Archive for the ‘Creative Solutions’ Category

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”.

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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!

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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!

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Carbon Dating Beavers in Northumberland

Posted by heidi08 On October - 19 - 2014Comments Off

There is a passage in  J.B. Mackinnon’s “The Once and Future World” that I often remember. It’s the part about 17th century conviction that no species could be made extinct by the work of man because the number of species on earth was the prerogative of God alone. He wouldn’t allow it to happen and he was in charge. The part that impressed me most was the speed at which public opinion seamlessly transitioned from “It could never happen that human harvesting of any God’s work could make it extinct” to the defensive self-justification of “We don’t think that species ever existed here anyway,”

I swear, that’s what he wrote, and I was stunned and read it over and over. Even now it pops into my mind when I think about Beavers in California or Panthers in Florida or Climate Change.  Even during the recent bruhaha in England you read comments blithely insisting that beaver weren’t native and didn’t belong in the River Otter anyway.

Well the good guys just got some ammunition.

Northumberland beaver discovery sheds light on the missing link in river management

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Beavers were living on the Tyne catchment 400 years later than had been previously believed, a new discovery has revealed.

A piece of birch wood which had been gnawed by a beaver was found sticking out of the eroding bankside of the Scaup burn at Kielder Forest in Northumberland.

Now the wood has been radiocarbon dated, showing that it was chewed in the 14th Century.

Experts say this is conclusive evidence of the presence of beavers in the upper Tyne catchment in the 14th Century and is the most recent radiocarbon date for the animals in Britain.

The previous most recent radiocarbon fix for beavers was on bones at Glastonbury, which dated from between 800AD and 1000.

I had to look at a map to remind myself that Northumberland is way at the tippy-tippy top of England, almost in Scotland. Which means this is good news for everyone in the United Kingdom from our friends in Cornwall to our friends on the river Tay. I love that this chew was found on a scouting trip and whisked away for carbon testing.

(And lets be completely honest here, I like to imagine that the idea of carbon testing this wood had something to do with the carbon testing Chuck James presented on at the State of the Beaver Conference in Oregon, and that we published two years ago.)

He believes it adds support to calls for beavers, which create wetland habitats for other wildlife, to be reintroduced in the future.

“They are eco-engineers, who would add interest to our wildlife and could be an economic benefit in terms of tourism,” says Angus.

 The later presence of beavers in Northumberland supports the idea of reintroduction, he believes.

“It would benefit the environment and help in issues like flood protection. Beavers are the missing link in river management.

Well said sir! I’m going to guess that Mr. Kielder is a friend of our friend Paul Ramsey the beaver believer whose clever wife was the keynote speaker at the State of the Beaver Conference – or at least that if they aren’t friends already, they will be soon.

Beavers change things. It’s what they do.

Beavers Far and Wee

Posted by heidi08 On October - 14 - 2014Comments Off

Beaver fence aims to stop pathway flooding in Fish Creek

A beaver appears to be missing a paw from a trapping mishap in Fish Creek Provincial Park. (Ingham Nature Photography )

A beaver appears to be missing a paw from a trapping mishap in Fish Creek Provincial Park. (Ingham Nature Photography )

Calgary officials are trying out a new way to manage beavers that are causing problems in Fish Creek Provincial Park.

The rodents keep packing mud and logs against a culvert in a city-owned storm pond. If left, the dam would cause the pond to overflow and flood a popular pathway.

In the spring, the city’s water services department is going to install something called an exclusion fence — a trapezoid shaped fence made of wire that prevents the beavers from plugging the culvert.

The city used to deal with situations like this by trapping and killing the beavers, but it reviewed that policy after an incident in July. A beaver got caught in a trap, but didn’t die and was spotted struggling to free itself.

Fish Creek Park Beavers

The area in Fish Creek Provincial Park where city officials tried to trap and kill the beaver over concerns it would flood a bike path. (Carla Beynon/CBC)

Upset animal lovers launched a petition to stop trapping in the city. That prompted the review, which revealed that debris got caught in the trap, causing it to malfunction. Since then, the city has been working with the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals to come up with non-lethal alternatives.

“We want to go a different route so we don’t actually have to kill beavers,” said water services spokesman Randy Girling. “We don’t want to be known as killers or anything like that. We want to do the best we can for the wildlife in our parks.”

Hurray for Adrien and Fur-Bearer Defenders! They managed to convince the good folk of FCPP that it was better to try something new than claw their way out of any more bad press and public wrath. Adrien says it was hard, hard work. Like pushing a grand piano through a transom. But they persevered and were granted permission to install a beaver deceiver  now. Gosh, I’m so old I can remember when Adrien installed his first leveler!

Sniff, they grow up so fast.

Speaking of the long arm of beaver defenders, I got an invitation this morning to present at the San Pedro Valley Park in Pacifica on beavers. A month after I’ll be talking in Auburn. That’s 133 miles apart for beaver defense. 1670 if you count Utah and Oregon. And Cheryl just visited Big Break in Brentwood where she snapped these videos of our work at the visitors venter!

Pretty cool to be long-range beaver preachers!

The Trail from Utah to Martinez

Posted by heidi08 On October - 13 - 2014Comments Off

Hot of the presses I just got word from Mary Obrien that the BRAT (Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool) has just been completed for the entire state of Utah. The complete report and maps are here and I will put a permanent link on the margin alongside the last amazing thing Utah did for beavers, (and the one before that). Here’s a little excerpt  from the executive summary.

This report presents the development and application of the Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool (BRAT), a decision support and planning tool for beaver management, to analyze all perennial rivers and streams in Utah. The backbone to BRAT is a capacity model developed to assess the upper limits of riverscapes to support beaver dam – building activities. Both existing and historic capacity were estimated with readily available spatial datasets to evaluate five key lines of evidence: 1) a  perennial water source, 2) availability of dam building materials, 3) ability to build a dam at baseflow, 4) likelihood of dams to withstand a typical flood , and 5) likelihood that stream gradient would limit or completely eliminate dam building by beaver. Fuzzy inference systems were used to combine these lines of evidence while accounting for uncertainty.

CaptureWith this announcement came a note from Mary that two stalwart Utah beaver champions are coming out to San Rafael for the annual Bioneers conference this month. They are going to a soils workshop and would like to meet Worth A Dam and the beavers if at all possible. For the past 5 years they’ve been hard at work letting beavers turn the tiny incised trickle on their land into this beauty. Their beavers have survived  the last 5 years on mostly cattails because there are no trees to speak of!

Yet.

 

 

P1090548And speaking of beavers eating cattails, here’s a video Rusty sent this morning of  a Napa beaver doing just that. The green water is pond weed/algae and don’t worry, I just read this morning that  cattails are VERY nutritious.

50 states of beaver

Posted by heidi08 On October - 12 - 2014Comments Off

Old Fort fifth-graders learn all about water-dwelling rodent

 It isn’t every day that Old Fort fifth-grader Makayla Evans gets to dress up like a beaver.

 Garbed in goggles, a blanket, sound-proof headphones, a trash bag and a pair of gloves, the fifth-grader stood in front of her classmates wearing items that represented different traits the rodent found all across North Carolina possesses.

 “I’m going to hand Makayla this small canister of oil,” said Lake James State Park Ranger Kevin Bischof. “Can anyone guess what that represents on a beaver?”

 “It’s what keeps their coat waterproof,” said one student as Bischof continued handing Evans more items to go with her makeshift costume.

 Bischof’s presentation was part of an hour-long lesson in Joanna Graham’s science class at Old Fort Elementary, which was designed to help students better understand the American beaver.

Now we’re all read about the park system educational brilliance where they dress a kid in a fur coat and put on flippers and say ‘you’re a beaver’. But mind you this is North Carolina, which (if we’re being kind) has a fairly conflicted relationship with beavers, so we are really haooy 5th graders get beaver ed. But this blew me away:

“The beaver is a keystone species,” said Bischof. “If you remove them from an environment, it drastically changes. It takes constant maintenance to keep up a dam, and if a beaver is removed from the area then their dams will eventually deteriorate and change everything in the area where they’ve been.”

You can almost here the unspoken message “So tell you’re dad if he blows up that beaver dam it will be bad for everything”, can’t you? Of course I wrote Kevin right away. And our beaver friends in North Carolina to introduce them. Every now and then I start to think the landscape for beavers is changing all over the united states. Which is a pretty nice thought to have. Oh, and I sent along these:

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Researchers Say Beavers Are More Than Simple Pests

Yakima beaver relocation was on Scott Simon yesterday of NPR. More good promotion of beaver benefits, although I hate the headline. It reminds me of that scene in Tolkein’s the Two Towers, where the hobbits stumble on the oldest forest.

” What a pity! This shaggy old forest looked so different in the sunlight. I almost felt I liked the place.
 
‘Almost felt you liked the Forest! That’s good! That’s uncommonly kind of you,’ said a
strange voice. ‘Turn round and let me have a look at your faces. I almost feel that I dislike you both, but do not let us be hasty. Turn around!’ “

In addition to the usual beaver beatitudes there are a few choice quotes that I will offer without comment.

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Click to Listen

We try to catch the whole colony because beavers have incredibly intense family social bonds. So without taking the whole family colony, they’re more likely to go right back to where they once were caught in searching for their family members.

[Regarding their naming of beavers] It helps us bring light to sometimes sad instances where family members may have gotten lost behind.

disbelief1

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And now that we’re back from vacation I’m starting to think about Halloween decorations. We’re so lucky we may have just the thing! What do you think, too scary?

boover

 

Best. Beaver. News. Ever.

Posted by heidi08 On October - 4 - 2014Comments Off

Way back when Martinez was scrambling to save our beavers, several frantic and well-meaning people called Fish and Game and said earnestly, “I saw this TV program about some pipe they put in the water that prevents flooding, do you guys do that or know anyone who does?” Literally the question was asked 15 times by 15 different people. And to a man, every single answer came back;

“Oh those things never work.”

Flash forward to  2014 where we recently learned that beavers were causing a problem in Sonoma. Through several carefully placed contacts we were able to discover on whose property they were eating grapevines and contact  the Fish and Game warden who had been asked for a depredation permit. Guess what she said. Go ahead, guess!

She said “I didn’t issue a permit and I sent them to Mike Callahan’s website.”

surprised-child-skippy-jon

And before you say, “Wow that’s great that Mike has an put up such an informative website”, I will remind you that 7  years ago when our beavers were slated for killing he had  pretty much the same informative website. It was one of three places on the entire internet that talked about beaver mitigation. The information was out there in 2007. The difference is that we flooded the market with information. The game changer was that Martinez made livingco-existence a household name, and has proven to CDFG for 7 years that these devices work.

The playing field has now changed so much that CDFG preaches flow devices to land-owners. Thinking, about it all I remember that when we were in Utah Mary Obrien said wisely that real change happened on a slower scale than her Whitman students could imagine. In her experience it almost aways took at least 7 years. Honestly, she said that. 7 years ago they said it couldn’t be done, and we did it. I like to think Worth A Dam played some part in the change that made beaver mitigation a real option. So congratulations to all of you reading this website. You helped tip the scale.

 So ’ere ’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ’ome in the Soudan;         
    You ’re a pore benighted ’eathen but a first-class fightin’ man;
    An’ ’ere ’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, with your ’ayrick ’ead of ’air—
    You big black boundin’ beggar—for you broke a British square!

Rudyard Kipling

Beaver Mitigation

Posted by heidi08 On October - 3 - 20144 COMMENTS

When I trotted unwarily into the beaver biz a lifetime ago,  I learned a lot by accident. I learned that ‘Beaver Deceiver’ was a catchy name, but it wasn’t what we had in Martinez. A beaver deceiver was a specific device invented by Skip Lisle to protect culverts. Technically it works not by ‘deceiving’ beavers, but by thwarting them. (Unfortunately beaver thwarter doesn’t really rhyme) I learned from Skip Lisle that correct naming was important and people could get very irritated very quickly if I used the wrong word. What Skip installed in Martinez was a “Castor Master” and I am always careful to call it that.

At the same time that I was learning this new language from Skip, I was also talking to Mike Callahan and getting his language as well. His version comparable to the ‘Castor Master’ was a ‘Flexible Leveler’ which evolved over the years into ‘Pond Leveler”. He protected culverts with a “Culvert protective fence”, which didn’t rhyme but did describe its function.

Since using any one of these names defined either Skip’s or Mike’s work specifically, there needed to be a generic term that was less territorial. Something that was easily understood and didn’t step on anyone’s toes. Skip told me the generic was “Flow device” and I’ve been using that religiously when describing how to manage beaver behavior. I would say Mike’s preference for a generic term was “Beaver Management”, and I have used that as well.

But I’ve recently come to the conclusion that both these generic terms have limited usefulness.

For whatever reason when you say “Beaver management” people think “Beaver killing”, or weeding out some portion of the too large population. Like “Rodent management” or “Deer management”. So I obviously don’t like that term. And I recently learned that when you say “Flow Device” to Fish and Game they imagine something so technical and engineering-based that they won’t let you install it without a stream altering permit. Because, it’s a DEVICE so it must be complicated! (Thanks Sherry Guzzi for pointing that out!)

This morning I thought. We need a new word to generically describe something you do to either prevent beavers from building in a place you can’t stand, or control the way they can build in a place you can stand. You aren’t sure yet whether to use Mike or Skip’s techniques. I’ve decided to invite you all to the unveiling of this new word. I have give this exactly 7 years of thought.

mitigate

-Make less severe, serious, or painful.
-Lessen the gravity of (an offense or mistake).

I’m proposing that we discuss using “Beaver Mitigation“  in these situations where we aren’t yet sure yet which technique is needed and we want a way to say that something could be done to prevent flooding. It has the added advantage of making it clear that the point of the tool isn’t to make the beavers leave, but lessen harmful consequences of them being there.  After you’ve reviewed the site and you know what is needed or what was already used you could substitute for the specific name. But until you’re sure, you could use the term “Beaver Mitigation” to communicate that the property owner in question has options that will take care of his/her interests and prevent flooding.

Beaver Mitigation means there’s something that can be done.

I am liking this word. It is true that mitigate is not exactly your average vocabulary, but everyone’s heard of “Mitigating Circumstances” and a single Law and Order episode will tell you that they are good to have because they make the punishment less severe, so I don’t think its out of any one’s grasp.

I don’t really know how names get started, and I don’t install these things or invent them. But I do write about them and talk about them to a lot of people.  I’ve been religiously using other peoples’ language for 7 years, during which I’ve written nearly 3000 columns about beavers and 700 letters to city officials.

If anyone is entitled to use a new name, I’d say I am.

And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field;