Archive for the ‘Creative Solutions’ Category

Another chapter in our beaver tale

Posted by heidi08 On February - 11 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

Capture2Footer 1 5 x 3 5 inddHaving trouble deciding what to read at night? I might have just found an answer. This imminently published book covers the exciting return of beavers to the Detroit River. It’s lovely writing and illustrations are aimed at children 8-12 but you can bet I’ll be reading my copy avidly and telling you all about it here, at beaver central. I’m attaching the publishers pdf which you can read or download  for more details.

And yes. Let’s hear it for the beavers.


There’s a nice article about our Idaho beaver friends recent beaver count, but I’m sure you’ll agree that the choice of photo is a little inappropriate:

CaptureOof! I wrote Debbie and the paper when this came out but I’m there haven’t been changes. Never mind, lets focus on the words which are wonderful!

“Helping the Portneuf River watershed, one beaver at a time” is the motto of the Watershed Guardians, whose annual BeaverCount on Mink and Dempsey creeks last weekend was part of that effort.

The beaver count is a volunteer effort organized by Watershed Guardians. And the results from the annual census will influence how many trapping permits are issued for beaver on Mink Creek, Dempsey Creek and other streams within the Portneuf River watershed, said Mike Settell, the group’s director.

Several Scout troops and students from Idaho State University’s Outdoor Leadership program took part in the annual count on Saturday, along with 32 volunteer surveyors known as “Flat-tailers.”

During the annual count, volunteers recorded beaver scat, tracks, and slides, which indicate that the animals still occupy ponds on Mink Creek and other areas.

Currently in its fifth year, data collected during the count will be shared at open house events for the public, federal agencies, and Idaho Fish and Game, said Settell, who’s an environmental engineer. The findings will also be presented at the “State of the Beaver” conference in Canyonville, Oregon.

Settell said the number of trapping permits issued for beaver on the Main and the South forks of Mink Creek has been reduced from 10 to five animals, and trapping on the East and West forks was suspended for an additional two years.

Beaver are the original watershed guardians, Settell said. The indigenous animals play a crucial role in flood control, recharging the ground water supply and creating habitat in a pond-wetland-stream ecosystem.

“Along the Portneuf, beaver create habitat for every species from frogs to moose,” Settell said. “This year we’re also looking at fisheries, as well. And streams that have beaver activity typically have more and larger native species of fish, such as the Yellowstone cutthroat trout.”

Meanwhile, a lack of beaver activity leads to an increase in sediment and a greater chance of peak flood-damage downstream.

Settell said Watershed Guardians operates through volunteers and by donations. The mission of the group is to raise awareness about the crucial role that beavers play in maintaining wildlife habitat and water quality within the Portneuf River watershed.

Love that mission. Great work Mike and Team Mike! I’m so happy to have your voice for beavers on the good side. In the past couple years Mike has even undertaken a beaver musical festival known as the “Beaver dam Jam”, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with their many successes. Idaho is one place where sport trapping is still more common than depredation – so its a big deal that folks are looking out for beavers.

Our mural meeting went very well yesterday, we have been approved by the art committee and assuming they have a quorum next week we are on the schedule to present at the PRMCC on Tuesday. Artist Mario Alfaro showed up with a canvas of his latest efforts, and we were all very impressed. Click twice to see a bigger version.

panomuralThis artwork really  focuses on our natural color scheme and boasts an egret and a turtle! Love the many beavers, and very happy to see the children in the stand of trees near the dam. So familiar! I’m thinking this will look amazing on the bridge.

Ohh and I found this by accident the other day. It’s obviously a computer generated reading of our wikipedia entry, but fun to see nevertheless.

Git yer kilt an’ save the beavers!

Posted by heidi08 On February - 10 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

CaptureSome mornings you just want to curl up with a mug of coffee and a bagel and savor articles like this. It wasn’t easy to get you the full text but I KNEW you would want to read it, and it’s much finer writing than anything I’m likely to say, so get comfortable. It was written by Jim Crumley for the Courier, the author of Nature’s architect, and considered by some to be the finest nature writing in Scotland – when you read this you will see why.

1Ahh, does that describe our Martinez beaver controversy or WHAT? Nothing gets thought about more than whether or not some bit of nature should be allowed to do natural things. How true!

2And beavers don’t VOTE. Did you get that? I am SO JEALOUS of Scotland. It gets writers like this AND really good beer. And castles. What do we get?  Buffalo, Starbucks and primary elections. That’s what.


Shhh…we’re coming to my favorite part….about stakeholders.

4“It permeates the official language like midges on a dam day on Mull“. Is it possible to fall in love with a column? For those of you that haven’t experienced the luxury of midges, let me say that once a million years ago Jon and I went for a delightful picnic on the Scottish countryside. and were very surprised to learn that while we were happily enjoying our treat, some tiny invisible insects were busy enjoying US. Midges stealth and strategy lies in the fact they are much smaller than mosquitoes – so they never get slapped as they should. Unlike mosquitoes – not all kinds bite. But they come in clouds and are VERY annoying. Mull is an island in Scotland. And accusing the government of counting as many stakeholders as there are midges on this wet island makes me very happy indeed.

5“And look no further than the BUNGLING BRUTALITY of the badger cull”. Not only is this alliteration at its finest, Crumley cheerfully slashes his enemies with a stark oxymoron. Lots of bullies are happy to be called brutal, but but having your brutality described as ‘bungling’ changes the meaning entirely. Now instead of ‘pulling the wings off flies’ you are pulling the tail feathers off a chicken and everyone is looking at you and wondering why.

6Ambassadors of biodiversity“.  Ahhh I love the way that sounds. Someone needs to read me this article every earth day in a thick Scotish brogue – I’m thinking maybe Frank Helling as John Muir.


33,000 signatures! How ironic! If the farmers had just put up with the beavers they would have probably gotten their way in earning the right to depredate problem beavers. Now this has created such a national and international stir they will never hear the end of it.

Capture1Beavers are as much Scots as the people themselves.  LOVE IT!


This morning we’re off to the PRMCC again for more mural review with Mario’s most recent draft, and yesterday I was invited back to the SF Waterboard to give a talk. Apparently the planning division liked it so much beavers are being invited back for the Watershed division. Nice!



And the results are in…

Posted by heidi08 On February - 9 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

A natural ally in the fight against floods – the beaver

The experiment which has been running for five years in West Devon has been both a world-first and a profound surprise for the scientific community. The results of the experiment are startling. During the five years the two beavers have lived a wild and natural existence in their seven-acre enclosure they have built 13 dams using the kind of scrub willow and hazel that tend to line Westcountry streams and these have had a profound effect on both water flows and on pollution.

The scientists have been looking at three different areas in the changing hydrology – the amount of flow which goes into the beaver-zone and then comes out; the increase in the area’s water storage capacity; and the effect on pollutants.

He explained how the 13 beaver dams are slowing the water flow. “The water comes in at the top and fills up behind the first dam, overflows and fills the next. It is like a staircase. There is a constant release of water – each pond draws down and is replenished before the next rainfall.

The professor showed us a graph on which a blue line showed flows measured at the input to the site, and a red line showed the outflow. As you’d expect, the blue line zig-zagged up and down as heavy rains were followed by dry periods – but the red line measuring output remained more-or-less straight across the middle of the graph.

And there was another reading. “From this landscape here we are seeing an average of 150 mg per litre of sediment coming off farmland in storms. But what we see leaving the site here is just 15mg per litre. Behind every one of these dams the water slows until it’s practically not moving – the sediment settles and fills the pond.

“If you are water company and a river has high sediment, it costs a lot of money to treat. Nitrogen and phosphorus both enter this site at reasonably high levels especially in storms – but at the bottom end we see so little in nitrogen and phosphate, the university’s equipment cannot actually detect the minute amount.

They’re doing a great job of showing why beaver belong on the landscape in Devon. I’m so pleased by their effort to document the changes. I take with many grains of salt the idea that this has never been studied before – but certainly the effect of two beavers on a habitat that’s been without them for 500 years has never been studied before. So that’s excellent!

Love this remark from the retired farmer who was willing to tolerate beavers on his land.

“This water is all going down to Roadford reservoir; it eventually becomes drinking water,” said Mr Morgan. “So if you can make the water cleaner, that is a good thing. “If they took the fences away, I’d be perfectly happy for the beavers to stay – they can be managed like everything else.”

Managed like everything else! Did I read that correctly? What man of steel is this that faces the beaver threat with actual pragmatic courage? I think I’m in love.

They’re even proposing incentives for farmers who allow beavers on their land. Be STILL my heart.

Mark Elliott, who is in charge of the beaver product for the Devon Wildlife Trust, has been spending a lot of time considering how farmers and landowners might get on with beavers if they were re-introduced to British landscapes after centuries.

“The key challenge is ensuring there is some mechanism by which landowners who store water on their land in the headwaters get some sort of payment for the wider benefits that they are providing for society,” he told the WMN, adding that he was not just talking about beaver-created wetlands.

“There are already Countryside Stewardship schemes that recognise the wildlife benefits, and pay a landowner for changing the way they farm – but if a landowner allows beavers to flood some low-lying pasture, for example, maybe they should receive some sort of payment for the reduction in flooding downstream.”

Can I get an amen?

Here’s a little something I put together yesterday to celebrate urban beavers.

urban beaver

Hopes are never false

Posted by heidi08 On February - 8 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

I was hopeful this week when someone told me that on Martinez Rants and Raves an ‘otter’ had been seen at Ward street. Obviously I went to look it up thinking that otter are mistaken for beaver quite often and maybe I’d have good news. I was even more excited to read that the sighting took place at 8 am.

Unfortunately for us, however upon skillful cross-examinationm, the witness was certain it was an otter. She explained she knows the difference and enjoyed watching its slender tail for sometime.  Sigh. Obviously the lucky otter was chasing the steelhead run which had been noticed a little before. I can’t regret the near miss though – because having renewed hope was fun and it made me look up something about steelhead I hadn’t known before.

Apparently steelhead can spawn several times! Who knew? And they need and flat gravel bed to do it above a pond, Igor Skaredoff told me where there was a riffle once with gravel, I will have to ask him again where these sea-going fish return to. I know that steelhead start out their lives as rainbow trout, and literally undergo a SEA CHANGE (smoltification) when they pass through open water and get to saltwater. They come all the way home to spawn. Which is amazing.  Around here spawning usually happens November to April, or in the “Winter Run”.Trout & Beaver

I also know that beaver dams help them a lot by giving them deep pools to grow up and rich food to fatten up. But there is nothing on youtube about this I can share, because if you search for beavers and steelhead you only get many, many images of bulldozers ripping out beaver dams to “Protect” steelhead.

Which is, as I’ve said many times before, like protecting banks from money.

At least we have nearby beavers to amuse us. Rusty Cohn is sorely feeling the effects of winter visibility of his Napa beavers and has taken to using his drone photographs more creatively. Yesterday he wrote me about looking up Martinez on the b4ufly app and learning that because of concord airport the area west of amtrak (the creek is west of amtrak) is off limits for aerial photography. Sigh. But he got some fun photos of the Tulocay creek habitat.

I SO wish we could have similar photos of our beaver habitat. And of course some beavers to maintain it. Sigh.

There’s a new section on the website I don’t know if you noticed. I’ve been getting so may regional emails about ‘how do we save our beaver’ that I thought it deserved a menu item. I’ll expand it more as I think about it, but I think this is great for starters.

CHEWYesterday I decided that if SPAWN and CLUC can use fun acronyms, why can’t we?


There are lies, there are dam lies, and there are beaver lies!

Posted by heidi08 On February - 5 - 2016Comments Off on There are lies, there are dam lies, and there are beaver lies!

Sometimes life in the beaver-biz is very rewarding. And sometimes it just annoys the stuffing out of me. Take this article out of Whinging-ton Ma for starters.

Hopkinton selectmen vote to trap beavers

HOPKINTON — Selectmen have agreed to hire a beaver trapper after flooding became a problem on the recently purchased Pratt Farm and neighboring properties.The board voted 5-0 on Tuesday night to pay for a plan to eliminate the beavers.“We decided we need to protect the town’s land,” Selectmen Chairman Ben Palleiko said in an interview.

Palleiko said the plan will likely cost about $5,500 — $4,000 for the trapping and $1,500 for taking apart seven dams. The board decided on an option known as a kill trap. A live trap would be as twice as expensive and the beavers would be euthanized at a later time, not released elsewhere, officials said.

How surprising! The folk in Hopkinton seemed so darned open-minded and committed to humane solutions! (Not). They have been gunning for those beavers since day one, and they kept promoting their death in the paper until they tipped the argument just enough. I especially admire the duplicity necessary to get this quote from their ‘beaver expert’ printed in the paper.

“Due to the beaver activity, an accurate flagging of wetlands may not be possible at this time, which will stall the work of the team,” she wrote in a letter to the board.The board made its decision after hearing from Malcolm Speicher, a beaver specialist, who has done work in town, including Legacy Farms. The town needs to seek bids for the work.

Speicher said it is only a matter of time before the town’s aquifers feeding to the town’s wells will be contaminated with bacteria from beaver feces.

Palleiko said Speicher believe there could be up to 40 beavers in the area.

Now mayfacepalmbe you’re wondering where they found this illustrious specialist. We are talking about MA, so maybe he’s at Cambridge? Harvard? MIT??? Ohhh no he’s a trapper who happens to specialize in beaver and fisher. So of course he knows all about beaver stools causing bacteria in the water.



And now this. Things  just got real in Mountain House. Now its time to bring out the big guns. Folks were shown Mike’s video about how to solve problems so they tried to think of an unsolvable one. We in Martinez know erosion trumps flooding. That’s why, after Skip’s flow device worked well and no one was worried about drowning anymore, the lawyer sent a letter about the foundation slipping because of unseeable burrows and that’s how Martinez got to buy 350,000 worth of sheetpile.

Obviously, this is deja vu all over again.  Officials are now saying the biggest problem is these.

20150923_145033You can guess how true I think this is. Coal mining beavers?

But I think it’s always good to ask smarter minds than mine. Glynnis Hood says that beavers in her research do cause tunnels that collapse and its possible that a bank lodge this big could exist if the beavers have been around for some time. And Mike Callahan says its theoretically possible if there are tunnels inside leading to the water.

But I think if in 10 years of having beavers in Martinez they ever excavated anything like that, the mayor would have personally thrown me in it. Michael Runtz says a bear could do this, but he doubts beaver.

Stay tuned, I’ll tell you when I hear from more folks.

Apparently beavers are going on Broadway now, with Alan Cummings new musical. This made me howl with laughter – especially the leaping ballet beavers at the end. Enjoy!

A few more gifts arrived yesterday, and I’m thrilled for beavers good fortune. The first was some promised plates from this adorable set at thirdhalfstudios. How fun are these?

And the second is a beyond lovely sterling silver floating necklace that arrived from Winterchild. Like this but with a beaver symbol and on a breathtakingly delicate sterling silver figaro chain. I’m not sure I can keep from bidding on this. You definitely shouldn’t.

Shaken not Stirred

Posted by heidi08 On February - 1 - 2016Comments Off on Shaken not Stirred

Okay. Remember how I told you that the BBC article about farmers shooting pregnant beavers was going to get folks plenty upset? Well now they’re REALLY UPSET and it’s all over the news. I will spare you the outrage, but they’ve published the email correspondence with autopsy reports and I assure you that roar isn’t going to die down anytime soon. Hopefully by the time it does, beaver will be a protected species.


CaptureIn the meantime, let’s have some good news. Saturday was the sold out BEAVER SUMMIT in Georgia, a state whose beaver policies have made me cry on more than one occasion,  and I thought I’d share a little from our friends about it. I think more updates will come, but for now let’s hear  from Jane Kobres. Her husband Bob presented and yesterday she sent these remarks.

Things went really well yesterday. Bob was the first speaker and he mostly did historical background of beaver in N. America plus talking about how he got interested in beaver. They only allotted 15 minutes for each speaker, which was not enough. All but one of them needed more like 25 minutes, but they all ended up speaking at least 20 minutes except for one person. The attendance was good–about 40 people counting speakers. There were people from the City of Atlanta, Parks and Recreation, and some local environmental groups. Everyone seemed pretty engaged and glad to be learning about beaver. Importantly, the discussions at the end involved “what can we do” type questions.

And so it begins. Forty people in Georgia will think about responding differently the next time a pond appears in their creek. I want to call it the first informed dialogue about beavers in the state, but the inventor of the Clemson pond leveler was from Georgia so there must have been more folks who knew they were worth keeping once upon a time.  I can’t believe how far BHNP has come in such a short time, and I’m SO happy to think we encouraged and informed them along the way!

Now we need a beaver summit in EVERY state! Who wants to go next?


Don’t you think Amelia Hansen should write me back and donate something to the auction? Yeah, I do too.


Right to Beaver-Life Movement gains Momentum

Posted by heidi08 On January - 31 - 2016Comments Off on Right to Beaver-Life Movement gains Momentum

There are some grim advances on the effort to get the farmer-fueled beaver shootings into the public eye in Scotland. Early in 2015 there were reports of this happening and a flurry of requests for the government to intervene and grant protected status to the animals. After some foot dragging, it looks like they finally found the right words to get it reported by the BBC. I can’t embed the news report but click on the photo to watch it on their sight.



Pregnant beavers shot by landowners in Tayside

Beavers that were heavily pregnant or had recently given birth are among those shot by landowners in Tayside. The news has led to demands for restrictions on shooting during the breeding season and renewed calls for Scotland’s beavers to receive legal protection

Experts at Edinburgh Zoo have now carried out post-mortem examinations on 23 beavers from Tayside. They concluded that 21 had been shot, although other sources have said the total number of animals killed in this way is significantly higher.

  • Two pregnant animals were shot. The size and weight of the foetuses indicates they were very near full term
  • Two other females which were shot had recently given birth
  • There were concerns about the length of time it would have taken some of the 21 animals to die
  • At least one animal contained lead shot. It is against the law to use lead shot to kill an animal in water.

Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone, deputy convener of Holyrood’s cross-party group on animal welfare, has called on ministers to “get off the fence”.

“Scottish ministers need to get off the fence, accept that beavers have a positive role to play in terms of biodiversity, and that they deserve legal protection.

Go read the whole thing, as this is a fairly thorough report. The FOIA really did its job in finding the grisly facts that would get this noticed. There has been considerable debate amongst the Tayside supporters as to whether it ultimately might make the beavers safer to offer some appropriate way to depredate legally OR whether they should just insist on humane solutions only.  I understand the dilemma.

For the record my advice is to emphasize mitigation first, but once humane solutions are exhausted to allow for responsible depredation, because folks need a reminder that there are options if all these good intentions fail. It took me a while to tolerate language like “sometimes trapping is necessary” but I got there. Because it ultimately helps beavers for people to feel like they have an alternative.

I just think it should be a lot harder to get there.

Here’s some of  what I wrote for the conclusion of our urban chapter. As I don’t know whether any of it might survive editing, I’m going to share.

It is our hope that in the future, when the inevitable occurs, this chapter can serve as a reminder to fully consider potential benefits and costs before a decision is made regarding the fate of these uninvited guests.While lethal solutions may at times continue to be necessary, we believe our urban waterways are often failed by the inability to recognize other viable options.

We wish our good friends in Scotland the very best of luck figuring this out. But getting the issue into the public eye is, as usual, the most important step.

subcommitteeA follow-up to the Mountain House beaver issue discussed Friday. I heard from the concerned resident who contacted me that she was asked by the official I spoke with to pull together an ad hoc committee to study the arguments.