Archive for the ‘Creative Solutions’ Category

Wagons Ho-Ho-Ho!

Posted by heidi08 On February - 19 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

It’s the last time you’ll be hearing from me for a while  and lord knows that must be a kind of Sunday comfort.  Tomorrow is Bob’s grand debut so don’t forget to give him plenty of positive feedback.

conference Our new rule is only good news on Sunday, so I have a few fun things to share before I go. Paul and Louise are coming to dinner Tuesday night and maybe Leonard and Lois too, so we have lots to look forward to. But don’t feel left out,  you get treats as well. The first is a lovely discussion of ecological engineers from our old friend Mary Willson in Juneau.

On the trails: Ecological engineers

We use the word “engineer” in a confusing variety of ways and contexts, but here I mean to refer to organisms that create physical structures or changes in the environment — physical changes that affect other kinds of organisms. The concept is still very broad — one could say (and some researchers do so) that a forest of trees or large kelp, or a tallgrass prairie or an eelgrass bed, produces an environment in which temperature, humidity, air or water currents, precipitation patterns, or soils may be altered, thus affecting many other organisms by providing habitat or access to resources.

However, here I want to consider other “engineers” — those that deliberately, intentionally make or modify physical structures for their own purposes, with collateral consequences for other organisms.

The most well-known ecological engineers in the natural world are beavers. By building dams, they impound water, raising the water table, creating ponds, sometimes preventing floods, but also flooding low-lying areas. Although they may instinctively respond to the sound and feel of running water by trying to build a dam, they make deliberate choices about the size and shape of a dam and its component parts; they also maintain their structures continually. Beaver ponds provide good habitat for fish, especially juveniles, aquatic insects, various birds, and certain plants, although they obviously destroy portions of the adjacent area by flooding it. Some dams are hundreds of yards long and some are many feet high, depending on the terrain. A well-constructed, well-maintained beaver dam can last for many years, and its effects on the landscape may persist long after the beavers have moved on: the pond gradually fills with sediment and dead vegetation and eventually turns into a meadow.

We’re number ONE. Beavers make it happen! Mary goes on to describe other engineers but of course we’re spec-ist around her and we only care about the first one. If you would like to be smart and entertained, go read the others and learn about the wanna be-avers. I’m just going to bask in the recognition that beavers are the job-creators of an entire community.

The second wonderful thing is a photo I came across and having been saving for the right moment to share. It’s titled “Beaver playing the flute” for obvious reasons. All I know about this photo is on the caption below. But isn’t that fun?

Beaver, Playing the Flute? (by Alexander Koenders)

The third thing I want to share is the AMAZING donation we received from artist Sara Aycock. She’s a very clever woman in Boise Idaho with a book coming out next fall. I fell in love with her “Victorian Animals” series and she was crazy generous sendng 5 beautifully framed giclee prints that will completely knock your socks off. Each print comes with a framed character description as well. I’m partial of course to Mr. Beaverton. You need to go right now to her etsy store and support this kind of generosity and talent, because something tells me there will be a line waiting to bid on these delightful items at the auction.



Can a ‘planned community’ plan for beavers?

Posted by heidi08 On February - 17 - 20173 COMMENTS

Reston Virginia is one of the first and most well known ‘planned community’ in the world. It has libraries and swimming pools and gutters all in the precise location for the maximal living experience. And now it has made sure it will have designated beavers as well.

CaptureYesterday they launched a swanky new beaver page on their website and today this article was released. Because these things shouldn’t be left to chance. Not sure exactly where posies and butterflies fit in on a beaver web page, but I think we need to grade on a curve here.

Reston Association Working to Manage Beaver Population in Glade Area

Beavers have long been a part of the Glade Stream Valley, but Reston Association is working to make sure they don’t cause destruction for nearby residents in the form of damaged trees and flooding.

“It would be hard to find a better example in Reston of a healthy, diverse, native ecosystem than the two beaver wetlands (Glade Valley and Bright Pond),” reads information provided by Claudia Thompson-Deahl, senior environmental resource manager. “Reston’s beaver wetlands are one of the few places in Reston where nature is able to thrive despite all the surrounding suburban pressures.”

Beavers, however, bring a “dramatic change” to the surrounding environment, so Reston Association has developed a beaver management policy.

Oh those pesky beavers and their darned ‘changes’.  How’s a city of 58,404  to cope? Planning is the operative word here. It was planned by Robert E Simon, named for his initials and launched on his birthday in 1964. (I’m not kidding.) You can imagine how some unplanned beavers just throw a big monkey wrench in their best laid plans – making them gang aft agley, as it were.

According to Thompson-Deahl, additional fencing is being installed to keep Glade beavers out of residents’ yards and off wooded slopes, and many individual trees have been protected with wire mesh to safeguard the pathway.

In the long term, Reston Association staff, with input from residents and wildlife experts, has developed and implemented guidelines for beaver management in the area. The primary goal is to find methods to preserve and protect substantial portions of the stream valley from beaver activity. To do so, staff plan to divide the valley into two sections.

Section 1, designated as a “Beaver Management Area,” will consist of stream valley that runs from Twin Branches Road to the bridge behind Leatherwood Drive that leads to the Hunting Horn Lane Tot Lot.

Section 2, running from Hunting Horn Tot Lot to Soapstone Drive, will be managed as a wooded stream valley.

Section 1 contains residential property, utility easements and recreational facilities. With that in mind, according to Thompson-Deahl, fencing and pipes will be used to protect those areas. Three-foot wire-mesh fencing will protect and areas threatened by beaver activity, in the attempt to ensure continuous tree cover between Twin Branches Road and Soapstone Drive. In addition, over 100 Bald Cypress trees have been planted, with wire-mesh caging around each one.

In Section 2, beaver activity will be discouraged with fencing and stream gates. According to provided information, beavers in that area “will be removed” by a licensed trapper if the discouragement fails.

According to Thompson-Deahl, beavers provide positive attributes to the ecosystem including a reduction in stream erosion, reservoirs of water during period of drought and freeze, and the creation of wetlands that support a large amount of plant and other animal life.

Don’t get us wrong, we like nature. In the appropriate areas and as long as it goes according to plan. We are a civilized people, and wild things just need to behave less wildly. You know how certain home owners associations won’t let you plant purple zalia’s or put up a flag on any day besides the 4th of July. We just want our beavers in sector 1 to stay behind the fence.

Is that so much to ask?

Which makes me think of the unplanned joys of beavers and their many trials and benefits. Even in Martinez where we worked harder to live with the animals than anywhere it’s not like we ever “asked” for beavers. Or wanted this to happen. It’s not like my life had a big open space that I was hoping beavers would rush in and fill.

But that’s just the way it is, I think.



“Beaver Blitzkrieg”

Posted by heidi08 On February - 15 - 2017Comments Off on “Beaver Blitzkrieg”

A true politician knows his audience. He can look boldly into the face of the crowd and describe the exact same actions differently depending on their particular interests. Behold beaver nonviolence!

Nonviolent beaver management focus of forum

BAR HARBOR — Skip Lisle, president and chief scientist of Beaver Deceivers International, will present his nonviolent, creative approach to beaver management at College of the Atlantic’s Human Ecology Forum in the McCormick Lecture Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 21, at 4:10 p.m. The talk is free and open to the public.

Lisle will share humorous informative stories about ways he has found to prevent beaver damage while still allowing the animals to repopulate and rejuvenate different locations, he said. His mission, he said, is to find creative ways for humans to coexist with these industrious, important creatures.

“Beavers are widely considered a pest to eradicate,” Lisle said. “However, they are our most valuable keystone species.”

Frequent dam construction, the felling of trees and the flooding that results from their building habits often damage property and put beavers at odds with people. In many cases, the common solution to this problem is short-term and frequently ends in the death of the animal.

The goal of Lisle’s organization, Beaver Deceivers, is to change this pattern of conflict into one of coexistence. Rather than resorting to a kill mechanism to remove a costly nuisance, he finds ways to protect infrastructure while allowing beavers to improve the health and natural beauty of an area.

CaptureThree beaver talks in three days. Skip is doing a “beaver blitzkrieg” in Maine and forcing wisdom upon the entire state with a one-two-three punch. Maybe that should be something we all strive for. Just imagine if all the beaver experts we know in every state committed to three beaver talks in three days, (held say around the international day of the beaver), what a dramatic difference we would make to our wetlands.

(Come to think of it, California is very big, we might need two or three experts.)

“With beaver-human relations, it turns out that long-term thinking, creativity, a nonviolent approach and a commitment to craftsmanship can combine for a great investment,” he said.

Maybe we could even get PBS to air the beaver Nature documentary on one of those days. And children’s authors to do beaver readings at their local public library. Heck, if I’m going to dream – dream big. Maybe there could be a cash prize for the city with the most officials in attendance.

Obviously this map needs filling out, but wouldn’t that be a sight to behold?

Skip tells the truth about beavers

Posted by heidi08 On February - 13 - 2017Comments Off on Skip tells the truth about beavers

This is a fantastic article about Skip Lisle’s upcoming beaver ecology presentation in Maine. It says everything about beavers you ever wanted to read in print – pointing out their importance to wetlands and wildlife, and challenging folks to be smarter than a beaver and save money by doing it.  In addition to all this it permanently lays to rest the age-old question as to whether the  man that Martinez secretaries once clustered to the windows to watch install a pipe shirtless has, in fact, matured well.

The answer is, yes.

Beaver ecology talks set for Belfast, Liberty

Beaver expert, inventor and entrepreneur Skip Lisle of Beaver Deceivers International will speak in Belfast and Liberty on how to install deceivers and other devices designed to protect human infrastructure, wetlands and beavers.

The assumption is that we cannot outsmart beavers so we have to kill them,” Lisle said in a news release. “I’ve spent my life inventing and installing a number of devices that permanently outmaneuver beavers. I’ve helped communities across the country and in Poland save huge sums of money, and wetlands in the process.”

Lisle’s talk will demonstrate how towns can save thousands of dollars by permanently protecting roads and culverts from beavers. He will also cover the history of beavers in Maine, and the essential role they play in creating habitat and maintaining healthy aquatic systems.

“I don’t know how many people understand just how important beavers are ecologically,” he said. “Without beavers, we basically wouldn’t have wetlands. We can coexist with them; it just takes some creativity and commitment.

“Many people do not know that wetlands are one of the richest habitats, with a greater density of life than anywhere else on land,” Lisle said. “We have to approach the problems we have with beavers intelligently. It is our obligation as stewards. But, we also need to be smart with our money. The human and machine hours it takes to constantly repair roads, destroy dams and kill beavers is really a squandering of public funds. And it never solves the problem because beavers will always return to the site.”

Ahh, Skip, you do this so well. It seems like just the right things to say tumble effortlessly out of your lips at exactly the moment when people need to hear them. The reporter covering this story was obviously impressed because got the entire story down beautifully. Come to think of it, it’s kind of amazing that at both ends of the country there will be important beaver ecology discussions happening on February 22. Now if only we could just get some started in the middle.

This has to be my favorite part of the article:

Of the hundreds of conflict sites where he has worked, Lisle has yet to find one he could not solve. Consequently, he has never had to kill, or recommend killing, a single beaver. Skip serves as a selectman in his hometown of Grafton, Vt., where deceivers are a line item in the budget, and all roads are fully beaver-proof.

Did you read that? I didn’t know Skip was a selectman. When did that happen? I need to pay better attention. But in Grafton EVERY ROAD HAS CULVERT PROTECTION!!!  This is a beaver utopia that we can only fantasize about. In fact I’m fantasizing right now. If it could happen in Grafton, why not all over Vermont? Or New England? Or the country?

“Many people do not know that wetlands are one of the richest habitats, with a greater density of life than anywhere else on land,” Lisle said. “We have to approach the problems we have with beavers intelligently. It is our obligation as stewards. But, we also need to be smart with our money. The human and machine hours it takes to constantly repair roads, destroy dams and kill beavers is really a squandering of public funds. And it never solves the problem because beavers will always return to the site.”

Sometimes I just get that contented feeling of being a child asleep in the back seat after a long day at the beach  on the car ride home. The happy adults are in the front seat and totally have everything under control. There is nothing I need to do, and everything is going to be okay. Ahh
Since I don’t need to be mature right now, I’m going to surrender to the very inappropriate impulse to post this for obvious reasons:

A right way and a wrong way to teach about beavers

Posted by heidi08 On February - 10 - 2017Comments Off on A right way and a wrong way to teach about beavers

I have given myself a strict Sunday rule for only posting good news about the silent auction. But this is soooooo good I can’t wait, and also relevant. So I’m busting it. I was crazy impressed by Jen Richmond’s beaver painted on a saw for the exhibit. I had contact information for the curator so I found out how to write Jen right away my plea for the auction. Wednesday, she kindly wrote back and said she’d love to support us and wanted to donate a small saw, which would be easier to ship. Then this morning I saw this in the papers. I just hope I tugged her heart strings successfully before everyone lines up to tug her wallet strings. This is smart work and it will SELL.

beaver saw

Beaver Tales art exhibit supports conservation

Beavers are more than just the mascot of Oregon State University. The beaver is also Oregon’s state animal. And with the help of SPARK, OSU’S Year of Art and Science and The Wetlands Conservancy (TWC), the animal who carries a negative stigma will be brought into a new light in a traveling exhibit called Beaver Tales.

The coordinator for Beaver Tales through The Wetlands Conservancy, Sara Vickerman, hopes this traveling exhibit helps bring awareness to beavers and their importance to the environment.

“We hope to raise awareness of the ecological importance of beavers, increase the public’s appreciation of them and get people involved in conservation,” Vickerman said. “Where beavers cause conflicts, we hope managers will look for solutions that benefit both people and beavers.”

“Our goal is to learn more about how we can coexist and work with beavers to conserve and restore natural systems,” Lev said.


The curator Sara Vickerman sounded familiar so I ran back thru my files and found out that she used to work for Wildlife Defenders. In fact she was the good soul that gave us 50 copies of the issue featuring Sherri Tippie the same year that Sherri donated all those clay beavers, which you may remember. I introduced Sara to our councilman Mark Ross who sherri's gift 003was interested in a local showing of the collection. She said this exhibit was the single hardest thing she ever did, taking many more hours than she was ever paid for, coaxing artists into making beavers plus making sure it would all come together. It was also the thing she loved doing the most and was the very proudest of.   She really feels it will lead to beavers being seen in a new way.  But advised Ross that she didn’t think the collection would travel well and recommended we do one of our own, instead.

Sara, I really, really believe you about the amount of work this took. You did an amazing job. And Mark, good luck with that, is all I can say. As my beaver dance card is filled.

Meanwhile Quebec has a new beaver for show and tell at Science North.

Young beaver latest addition to animal family at Science North

A young male beaver is the latest addition to the level three Northern ecosystem at Science North. The yet-to-be-named animal was born and raised at the Zoo Sauvage de St-Félicien in St-Félicien, Quebec. He can’t be released back into the wild.

“This new addition will give our visitors the opportunity to learn more about young beaver behaviour and experience a brand new personality. We are excited to have both beavers at Science North for guests to visit with and learn about,” says Henson.

Science North is now asking for the public’s help in choosing one of three possible Innu names for the animal ambassador. The names pay respect to the traditional territory the young beaver comes from. They are: Kashkuan (cloud), Kashkuanashku (it is foggy), and Kashkuanapan (it is a misty, foggy morning). 

Obviously if the kidnapped sacrifice beaver was going to be ANY use at all, you would want to educate the public by naming him the Innu word for WATER. And teach children how essential saving water is in these days of climate change. But whatever. Go ahead and name him fog and teach that the other beavers have big  teeth like the cartoons but his just haven’t grown in yet.

Hrmph. If you really wanted to educate the public about beavers,  you have an open air exhibit of a working flow device on the grounds with an active beaver colony living in peace. And instead of using a cute gimmick to give a nod to the natives teach by naming him ‘fog’ your program would show how they understood the beaver  was an asset.

But hey, I’m pretty sure I got more native wisdom from my computer game.

Castor Gratia Artis

Posted by heidi08 On February - 7 - 2017Comments Off on Castor Gratia Artis

CaptureOSU is getting ready for it’s grand “Showtime” reception for the Beaver Tales art exhibit this Thursday. They are already getting a nice flurry of attention as folks begin to see beavers in a newway. Organizer Charles Robinson sent their event poster you can see here.

Beavers offer inspiration in ‘Beaver Tales’ art exhibit

The exhibit, now on view at Giustina Gallery in LaSells Stewart Center, is the creation of volunteer curator Sara Vickerman and president of The Wetlands Conservancy, Ester Lev. The two wanted to promote more appreciation and understanding about the important role beavers play in ecosystems, Vickerman said.

“We thought sometimes environmental politics just make people tired and angry,” she said. “That’s not what we want here. We want people to have some fun and enjoy looking at this art.”

 Some artists took field tours provided by OSU to the North Coast and Portland to observe beavers in their habitat.

“People were just amazed. Here they (beavers) are living among us, working quietly and not so quietly,” Vickerman said, and laughed. “The artists went out and started looking for beavers on their own.”

About 125 pieces are displayed in the exhibit. Featured mediums include photography, clay, fused glass, stone mosaics, and wood pieces.

“There is everything from people who paint with watercolors, oils and acrylics to sculptures, even a woman who paints on cross-cut saws,” Vickerman said.


“My Oregon home” by Jen Richmond is a beaver painted on a cross-cut saw that is mounted on barn wood.

She was also impressed with photographs of beavers taken in Alaska by retired OSU professor Sharon Rosenkoetter and her husband, Larry.

The beauty of photographing beavers in Alaska is you don’t have the problem of them only coming out only when it’s dark, and you can’t get decent pictures. They have pictures of beavers taken in daylight that are just incredible,” she said.

The exhibit is part of SPARK, OSU’s year of Arts and Science.

“Charles Robinson (College of Liberal Arts faculty, coordinator of SPARK-OSU Year of Arts & Science) got us space at OSU for the exhibit. He thought it was the perfect illustration of the intersection of art and science, because people are doing research at OSU,” she said.

A percentage of the sales of art pieces will benefit The Wetlands Conservancy and other conservation groups, Vickerman said.

I have to admit, I’m having castor envy. I especially LOVE the idea of a beaver painted on a saw blade. Jen that is beautiful work!  Something like this is a huge undertaking. They were in the early stages back when I went to present in May. There are so many moving pieces to coordinate, and so many details to keep track of, all my hats are off to them. It’s so exciting that folks will gather to see this art and think about beavers differently – maybe for the first time!

(It was nice of the beavers to win the Civil war this year, that will probably help even more with attendance.)

I would feel like a total beaver slacker by comparison but last night Suzi Eszterhas approached me about the upcoming feature in Ranger Rick and asked me if she could give my contact info as a “Beaver expert” for information and resources in the article. You know the one coming up that will be mailed to children in every state and beyond. Would it be okay to give her editor my phone number? They’d like someone to be able to check for accuracy and verify details about our story and beavers in general?

I must have beamed around the living room for a full 20 minutes before I floated back to the keyboard and assented. “Oh alright” I typed, scowling contentedly,

You can give my name“.



Team Beaver and Friends

Posted by heidi08 On February - 4 - 2017Comments Off on Team Beaver and Friends

Our beaver gang is teaming up with the Watershed Steward interns, Friends of Alhambra Creek, the SF waterboard and the assistant city engineer this morning to plant willow cuttings along the creek under the guidance of creek wizardess Ann Riley. We’re hoping the rain waits kindly until they’re done. Cheryl will be there capturing it all on film and my contribution is making wrap sandwiches to feed the troops when they’re finished. I’m not mentioning this to the city but of course I’m hoping that the juicy delectable new shoots that grow encourage our beavers to show their furry faces again soon. Fingers crossed!

The saplings form our last guerilla planting are doing very well!

tree-plantingYesterday I was contacted by children’s author Susan Wood who was publishing a book on the parachuting beavers which she said would  include a link to our website for information about the animals. The book was coming out in April and a website was being launched to promote it. She wondered if the education resources section on the site might include links to our teacher’s activities as well?

First, we are always flattered and pleased that our site is useful to anyone. And of course beaver education is near and dear to our hearts. But another book on this particular subject? I guess folks just LOVE the idea of throwing beaver out of planes.

I told the author that I appreciated the contact and the mentions and she was welcome to link to our site.Capture I also asked for a signed copy for the silent action. Here we are on their educational resource page. I’ve been doing this so long that I didn’t even remember designing the “beaver catcher” until I checked the site. Sometimes my enthusiasm surprises even me.

This is the second children’s book covering the topic. The first was was published last year by our beaver friend Jennifer Lovett and called “Beavers Away!” I guess we should brace ourselves for a beaver-flinging story every year! Maybe they’ll be a whole library shelf dedicated to them. I’ve politely told both authors it is NOT our favorite topic and have been assured the books make it clear that throwing animals from the air is not encouraged.

Hrmph. I also made sure both authors saw this: