Archive for the ‘Creative Solutions’ Category

Beaver beatitudes

Posted by heidi08 On January - 31 - 2015ADD COMMENTS
 'Beavers create habitats and opportunities for just about everything else.' Photograph: Ben Lee

‘Beavers create habitats and opportunities for just about everything else.’ Photograph: Ben Lee

Beavers are back – and we should welcome them with open arms

We’ve been showing people wild beavers for nine years now. Wild, yes, but captive. Our beavers are in a large, fenced wetland enclosure, a whole eight-acre loch and its associated marshes and deciduous woodland in Inverness-shire – perfect beaver habitat. They don’t know they’re captive, and they don’t need to, since they have everything they want: plenty of food; birch and willow trees to fell for bark – they are strictly herbivorous – and to build their lodges and dams; streams and ditches to dam; canals to dig; lagoons to create. That’s what beavers do: beavering away, they adjust their habitat to suit themselves, and just about everything else as well.

Our nine years of soggy monitoring have demonstrated precisely what the scientific literature predicts. Measured against adjacent wetland the beavers have not utilised, we find that biodiversity has expanded by a factor of four.

 That’s a 300% increase on the initial pre-beaver presence: more aquatic bugs for fish to hoover up; more fish for herons, diving ducks, grebes, otters and ospreys; more newts, frogs and toads; more insects for small birds to snatch; more small mammals, including water voles and water shrews, for owls and other predators. And so it continues up the chain: more food for pine martens, stoats, weasels, foxes, badgers; more and a wider variety of wild flowers and wetland plants. Altogether more of just about everything, in a happier, fatter, richer, healthier and more diverse ecosystem bubbling with life and energy.

Years ago, I knew the River Otter very well. I have fished it and canoed its dreamy Devon reaches. It is right for beavers. They are mammals of optimum habitat. That means they will cruise upstream and downstream until they find the place they like best. Then they will stay, dig burrows in banks and build impressive lodges of mud, sticks and logs dragged and packed into a dome, with underwater entrances to protect their young from predators (they are hard-wired to think there is a wolf, a lynx, a bear or a wolverine behind every bush). Here they will breed, producing two to three kits every year.

Great article from the Guardian by author John Lister-Kaye. Besides being well written, it’s highly informative and a good place to educate yourself about beaver benefits. This is what I’ve enjoyed most about the beaver battle in the United Kingdom. It forces the ‘good team’ to spend a great deal of time getting the word out. And we all are the richer for it.

 John Lister-Kaye is director of Aigas Field Centre ( His new book, Gods of the Morning – A Bird’s Eye View of a Highland Year, will be published by Canongate in March.

Mean while I’ve been hard at work hunting for adorable things to to see if any kind souls will donate to the silent auction, and came upon Betsey Reiche yesterday. She and her business partner of “bspired are San Francisco based artists who do cards and invitations in wood. Everything they make is cute, but this was the particular offering that caught my eye. I’m sure you can see why.

The card is made out of walnut and comes with a little kickstand for display.  She kindly offered to give us several printed with what ever slogans you nominate. So, valiant team beaver,  get to work on your beaver puns. This caption reads “Wood you be my valentine?” but beaver experts like you can do better than that I’m sure! (I personally like,  Dam it! I’m in love again!)  I want to hear YOUR ideas. Send your recommendations to me here and we’ll chose the top five to be available at the beaver festival!


You are going to LOVE this article…

Posted by heidi08 On January - 30 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

Sorry it’s a few days old, I can’t believe this magic escaped my google alerts! But thanks for Pat Russel bringing it to my attention.

Eager B.E.A.V.ers

It began with a birthday dinner.

 Peggy Watters was celebrating alongside her husband, Mike, and friends from the neighborhood when Paul Spindel — the Watters’ next door neighbor — turned to her with a strange request.

 For almost five years, Spindel, Watters and other neighbors had been dealing with beavers that had taken residence in the creek behind their homes in the Bolton area. Trees had been destroyed, at times chewed more than halfway through before being cut down, and the Watters were forced to install new barriers around their property after a beaver destroyed one of their pear trees.

But this wasn’t an adversarial relationship. The beavers could be a pain, but Watters, Spindel and fellow neighbor Marla Gaarenstroom were also fascinated by their presence and the domino effect it seemed to have on the ecology of the area.

 And so it was that during this birthday dinner, about four months ago, Spindel made his request to Peggy Watters.

 “I think you need to get a group going,” he said. “I think we need to do something about this.”

 Watters agreed, and B.E.A.V. was born.

B.E.A.V., which stands for “Beaver Environmental Advocacy Volunteers,” is an eight-person group intended to help educate residents on what it means to have beavers in a neighborhood — beyond the obvious tree-chomping problems. On Sunday, B.E.A.V. will host an informational meeting at the West Linn Public Library with special guest Susan Barnes, a conservation biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Be still my heart! A husband who tells his wife to form a beaver group for her birthday! Could there honestly be a better present? To tell the truth this might be the best story I’ve ever read, and that’s saying something. I’m actually JEALOUS. Isn’t that wonderful? I’m thinking B.E.A.V. needs some complimentary Worth A Dam t-shirts stat and maybe a nice bottle of Castoro Cellars chardonnay to celebrate. Ooh how about beaver shortbread cookies in the care box too?












Well, I will try my best to track B.E.A.V. members down and offer our friendship. In the meantime, I’m excited that there’s a new group of beaver supporters on the block. It just makes you think of this doesn’t it?

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the [beaver] world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

Onto even better news because Jon saw a big beaver carrying a branch onto the secondary dam this morning after which the beaver stopped by to mud it, and Jean saw TWO beavers yesterday. We were watching Wednesday night and saw only the end of our patience, but clearly they’re still in residence and just waiting for whatever beavers wait for to show themselves. And in case it’s been so long since you’ve seen a beaver mudding you need a reminder, here’s a good glimpse from Cheryl Reynolds.

beaver moving mud beniciaFinal thoughts: Just saw this on facebook and had to share. This is Ian Timothy of beaver Creek fame==-[ hard at work in his Sophomore year at Cal Arts. The caption said “best stop motion animator I know” and I’m sure we all agree!


The Drama in Devon

Posted by heidi08 On January - 27 - 2015Comments Off

The news from Devon is getting more and more interesting, and what once looked like a quick DEFRA victory, is turning into a marathon battle over public interest. I’m just excited its still being discussed.

Beaver debate needs to focus on the long term

For creatures no one ever sees or hears, they are creating a clamorous stampede. The fact that there are beavers on River Otter is in no doubt – you can see evidence of their engineering works in several areas – but it is the human debate which is mounting over their future that is beginning to echo so loudly down this peaceful Devon valley.

Should the wild beavers in the area be allowed to remain for a test period of five years, or should they be rounded up and carted off to some wildlife park? That is the question which Natural England and DEFRA will be deciding on next week and, as the clock ticks towards beaver heaven or hell, so the increasing voices of opinion can be heard resounding across the media and the internet.

Ahh the citizens of Devon made such a clamor! I remember those days in Martinez. And hopefully our noisy dilemma made some observable difference to what is happening. Certainly it showed that public opinion can push the debate. When the people lead the leaders will follow. But not right away. First they have to exhaust all the possible options for refuting/marginalizing/ignoring them.

We saw that in Martinez too.

The UK’s leading beaver expert, Devon-based Derek Gow, told the WMN that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Elizabeth Truss, had directed Natural England to made a decision on the “basis of science and evidence alone”.

 “If they do so on this basis then the mists of myth and misunderstanding which have swirled around this issue for so long will simply vanish leaving only one clear answer,” said Mr Gow. “Although their decision may seem insignificant involving, as it does a tiny, very fragile, population of beavers, it is in reality momentous.

 “It will give us the opportunity to set an example of tangible tolerance we have never attempted before, by re-establishing in its rightful environment this creature we once slaughtered recklessly.”

 Mr Gow said he had “no doubt” that beavers could exist in British landscapes but only if their presence was “competently handled”.

 “Beavers can be trying. Their engineering abilities can conflict with our interests but the truth is that they create environments which abound in wildlife, retain water, prevent flooding and assist in the restoration of cleaner river systems.

Derek has been a beacon of beaver strength in the area since before this began. We have followed his advocacy for beaver benefits for years now, and I’ve very excited he’s presenting on the matter at the State of the Beaver Conference next month.  Since I’ll have a front row seat for that particular discussion, you will too.

 4:15 pm −5:00 pm Return of the Beaver to Britain

Derek Gow, Consultancy Ltd. Devon, Britain

The article ends with an emphasis on needing to have tools for ‘management’ of beaver presence in England. Of course management is a euphemism for ‘lethal trapping’.

Dr. Bridgewater went on: “What we should be focussing on – where the debate is – is that 20 or 30 years down the line their numbers may well have expanded. They will move up the catchment, and between catchments. Everyone needs to be aware that is the case. It is not a car-crash – you can manage them, there are good management techniques – but it is a matter of everyone knowing what they are getting into.

 “If I have a concern it is about communication – people might think having the beavers is fantastic and support it – but they might not necessarily support the management.

 Very ominous Dr. Bridgewater. And kind of silly. Do you honestly think that a country that tolerates the regular culling the most beloved animal in the entire United Kingdom isn’t going to be ready to take out a few lumpy beavers? How much work does the advance team really need to do on the issue?




Making beavers count

Posted by heidi08 On January - 25 - 20151 COMMENT

We’ve talked before about the hero from Pocatello that managed to get Audubon to provide a grant for a beaver count in the habitat in Idaho. Mike Settell is a friend of this  website and pulled off his own musical beaver festival last summer (the dam jam!). Now he’s in the news again, training volunteers for a snowy beaver count.


Locals Prepare for Beaver Count

 Watershed Guardians began training Saturday for their fourth annual Beaver Count.  The Beaver Count is a free winter event where teams snowshoe, ski or hike through various drainages in the Portneuf Watershed to count Beaver activity.

 KPVI News Six met with them on Saturday up at Mink Creek to learn more about their role in Beaver sustainability.  Members from the Watershed Guardians prepared lunch in a yurt for volunteers coming back from training for the 4th annual Beaver Count.

 The training was held at Mink Creek’s Nordic Center. 

While the volunteers trained, they learned about the Beaver’s role in a healthy watershed and the current state of the Beaver in Idaho.  Watershed Guardian volunteer Joan Bernt says training the volunteers is essential for the Beaver Count.

 “The other thing is, is we want to make sure that people realize what they are looking for when they are looking for an active beaver colony. Just because they see a dam, that doesn’t mean that’s an active live Beaver maintaining that dam,” says volunteer, Joan Bernt.

 The Beaver Count consists of teams surveying different zones in the area where they will be looking for Beaver activity such as fresh cuts where beaver have chewed on trees, Beaver tracks in the snow and Beaver dams and lodges.

Hooray for Mike and the Watershed Guardians! And congratulations for luring the good folks of Idaho into the snow to appreciate beavers! It’s wonderful to think of folks learning how to keep an eye on the beavers around them and hearing why they matter.  I espsecially love the part where the article emphasizes the event is FREE. It reminds me a little of Tom Sawyer or P.T. Barnum.

This way to the Egress.

Great job fanning the beaver flame, and I’m thrilled the reporter added this at the end.

Mike Settell says the data collected from the Beaver Count will be presented at ‘State of the Beaver’ conference in Canyonville Oregon in February.

I can’t wait! See you there, Mike! And good work reminding people why to care about beavers!

Now on to Beaver appreciation in New Hampshire where a trip in the snow reminds folks that beavers are under the ice.

A trip to beaver lodges

HOLDERNESS, N.H. —One of the benefits of all this rain and cold weather is that it has allowed us to do some ice skating and exploring on our local bogs and ponds in the region.

Recently, we went on a beaver lodge tour of Hawkens Pond in Center Harbor and Holderness and were able to admire up close these houses made of sticks and mud. At the very top of the lodge you could see the chimney of sorts. Rime ice was collecting, indicating something warm inside was exhaling into the atmosphere

Their presence is a good indicator of a healthy habitat. Beaver flowages are important habitat for many other species including great blue herons, osprey, kingfisher, mink, otter and muskrat.

For those of you keeping track at home, that’s beaver appreciation in Arizona, Idaho and New Hampshire in the past two days. Not to mention the usual defenders in Washington and New York. I’m thinking its past time we adopt Dean’s “50 State Strategy”.

stencilTime to congratulate my brilliant husband and beaver man-Friday who undertook the impossible task of cutting out a stencil so we could spray paint our keystone tails. My brain couldn’t even imagine the task of cutting away the shapes you wanted to remain but he boldly finished a design and knocked of 25 of these.

Just 125 more to go!

One of the final benefits of shining the beaver light so steadily and strong for so many years is that there is now an international army of folks keeping watch for beaver treasures around the world. Peter Smith of Kent England posted this find this morning, which I promise will make you smile. Enjoy!

Beaver treats

Posted by heidi08 On January - 24 - 2015Comments Off

 Beaver making an Arizona comeback


A beaver lodge built into the bank of the San Pedro River indicates the presence of the aquatic rodents, which were reintroduced to the river in 1999. About 50 beavers inhabit the San Pedro National Conservation Area.

“A hundred-and-fifty years ago, it was called the Beaver River because there were so many beavers,” said Dutch Nagle, former president of the Friends of the San Pedro River, an organization that promotes the conservation of the river.

Thanks to reintroduction efforts by the Bureau of Land Management beginning in 1999, an estimated 50 beavers now roam the waters of the San Pedro. The beavers have built dozens of dams that slow the river’s flow and create ponds. Along with raising the water table near the river, the slack water provides increased habitat for a variety of plant and animal species.

 One of the species that prospers from the beavers’ tireless dam-building is the lowland leopard frog. “Historically, I’m sure there was a very close relationship between beavers and leopard frogs,” said Mike Sredl, who leads the ranid frog projects for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Along with environmental factors such as tree density and the availability of food, beaver behavior can have a significant impact on the number of birds along a river.

“The beaver contribute most in defining how many birds are in an environment, and the reason for that is they change the environment,” said Van Riper, who is the co-author of a study that examines the effects the reintroduced beavers have had on various bird species.

Great work from our beaver friends on the San Pedro! It is lovely to read about the difference beaver can make – especially in arid land. Of course the article takes time to whine a bit about how there are also more bullfrogs and non-natives but I don’t think anyone really takes that seriously anymore. I know I don’t. It’s like saying we shouldn’t repair our roads because it makes it easier for thieves to get away from the police.

The thing we want matters infinitely more than the thing we don’t.

In case, you, like me, are dying to look at Van Riper’s bird study, the whole thing is available here. It’s a very interesting read, but I think overly cautious about the benefits of beavers. For example, they note they “can’t conclude whether” the increase in biodiversity near beaver activity represents beaver effects, or just beaver CHOOSING richer habitat to settle in.

(Sheesh. Because you know how those lazy opportunistic beavers are -  always picking the nicest neighborhoods to move in. Grr.) The report generously concludes that at least beavers did not appear to make anything worse.

Beaver reintroduction did not appear to have detrimental effects on any species of conservation concern and, in fact there was evidence that a breeding bird community is more abundant and more diverse where beavers were present.

Mighty white of you, I’m sure.


Now for an unmitigated treat, check your insulin levels first, because this is too sweet to be believed. The kit is at Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma WA and her grape-testing made TIME this morning. Her name is Hazel.

Still, if you think its cute when beavers in zoos eat grapes, you should see what it looks like when wild beavers eat strawberries.

Yearling eating Strawberries - Photo Cheryl Reynolds

Yearling eating Strawberries – Photo Cheryl Reynolds

Did someone say they found a GIANT beaver?

Posted by heidi08 On January - 20 - 2015Comments Off

Stanley Park’s Lost Lagoon beaver ‘friend’ urged to stop

Someone has been removing the wire mesh that protects trees in Vancouver’s Stanley Park from beavers, and the Stanley Park Ecology Society would like them to stop.

 The society uses the mesh to protect large trees near Lost Lagoon, so they won’t be gnawed down by the busy pair of beavers that live there.

 ”The idea is there’s no way that a beaver, as industrious as they are, would be able to take that [wire mesh] down,” said Brian Titaro, conservation technician with the Stanley Park Ecology Society.

The Stanley Park Ecology Society’s Brian Titaro shows the wire mesh used to protect larger trees at Lost Lagoon from beaver teeth. (Chris Corday/CBC)

 But some human appears to be trying to help out the beavers, said Titaro. The ecology society is regularly finding the wire tree-protectors — which are installed using pliers — removed and dumped in the water, where other wildlife can get stuck in the mesh.

Ahhh, this story sounds very familiar! How many times has Jon hauled down to painstakingly wrap a tree only to have the wire removed and tossed down stream by some well meaning passers-by? There needs to be a waterproof sign on all these fences that say “This wire is protecting our beavers’ lives! We love them and you should too!” Because I don’t care where you live, 10 chewed trees in any park means 5 dead beavers down the road.  It’s inevitable.

Onto BIGGER stories. No really, I mean it this time. AP isn’t exaggerating at all.

7ea763c3fae97b76e97ea5ea9626c970da9833347a05ae691fc48360412d6fc2Sweden’s Luleå carves spot for giant beaver

The icy artwork is both a sculpture designed to be admired by visitors and an attraction for children – each animal includes a giant slide each year so that children can play on it.

Asked why he felt his work was so popular, Eglund told The Local on Tuesday that it was because it was “both art and a playground”.

 The local tourist office was more enthusiastic about the artwork.

 ”It’s such a nice tradition,” said Karin Åberg, communications manager for Visit Luleå.

 ”The sculpture is something that helps people who are living in Luleå to appreciate winter time and every year it is attracting more and more visitors.”

My goodness! How much would you love THAT at the beaver festival! Sweden is awesome. That picture alone makes me weak in the knees. And the idea that it has a slide for children to play on is stunning! I’m sending this to Bob Rust and FRo right now. Maybe I can contaminate them with ideas,

Onto our own not-so-modest festival ideas. How much do you want one of these? I learned this technique from a youtube video. Did I mention the internet is amazing?

new tail

Keystone Species tail project: Wildlife Pins by Mark Poulin.

Beaver Literacy

Posted by heidi08 On January - 16 - 2015Comments Off

CaptureThe Watershed Wisdom of the Beaver

You know what a stream looks like. It has a pair of steep banks that have been scoured by shifting currents, exposing streaks and lenses of rock and old sediment. At the bottom of this gully—ten to fifty feet down—the water rushes past, and you can hear the click of tumbling rocks as they are jostled downstream. The swift waters etch soil from first one bank, then the other as the stream twists restlessly in its bed. In flood season, the water runs fast and brown with a burden of soil carried ceaselessly from headwaters to the sea. At flood, instead of the soft click of rocks, you can hear the crack and thump of great boulders being hauled oceanward. In the dryness of late summer, however, a stream is an algae-choked trickle, skirted by a few tepid puddles among the exposed cobbles and sand of its bed. These are the sights and sounds of a contemporary stream.

 You don’t know what a stream looks like. A natural North American stream is not a single, deeply eroded gully, but a series of broad pools, as many as fifteen per mile, stitched together by short stretches of shallow, braided channels. The banks drop no more than a foot or two to water, and often there are no true banks, only a soft gradation from lush meadow to marsh to slow open water. If soil washes down from the steep headwaters in flood season, it is stopped and gathered in the chain of ponds, where it spreads a fertile layer over the earth. In spring the marshes edging the ponds enlarge to hold floodwaters. In late summer they shrink slightly, leaving at their margins a meadow that offers tender browse to wildlife. An untouched river valley usually holds more water than land, spanned by a series of large ponds that step downhill in a shimmering chain. The ponds are ringed by broad expanses of wetland and meadow that swarm with wildlife.

As Bill Mollison has observed, everything gardens. The beaver, however, goes far beyond simple gardening to feats of complex ecosystem transformation. Beaver don’t merely build dams that create ponds. They control the flow of vast amounts of energy and material. With tough incisors and instinct, beavers create a shifting mosaic of moist and dry meadows, wet forests, marshes, bogs, streams, and open water that change the climate, nutrient flow, vegetation, wildlife, hydrology, and even geology of entire watershed

There aren’t very many articles that I want to copy and post on this website from the first declarative sentence to the last dizzying conclusion. This one by Toby Hemenway breaks all prior records. Go read the whole thing and then think very seriously about what America did to it’s streams and pastures by eliminating the beaver.

Beaver choose the gently sloping lower reaches of valleys for their work. A small dam on flat land impounds more water behind it than one on a steep slope, doing the least work to create a large pond. The water that backs up behind the dam saturates the soil beneath it, creating a blend of anaerobic and aerobic pockets, varying with water depth, vegetation, soil type, and distance from the pond edge. Decomposition at the anaerobic sites is slow, preserving organic matter. Dead trees and snags left by the beaver or killed by flooding become home to a wide array of animals and microbes. The structural, biological, and chemical complexity of the region increases.

Vegetation drowned by the pond rots, releasing vast flows of nutrients into the water. The pond bubbles methane into the atmosphere. Erosion caused by the lapping of the expanding upstream shoreline pulls more nutrients into the water. In the pond and downstream from the dam, biomass now surges because of the water’s increased fertility. The growing plants and animals trap these nutrients and begin to cycle them.

 Ecosystems that retain nutrients recover more easily from disturbance than nutrient-losing ones. This means the pond communities and those around it are likely to persist for a long time.

But just as significant are the varied habitats that ring beaver ponds. Upstream and down are open stretches of flowing water, home to stream species. At the pond edges the beaver have created bogs, marshes, wet meadows, and riparian forests. The new wetlands and meadows contain more nutrients than the older uplands, and so support more types and numbers of living beings. Edging the wetlands are dry meadows and woodlands. And beaver meadows are very persistent, because their previous flooding has acidified the soil, helping them resist invasion by shrubs and trees.

series of beaver dams

Toby Hemenway is the author of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, which was awarded the Nautilus Gold Medal in 2011, was named by the Washington Post as one of the ten best gardening books of 2010, and for the last eight years has been the best-selling permaculture book in the world.

Go. Read. It. Seriously. Then pass it on.