Archive for the ‘Creative Solutions’ Category

Beavers with Benefits

Posted by heidi08 On December - 21 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Someone has finally got the beavers and water story right. And it’s about time.

Leave it to beavers: California joins other states in embracing the rodent


A beaver dam spans the length of Los Gatos Creek. (Thomas Mendoza — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

LOS GATOS >> Californians are crossing their fingers for more rain after three punishing years of drought have left streams, rivers and wetland parched.

One animal has the potential to restore these dry landscapes.

Go ahead, guess which one. I’ll wait.

Isn’t this a fabulous start to an article? Before you do anything click on the link so they get to count hits for the report. It will convince them that this interests people. We met the reporter Samantha Clark before when she covered the beavers in San Jose for the campus paper. Now she has landed a gig with the Santa Crus Sentinel. Turns out she used to go to school with my neice so maybe osmosis has something to do with her remarkably being the first reporter in the state to get the water story right.

“This state has lost more of its wetlands than all other states, and beavers can rebuild those wetlands,” said Rick Lanman of the Institute for Historical Ecology in Los Altos. “Knowing that it is native should help guide restoration efforts.”

This article reads like a who’s who in beaver doxology honestly, just wait.

Beaver dams bestow benefits to the environment that we humans can’t easily copy. They turn land into a sponge for water. Their gnawing and nesting promotes richer soil and slows down water, improving imperiled fish habitat. Their dams raise water tables, nourishing shrubbery alongside streams that stabilize eroding banks and add habitat for birds and deer. They also help the endangered California Red-legged frog.

“There’s a growing interest in using beaver as a habitat restoration tool,” said Michael M. Pollock, an ecosystems analyst with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle. “They create good wetland habitat much more cheaply than other restoration methods.”

Samantha did her homework, tracking down Rick,  and Michael. They are busy men but the generally make time to talk about beavers, I’ve been very impressed.

“It would be great if we could recognize the benefit of the beaver and to resolve conflict nonlethally and manage them to continue receiving those benefits,” said Kate Lundquist, director of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center’s Water Institute, a group that is drafting beaver policy recommendations for state Fish and Wildlife.

I am so happy to read an article that’s actually promoting beaver benefits in California! (And not complaining about methane emissions.) But there seems to be one voice missing. Rick, Michael, Kate, hmmm now who could it be?

Since beavers moved to the Alhambra Creek in downtown Martinez, the area has seen new species flourish. By moving mud, the beavers create a haven for bugs.

 “Because we have an insect bloom, we have a bloom of all the different fish and animals up the food chain,” said Heidi Perryman, founder of the beaver advocacy group Worth a Dam and who led the effort to save a Martinez beaver family from extermination. “We’ve identified three new species of fish and seven species of bird. And we see more otter and mink than we ever saw before.”

Ohhh that’s who was missing! Someone whose learned how to live with beavers and seen it first hand! Not bad. Samantha doesn’t do enough to talk about HOW to live with beavers, but she nails WHY.

In San Jose, a beaver has taken refuge in the dry Guadalupe River. The critter’s dam outside a dripping storm drain created a tiny oasis.

“They can get by with very little,” Pollock said. “In a number of cases, they’ve built on streams that have run dry and because they have built the dams, water flows again.”

Because beavers are so good at recharging ground water, they can make streams flow when they would otherwise run dry such as during the summer months.

If I were a state facing drought for the past 3 three years, I’d be thinking about this article and these plucky rodents and re-examing my policies. Wouldn’t you?


Happy Solstice Everyone! Beavers get easier to see after today!


Above and Beyond

Posted by heidi08 On December - 15 - 20141 COMMENT

Lake Elmo beavers: Cute, yes, but something of a nuisance


It might look like the middle of the wilderness, but this beaver was photographed after a recent snowfall on the west side of Lake Elmo in the Heights. Photographer John Warner has been taking pictures of this beaver and two others this fall.

  Three or four beavers—one or two adults and two kits—have built themselves a home on the shores of Lake Elmo in the Heights.

Their bank den is on the west side of the 64-acre reservoir, near the boat launch and right alongside a culvert that feeds the lake with water from the Billings Bench Water Association canal. A bank den is similar to a lodge but incorporates the bank surface into the structure.

Only three beavers at a time have been spotted so far, but Dave Pauli, with the Humane Society of the United States, said beavers mate for life, so there is most likely another adult in the den.

Terri Walters, who manages Lake Elmo State Park, of which the reservoir is part, for the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the beavers apparently migrated to Lake Elmo from the nearby irrigation canal sometime this fall.

 The beavers have already felled two small cottonwood trees, a willow and a Russian olive, and they have been working their way through a willow stump thick with dozens of shoots, including a few large ones. They have stacked the top of their lodge with branches, which they will feed on throughout the winter.

 Walters said she had to wrap 10 other trees with wire so they beavers wouldn’t gnaw on them.


Don’t tell me you actually had to take such extreme measures to fend off these marauders! Actually wrapping trees? That’s like having to put your car in the garage or your wallet in your pocket! I mean it’s not quite as bad as wearing a condom or keeping a receipt, but my God, how much can one woman take?

beaver and kits in snow

An adult beaver and two kits swim in open water. John Warner

Pauli also said he’d like to work with FWP on a plan that would allow the beavers to stay at the lake. The adults could be spayed and neutered, and the kits could be as well if they stayed on. Lake Elmo State Park is often visited by groups of schoolchildren, Pauli said, so it would be good learning experience to have a family of beavers living where they are so easily accessible.

The article was going along pretty much like I expected but this was a coffee-spitter. HSUS Dave Pauli thinks the beavers should be neutered? You do realize that kits disperse and move away on their own, right? I mean here in Martinez we’ve had 20 born in 7 years and our population is still 6. I hope you don’t think that beavers can get neutered as easily as cats. Males and females have internal sex organs, and they might not survive the stress of capture even if it were possible.

What a very scary thought. It might well mean that sadly, sometimes the Human Society of the United States has absolutely no idea what its talking about. I always thought of them as smarter  and better than me. Like Jane Goodall,  Gandhi or Mother Theresa.

But even more importantly, let me just say that John Warner’s remarkable photographs of this beaver family are among the most beautiful images I have ever seen. And that’s saying something. Why not use these urban beavers and remarkable visuals to promote the first ever beaver festival in Billings Montana? It would teach locals how and why to work with the animals, and improve water, hunting, and fishing in the area.

beaver reaching snow

A beaver stands on its hind legs to get at snow-covered branches. John Warner

Now this came yesterday from our friend Lee Ann Carver, the wildlife photographer in Canada. You will of course appreciate what happens on the twelfth day of Christmas, but the fifth is pretty clever too. Pass this along to your friends. See it you can spot Grey Owl and if we can top 1000 views by tomorrow.

Oh and a sad correction from our retired librarian friend in Georgia, who pointed out that beavers might not actually get to heaven after all. Dam it.

Pope Francis turns out not to have made pets in heaven comment

From the Profane to the Sacred

Posted by heidi08 On December - 14 - 2014Comments Off

What a dam nuisance beavers can be

EVERY DAY, George Darden digs a small ditch to drain water off a dirt road that goes to the back of the farm in Pungo. And every night, beavers dam the ditch to block the water from running off.

The Dardens also see stumps of trees, gnawed off by the beavers, and of course, they see the dam that the beavers build every night across the Dardens’ ditch. That’s because beavers build dams in response to the sound of running water.

The Dardens can’t win for losing. “Busy as a beaver” is no lie.

Ahh the patient Dardens and their exceedingly rare, rebuilding beavers. That almost never always happens! I really shouldn’t complain. This is a fairly gentle article for Virginia, and I’m not entirely hopeless about these beavers or the Dardens for that matter.

Pete Akers, district biologist with the department, said the beaver population has rebounded successfully in Virginia because the animals are no longer being trapped for their fur. Beavers are in just about every watershed in the state, and as the young grow up, they move out and go up or down stream.

 ”We like having them here,” Akers said. “They are great for the wetlands and the ecosystem, but they can be a nuisance to landowners.

 ”Beavers are very industrious creatures,” he added.

 The Dardens have some choices. They can have the beavers trapped, which does not appeal to them. Other options include a device called a Clemson pond leveler – a pipe that would drain water off the road in a way that the beavers can’t hear the water running.

 The beavers will be keeping the Dardens busy, too.

Whenever we see biologists from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries talking about the benefits of beavers we are very, very happy. Even if their solutions are outdated, they aren’t wrong, and that’s progress in my book. I will contact Mr. Akers about updated developments and make sure he has resources for new  remedies from Mike and Skip.  I will try and find the Dardens too, because I already like them and want to help.

Rusty Cohn who has been photographing the Napa beavers received a nice response from the community website Next Door where he is posting about them. He gave me permission to pass it along:

Rusty, I just want to thank you for introducing me to the beaver and keeping all of us informed on his activities. I enjoyed your photos and info so much, I shared it with my 7 year old granddaughter who’s a 2nd grader at Mt. George and when she had to do a presentation on a Napa Treasure, she chose your beaver, did research on the species, copied a couple of your photos (I hope that’s ok) for her board and did her presentation this morning. She was so excited to have something so unique to share. Thanks again.

Hurray for your 2nd grader and hurray for Rusty for making this known! Imagine if this were the story all across the Bay Area, or all across California or all across the Nation. Local people watching and protecting their own beaver family and children reaping the benefit as their urban stream becomes an exciting wilderness. I believe Enos Mills liked the idea so much he included in his final chapter of In Beaver World: The original conservationists.
mills beavers childrenWouldn’t this look great on the side of a truck? Consider this is an early Christmas present for Mike Callahan, who should really make a donation to Worth A Dam because self-perpetuating slogans are worth a peck of money.  He won’t use it, but mark my words, someone in the next six months will steal it. You saw it here first.

new and improvedAnd since its the season we got the tree and the manger up yesterday, complete with a new tiny baby beaver in the crib. Thanks Erika!


I know this is a non-denominational site but we need to celebrate the occasion because to my way of thinking pope Francis just ruled that beavers go to heaven.

460370578-vhWzPd-1_614-largeDuring a recent public appearance, Francis comforted a boy whose dog had died, noting, “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”

 Theologians say Francis – who took his papal name from the patron saint of animals, St. Francis of Assisi – was only speaking conversationally. But the remark is being seen by some as a reversal of conservative Catholic theology that states because they are soulless, animals can’t go to heaven.

beaver angel

Beavers Across the land

Posted by heidi08 On December - 13 - 2014Comments Off

Danvers SwampWalk under water

The problem is not with the walkway sinking into the muck, said George Saluto, a former Conservation Commission member who was the driving force behind the SwampWalk.

Instead, beaver activity, a surge of rainfall and a stretch of boardwalk built slightly lower than the rest of the lumber pathway has led to its being submerged

Two families of beavers have been building dams and blocking culverts and outflows, raising the level of the swamp, Saluto said. The southern section of the walkway was built, he added, when the area was not getting a lot of rain.

 “We are off on a new adventure,” Saluto said. “We are simply responding to a very productive — two very productive — families of beavers.

Well, there you have it. Yet another beaver bemoaning story out of Danvers MA, who brought us so many greatest hits this year, like the beaver they trapped but weren’t allowed to remove, and the huge developer who wanted everything but the beavers.

Now beavers (and rain and snow) are raising the water level and flooding parts of their swamp path. I guess they have two lodges so they’re sure its two families, although that would be very, very remarkable. Research tells us that different families need their own territory of at least 2 miles, but if the habitat’s very very rich, like those beavers in the far reaches of Canada who built the dam visible from space, they will share.

Gee, do you think this is extraordinary habitat? Or do you think they possibly got it wrong?

It took 10 years to plan, three years to build, and the collaboration of two towns. The walkway allows visitors to walk into the middle of the swamp, providing views of plants, birds, turtles and beaver dams that can’t be seen from the rail trail. There’s an observation deck with seating, too. A grand opening was held in May 2013.

When volunteers first started the northern section of the SwampWalk in 2010, the rainfall in March, April and May was 20 inches, Saluto said. Before the group started the southern section in 2012, the rainfall in February, March and April was 7 inches.

In the past three months, however — even before this week’s rainfall — Danvers received 13 inches of rain, Saluto said, 6 more than when the southern walkway was constructed. The southern section was built slightly lower than the northern section.

Instead of trying to install beaver deceivers, devices that allow water to flow through beaver dams and keep beavers at bay, the SwampWalk team has decided to raise the walkway’s elevation.

Well that’s interesting. I mean why protect the culverts when you have the money to rebuild the entire walkway? Why fix a flat when you can afford a whole new car? I would ask what they plan to do when the water level rises higher still, maybe because of the next 13 inches of rain or the beaver dam that blocks the culvert, but I won’t bother. I know what they’ll do. They’ll say “We tried a 6000 solution to save the beavers but that didn’t work, so we’re going to have to kill them.” Let’s mark our calendars. I think it will happen sometime in April 2015.

Got any spare change? They end the article with a request for donations.

Now we head west a bit across the United States for a story about beaver from Illinois, the state where the 84 year old man was hit in the head with a log after blowing up a beaver dam. IL  has never been a hot bed of progressive beaver understanding. I believe I once said of them

“Remember this is Illinois where a cynical person might say you could fit all their beaver appreciation and knowledge into a teaspoon and still have room leftover to sweeten your coffee”

So it’s nice to read at least a benevolent article about beaver from the state.

Trail leads to adventure

Not long ago, I was set for a nice long hike in a nearby park to work off stresses. I had my binoculars, camera, and a little snack to enjoy along the way.

At the trailhead is a small creek that runs underneath a rock outcropping. No sooner had I entered the trail, when I observed a newly-constructed beaver dam on the creek. I paused to take a look at it. This led to following a few of the “beaver runs” away from the stream to the trees they gnawed.

 I thought to myself that I should take a few pictures of the beaver dam, runs, and gnawed trees to go into the Lowell Park Nature Center. We have a beaver lodge there for children to explore. I thought I might construct a photo montage of beaver activity.

The article goes on to describe his watching deer and woodpeckers. What do you wanna bet that the next time he visits that beaver pond he’ll see more wildlife? If it’s still there he will.


Water, Water, everywhere

Posted by heidi08 On December - 12 - 20142 COMMENTS


CaptureDSCN0546Our beavers got three and a half inches of rain yesterday, but the flow device was still standing and there was a wet bump under the water indicating at least the mud part of the dam was still in place. I received an email from Robin in Napa which got much more rain than we did. She was heart broken by her visit to the DSCN0551beloved dam that was no longer visible under flooding. I of course said the usual things I say to console myself when these things happen. Beavers rebuild. The dam is probably partly still there underwater. Beavers have faced much harder things than this, have faith in them. And even in the hard flow their lodge was still standing, which was encouraging. Rusty went down a little later and could still see the outline of the dam underneath. (There art thou happy.) But beavers have hard jobs, there’s no denying it. There’s a reason they’re so busy. Our lazy lives are much easier by comparison. Imagine being the breadwinner, the contractor  the engineer, the flood control, and the public works department all at once.
outlineRecognize that familiar bump? It’s what we see every year after a washout,  and it means things aren’t as lost as you thought. I’m just thrilled that there are other souls in the world watching beaver dams in rain storms.

Jon just trotted down to look at our wet “bump” this morning, which he says is still visible. The level is too high to see if the filters in place, but he thinks it is. Jean took this movie just now with her phone. IMG_0628. From now on we can assume our beavers will be doing lots and lots of this.

beaver repairsNow if you have time before all the Christmas parties and you happen to be anywhere near Cape Cod you should really plan on attending this tonight.

 College Students to Present Environmental Science Research Results

The public is invited to attend a symposium featuring the research results of 21 undergraduate students who are participating in the Marine Biological Laboratory’s Semester in Environmental Sciences (SES) program. The symposium will be held from 8:20 AM to 3:30 PM on Friday, December 12, in the MBL’s Lillie Auditorium, 7 MBL Street, Woods Hole.

Sounds amazing. There’s a day worth of 15 minute presentations, but the last three look particularly interesting:

2:45-3:00 – Delaney Gibbs, EARLHAM COLLEGE
The effect of beaver ponds on the nutrient concentrations in the Cart Creek/Parker River Ecosystem within the Plum Island Estuary watershed
3:00-3:15 – Julia McMahon, DICKINSON COLLEGE
Influence of beavers on benthic community trophic structure in Cart Creek within the Plum Island Estuary watershed
3:15-3:30 -Jessie Moravek, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY
The effects of beaver dams on nitrogen-mineralization and community structure in a forest ecosystem

 Oh, to be in Massachusetts now that beavers are the hot topic! I have written the presenters all individually and asked them to share their findings, hopefully we can find out soon. In the meantime keep an eye out for wet bumps in creeks near you!

Blame the Beaver Bombers!

Posted by heidi08 On December - 11 - 2014Comments Off

Back from the brink: See European beavers at work

Their destructive reputation seems to belie them, but beavers are now recognised as significant resources for carbon sequestration – the wood locked up in their dams and ponds accounts for a surprising amount of carbon.

 This may or may not influence a shadowy group of people known as “beaver bombers”. These, apparently, are eco-vigilantes who release beavers back into Britain.

Believe it or not, that phrase was used earlier in the year in a National Geographic article. Apparently no amount of mocking and derision can discourage it because here it is again in NewScientist, a global service housed in the UK. This, along with beaver raising temperatures for fish and beavers causing beaver-fever, and “You can’t get pregnant the first time” is the kind of totally inaccurate falsehood that we at Worth A Dam recognize as sadly incurable. We are never going to eliminate the rumor that fans have carpeted the land with beavers. We just aren’t.

How do I know it’s not true anyway?

In all the world, on all the continents, in all the cities, in all the land, have you EVER met any single human more insane about beavers than I am? Go ahead, I’ll wait while you think about that. Finished? Now I know for a fact that I haven’t ‘bombed’ or reintroduced beavers anywhere. So if the craziest beaver fan on the entire planet hasn’t done it, who could have?

beaver bombersCommunity support builds for wild beavers

As community support builds for Devon’s wild beavers, an oil painting of a Devon beaver has raised £700 for Devon Wildlife Trust’s work to keep the animals on the River Otter.

The canvas, by renowned east Devon wildlife artist Emma Bowring, was donated to the charity’s Devon’s Wild Beavers fundraising appeal. Support has also been forthcoming from Ottery St Mary schools, Exeter businesses – and even TV presenter Chris Packham.

 The aim of the appeal is to keep the wild beaver population on the River Otter by securing a licence from the government for a five- year monitoring project to assess the beavers’ impact on local landscapes, wildlife and communities.

10801570_1590048444550624_6264017908878124563_nThat really is a nice painting, very luxurious fur.  I was thinking last night about where beavers groom themselves when it’s pouring rain. Obviously there isn’t enough room in their lodges or holes for everyone to do it there. I was happy to remember that our beavers have plenty of bridges they can groom under which will give them cover for a few minutes. There’s something to be said about urban life.

 The presence of these animals might even influence artistic tastes. Dan added: “Emma Bowring told us that the most popular British animal for her commissions is the otter. If the government grants Devon Wildlife Trust the licence to keep Devon’s beavers in the wild, perhaps Emma will begin receiving requests for beaver paintings.”

Well, duh. Come look at the artwork in my dining room?

SRF 2016The agenda is out for 2015 Salmonid Restoration Conference in Santa Rosa. You should check it out. Just look at this workshop on restoring urban streams?! Maybe you want to come?

Be a BRAT!

Posted by heidi08 On December - 8 - 2014Comments Off

Joe Wheaton’s BRAT (Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool) tool has been successfully applied in Utah, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and New Mexico. He was one of the very first respectable professors to support this website. And we recently had a wonderful argument about the difference between being a ‘beaver advocate’ and a ‘beaver benefits advocate’. (You can guess which one I am.)  Wonderful because Joe listened and heard my point of view and understood it, and then it turned out that the thing I was worried about didn’t even happen and we were both relieved!) I was surprised to stumble across this on youtube, and you’ll probably enjoy it.

I was especially happy with the sections on stream incision and dam washouts still restoring aggredation, and the fish research from the work  they’re doing with Michael Pollock at John Day. Here’s a happy take away that you can employ to silence any annoying fisherman who objects to beavers. The tall one represents beaver ponds.

You can totally tell how old this film is by how long Mary’s hair is. Get your ruler.