflecting the moral depravity of our youth were published in 1923, some 89 years ago, before video games and ‘R’ movies. Maybe the fact that our house had already been around for a quarter of a century before the song was recorded had something to do with why, when I went to see the beavers last night, this was the soundtrack I heard in my head.

You see, our kit, (the 2014) model, has been living at Ward Street since August. And I’ve been getting more and more worried about his truant little runaway self. I talked with our experts, who had not seen it before but told me not to worry, advice impossible to follow. Beavers are very social animals, and they need face time with their parents learning beaver things for upwards of 24 months before they’re ready to hitch off on their own.

So guess what I saw from the footbridge last night, with Lory and Jon?

Our twentieth kit, climbing on mom’s tail, crunching on snacks, with 2 or three other beavers! (Maybe even dad?) Swimming, chewing, whining and acting like his little kitself again! I can’t tell you how much lighter our three moods were as we walked eventually back to our cars. The beaver family is together and everything’s right with the world.


Now that we’re all in good moods, I will show you this treat that I stumbled upon yesterday. Look who has a new website! Now there are three great beaver resources to share with folks who want new ways to solve problems!


  We are a company dedicated to protecting our land and infrastructure, as well as allowing for creative remedies that improve habitats and end wasteful killing and spending. Our technology and practices are state-of-the-art, and have been employed domestically as well as internationally to mitigate the growing problems presented by the beaver population.

Finally! Skip Lisle’s website has hit the internet(s) running! Complete with great information and awesome photos showing off his skill. Go explore the sight, its lots of fun. I couldn’t be happier, although it was a little surprising to find this:

Skip Lisle offers that rare combination of “can-do” competence, creativity, and courtesy. He ably tamed our beavers with promptness and professionalism. Our California town, Martinez, still fondly remembers the man from Vermont, and his solution to save our Downtown!

Mark Ross
Vice Mayor
Martinez, California, USA

A testimonial from Mark Ross and nothing whatsoever from Worth A Dam? I suppose a vice mayor is slightly better advertising than a child psychologist, but it’s silly to overlook the beavers’ de facto press secretary. Well, the cat’s outta the bag now, I made sure everyone saw this yesterday, its on our beaver links, and in the future I will make sure that everyone knows your skills have a great website to promote them!

Too much good news?Guess what arrived in the mail yesterday. Approval from the Martinez Community Foundation for our grant application for the festival VIII art project! They paid 100% of the amount requested. No fooling, money from Martinez, for the beaver festival. I’m still pinching myself.

CaptureThank you Martinez Community Foundation for helping us teach children about ecosystems at the beaver festival! And thank you artist FRO Butler who will be doing the lion’s share of the work, prepping and painting the canvas, purchasing the materials, and supervising the eager artists. I can’t wait till the whole thing comes together and we can use it at our displays in the future!




The Beaver State Beckons

Posted by heidi08 On November - 14 - 2014Comments Off

conference 2014The agenda is out for the State of the Beaver Conference 2015 and it looks amazing. Starting with the Keynote speaker Lixing Sun, the co-author of the most famous beaver book yet written. (Books really, because it’s so popular there’s a second edition.)

 Now maybe you’re thinking”why should I care” or “I hate Oregon in February” and “I don’t need to hear the latest beaver research”. But if you were thinking that you’d be thinking wrong. I’m going to assume that whoever you are you drink water, live on a rapidly heating planet, and are a citizen of a government with limited resources for fixing those things. The world needs beavers, and the only way it’s going to get them is if people like you stand up and teach people why they matter and how to live with them. This conference will make you better at that and you’ll hear from great minds like,

Instream Salmon habitat restoration and unintended benefits for west side beavers Robert Nichols, USDA Forest Service Fish Biologist

NWRC Beaver Research Update: From the Beaver State to the Heart of Dixie Ph.D. Jimmy Taylor,National Wildlife Research Center

Mathematical Ecologist, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center Ph.D. Chris Jordan

Flow Devices – Controlling Beaver Dam Flooding, and Facilitating Salmon Passage Michael Callahan, Beaver Solutions Inc

Beaver Restoration in Urban Creeks Ph.D. Heidi Perryman, Worth a Dam, Martinez Beavers

 Not to mention that it looks like this morning I just managed to get Derek Gow from Cornwall on the schedule. So you’ll be personally updated on the most famous beavers in the world. As well as a watershed-beaver introduction by this persuasive gentleman:


The conference is truly one-of-a-kind, inexpensive, and ecologically  invaluable. The hotel is nice and beaver friendly, the casino thinks beavers are good luck, and you will meet amazing people that will become amazing friends. Register here and I’ll see you in Canyonville!

2015 SponsorsNow there is lots more to say, including beavers being threatened in BWW’s home town, (if you can believe it) and moderately good news from DEFRA about the Devon beavers. but I wrote this post this morning at 7am, worked on the graphics for leonard and promptly  lost it the entire column in the ether so had to do EVERYTHING again.

This beaver reporter needs a break.

Lives Hang in the Balance

Posted by heidi08 On November - 6 - 2014Comments Off

CaptureIf I were the editor of Conservation Magazine, I would have a regular feature in every issue called “Who do beavers help now?” Wouldn’t you?

Beavers help out young frogs

Beavers are a boon to the environment: Their dams create ponds that provide homes for birds, amphibians, and other critters. Now scientists have found that beavers also aid their wetland companions by digging canals that young frogs use to hop from ponds to forests.

The canals, which allow beavers to transport branches and hide from predators, can stretch over hundreds of meters. But “the effect of canals on wetland ecosystems has received little study,” the researchers write in Animal Conservation. If the canals help beavers move around, they wondered, do they also help amphibians? For instance, wood frogs are born in ponds, but they must find their way through meadows to forests where they can spend the winter.

…researchers spotted six to nine times more young wood frogs on canals than along pond shorelines without canals.

Well, well well. Beavers help frogs. Who would have guessed? Oh, that’s right, everyone with a pulse. (Except for Roseville where beavers were killed in 2012 to protect frog habitat in vernal pools.) Thanks to Amy Chadwick of Montana for sending me this article. I would be happy for the ammunition, but I know better. If the beaver battle were about having enough research it would have all been over decades ago. In more cases than you want to imagine, facts don’t win the day.

Fears do.

But a well told story might. (Speaking of which, I just reviewed that article on vernal pools I wrote two years ago. It was sadly so much better than what I’m going to write this morning, you maybe should too.)

Here’s something else that beavers help, this photo is from Rusty of the beaver ponds at Napa he is keeping an eye on. He cleverly remarked that this was going to have to be his own version of Gravity Glue balancing stones. Obviously beavers help the wildlife supported by this pond and every other hang in a very delicate balance.

turtle act - Copy

Pond turtles in the balance – Rusty Cohn

If you’re like me you’ve been noticing the increasingly bright shine from above every night. Tonight will be the Full Beaver Moon, so named either because it was a good time to set traps for the winter OR the beavers were so busy making their underwater food storage. You know which one I prefer but step outside for a moment tonight and appreciate what it means to be under a beaver moon.

il_570xN.371888849_mk1w - Copy


Also from Rusty the other night, beaver browsing by the light of the beaver moon.

Gravity and Inspiration

Posted by heidi08 On November - 2 - 2014Comments Off

Louise Ramsay is the tireless champion for the free beavers in Scotland and was the keynote speaker at the last State of the Beaver conference. She is wife to Paul Ramsay whose great-great-whatever was the physician of King Alexander the II who, in 1232 out of gratitude for an early successful surgery, gifted the estate where they both live (with beavers) today . Both are very well spoken and Louise has a blog that is far too modestly named for her delightful prose. She recently wrote about the DEFRA bruhaha over the Devon beavers and gave me permission to share this with you. Enjoy.


In the darkest hours of the night beavers go determinedly about the business of returning the landscape to the way it was in the middle ages, a way that we humans have entirely forgotten. They cut trees and build dams and make silvery pools in the midst of woods that quickly fill with trout. The new dams look bright with orangey sticks stripped of their bark by beaver teeth, and woven ingeniously together to hold back a cliff of water, several feet high.

As the dams get older plants grow over them and camouflage the beavers’ work. They incorporate themselves into the new landscape of pools and braided waterways to the extent that their beavery origins are almost indecipherable. The variety of plant species multiplies in and near the water and the new wetlands hum and flutter with life of all kinds.

Since their escapes in the early years of the 21st century these fast swimming creatures have found their way, in search of each other and new territories, around the whole network of waterways that make up the catchment, from Kinloch Rannoch in the west to Forfar Loch in the East, and from the Tummel in the north to the Farg in the south. There are probably about three hundred of them in the catchment now. They have bred and reared kits by rivers, lochs, streams and ditches. Where the waterways are small they have built a lodge and dams to make a string of pools, but where there is a deep fast flowing river they have burrowed into the bank and thatched a roof for themselves out of willow branches coppiced from the bankside vegetation. The kits live indoors for the first few weeks, learning to swim in a puddle within the outer part of the lodge. Then at about three months old they come out into the river or the pond to take their chance with predators, currents and other dangers.


The Ramsay Estate at Bamff

The beavers that used to be here, until the sixteenth century were all trapped out for their warm, waterproof fur, which was made into fine felt hats for gentlemen. They came back, through their own enterprise, by escaping from enclosures. They slipped silently and secretly back into the landscape before many people noticed them, spreading across the catchment, sleek & nonchanlant, unaware of their celebrity and the tangle of legalities that their presence has created. I hope that the River Otter beavers will have the same success and somehow manage to reclaim many of their old haunts in the rivers of Devonshire and begin to thread their silver strand of watery life through the landscape there.

If you need reminding about the beaver story in Scotland, here’s my interview with Paul when he has just learned that the free beavers were no longer going to be trapped.

And just in case you need more amazing things this morning, I thought I’d share the work of Michael Grab of Colorado, whose incomprehensible talent uses instinct , artistry and physics to accomplish these glorious pieces using only what he calls “Gravity Glue.” By which he means No glue but


gravity-glue2And here he is building an archway with no keystone. Ask any river how hard it is.
creeks with no keystoneBalance-Art-By-Michael-Grab_03

Getting to the bottom of things…

Posted by heidi08 On October - 26 - 2014Comments Off

Filming Beavers Swimming Underwater

As the beaver slowly swam toward us, we held our breaths in anticipation and exchanged looks of excitement. The beaver dove under the surface and, to our amazement, swam directly beneath us, under the bridge and out the other side! We saw it perfectly under the surface, undulating its body slowly and paddling with its huge tail and webbed rear feet.

 1) First, of course, we found a location where we could stand unobtrusively above the path of swimming beavers: the bridge. But I soon discovered a small side canal next to the dam with a large fallen tree above, which allowed me to get even closer to the water!

 2) Secondly, I attached a GoPro HDHero 2 with an underwater housing to the end of a monopod. In the camera settings I flipped the image over because I would be filming upside down.

 3) Finally, I learned the habits of the beavers and waited patiently each evening til one began to approach. Slowly, I lowered the monopod down into the water, in the expected path of the beaver and hoped for the best.

Hal Brindley is a wildlife photographer whose enthusiasm for beavers is a joy to encounter. You should really go to his website and see the whole thing for yourself. But I have to share his underwater treasure so can think what it’s like in our beavers murky H20 world. Rusty from Napa is chomping at the bit to get a GoPro cam and try for himself, but I am less eager. To be honest, I feel like everywhere I can see our beavers, I’m responsible for them – thinking about their lives and well-being, problem solving to make sure the don’t trouble the city and worrying about their safety. I’m not sure I want to add to that job by knowing more about their lives by seeing them swimming over trash or sharp car fenders underwater.

But it would still be massively cool.

I spent yesterday in the trenches laboring over the grant for the Contra Costa Fish and Wildlife Commission. Chris Richards of the Alameda one came to the festival last year and said we should definitely apply.  The goal is to get them to pay for the keystone activity at the festival, which will look a little different this year. Reading over the grueling application it is clear that the festival itself is way too much fun to get funding, but hopefully an educational activity can squeak by.  Here’s my opening pitch:

The concept of species interdependence is a difficult to teach, but important to the understanding of crucial ecological relationships. The emerging understanding of Trophic Cascades, for example, is changing the way agencies and individuals understand the role of predators. The idea that one species could influence another, or make habitat for another, makes intuitive sense to children who are naturally so dependent on others. Having a firm grasp of how species interact is essential to understanding the consequences of our adult behavior later on.

Kids Explore! Youth Science training On Natural Ecosystems

 The K.E.Y.S.T.O.N.E activity provides a fun way to learn about complex connections between habitat, food chain and species abundance using the beaver’s Ecosystem Services.KeystonearchwayAdmit it, that might possibly be the best acronym in the history of beaver education! Well, I’m proud anyway. The sticky wicket is that the grant specifically says “Formal education” which means classrooms, test tubes and zoned-out kids. I’m trying to get around that with this quote:

“One result [of formal education] is that students graduate without knowing how to think in whole systems, how to find connections, how to ask big questions, and how to separate the trivial from the important. Now more than ever, however, we need people who think broadly and who understand systems, connections, patterns, and root causes.”

David Orr
Earth in Mind

 Isn’t that a great quote? Wish us luck!

“Made beavers” vs. “Beavers that have Got it Made”.

Posted by heidi08 On October - 21 - 2014Comments Off

I came across this video the other day and thought you might find interesting too. It’s a fairly concise description of the fur trade – well, one PART of the fur trade. Calling HBC the fur trade is like calling Shell the oil industry. Remember that there were many other companies all doing the same thing at once.

It’s amazing any survived at all. Lets not think any more about ‘Made Beavers”. Let’s think about “beavers that have got it made”.




Wonderments of the East Bay Celebrating 80 years of EBRP

 The East Bay Regional Parks abound in wonderments: animals, plants, sounds, geological formations, histories, and languages that stimulate our curiosity and expand our capacity for awe. In exquisite, lyrical essays, Sylvia Linsteadt and Malcolm Margolin—with help from their friends—revel in these wonderments.

Our complimentary copy arrived yesterday with 4 pages of the Martinez Beaver story. They declined to use Cheryl’s excellent photos (or my accurate writing, ahem) but gave a gallant tale of civic response and public interest. The story  puts Martinez in a community-building light and says we had people from all over coming just to see our beavers. I remain fairly picky about the details. (If you’ll remember the original chapter had said Martinez brought in a “Team of engineers” to fix the flooding problem and I was terrified everyone would think it was expensively hard work  saving beavers.) I managed to get that wording fixed, but sadly the chapter still said mom had three babies and we discovered the first ever tulle perch in Alhambra Creek, which makes me mortified that my name was dropped in the passage without a corresponding footnote saying, “Heidi never said this and didn’t write it.”

A reasonable woman would be content that it makes it clear that the beavers had a positive effect on our creek and grateful that they sent me a copy. I strive to be such a woman. I’m not worried about the idea of giving EBRP credit for our beavers, (since they’re on city land), because I crisply remember a lively conversation I had with park wizard Hulet Hornbeck before he died, where he told me that they had been working for 50 years to clean up the Marina so that the arrival of the beavers would even be possible. And since he was wise enough to see the beaver family as a compliment,  I heartily believed him.

It’s a very nice looking book and a trove of local treasures. I know you want to pick up your own copy  here, or wait for the silent auction!


Now you’ve done your history homework you deserve a treat. R.E. from Napa sent this yesterday and it’s very lovely. I won’t even bother telling you to enjoy it, because I know you will.

lorna and curtAnd finally a HUGE thanks to our friends at Safari West. My niece just got married in the Redwoods and since my wedding present to her had been an overnight stay at our favorite wilderness adventure in the wine country, they made sure she and her new hubby had an awesome time. The highlight came  last night when Kimberly Robertson met the couple after their tour and dinner to take them for a tower feeding that left my well-spoken niece speechless.  Thanks so much Safari West for making so many people so happy, and don’t forget to remember them if you’re looking for the PERFECT special day for someone in your family!