Archive for the ‘Environmental’ Category

Almost making the point

Posted by heidi08 On March - 25 - 2015Comments Off

CaptureBeaver Trapping Leaves Environmental Damage Legacy

CaptureA Beaver trifecta from Oregon Public radio. This one informed by Stan Petrowski who, along with Leonard & Lois Housston,  organizes the state of the beaver conferences. It’s a fine 2 minutes to think about, but honestly my favorite part is the title. Because it doesn’t say ‘historic’. And it turns out to be just as true today.


Speaking of trapping, Robin-the-intrepid received records on her FOIA inquiry from USDA for beaver depredation over the last 10 years. Remember, USDA executes about a third of the depredation permits overall. Unlike  other private trappers, they are required to report method and take. And unlike CDFG their records are pretty meticulous. It took them almost no time to send her this.

WS beaver killed by yearRobin points out that the list was compiled March 3 so the 2015 numbers are just for January and February. She wonders ironically if USDA will kill the most beavers of all during the very year of California’s worst drought. And that seems like a good question to me.

Speaking of drought, have you seen the beautiful new web campaign the Nature Conservancy just launched about water?  I wish I could embed it but you are just going to have to click on it to see for yourself. Honestly, it’s gorgeous. And must have cost a mint.

It prompts what may be an age-old question: Is the Nature Conservancy just made of money? And whether they are or aren’t, why don’t they do more for beavers? There are places on the east coast where they’re trapping them to save trees.

I took the liberty of fixing one of their ads. I’m sure they’ll appreciate the improvement.

If water is life

Wolves, Words and Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On March - 15 - 2015Comments Off

If one more person sends me the film “How wolves change rivers” I may do something drastic. Local author Jennifer Viegas puts it all in perspective in her smart new article on Wolves and public opinion. Jennifer is a writer for the Discovery Channel and, as it happens, a long-time friend to the Martinez Beavers. Yesterday she sent a recent article where she managed to slip in some of the rich credit beavers deserve.

Wolf Attacks More Myth Than Reality

From fairy tales to phrases like “lone-wolf terrorist,” wolves are vilified in our culture, and yet a fact check finds that a person is more likely to be killed by lightning, ATVs, dogs, cows, and even elevators than by a wolf.

Nevertheless, the myth that wolves pose a major threat to people persists, and at a time when their future is uncertain. Wolves used to be abundant in the United States from coast to coast, but unregulated hunting and habitat loss dramatically reduced their numbers. In 1974, the gray wolf became officially protected by the Endangered Species Act, which rescued the carnivores from the brink of extinction.

Because the presence of wolves affects where grazing animals feed, trees and plants in valleys and gorges at Yellowstone where deer and elk previously had collected are now regenerating, according to the research. Smith and colleagues’ research is documented in the short film “How Wolves Change Rivers.” Songbirds and beavers are returning. Because beavers help to provide habitat for other animals — such as muskrats, ducks, fish, reptiles and amphibians — these animals also got an indirect boost from the reintroduction of wolves.

Ahhh thank you, Jennifer. It’s good to have beaver friends in widely read places. I’m full of compassion for the plight of the wolves, mind you. But they can’t get all the praise in this matter. If there weren’t beavers to restore those rivers the Yellowstone wolves are protecting, all that would happen when wolves threatened browsing elk is the occasional  dead elk. That wouldn’t make a very exciting film or a very rewarding research project, would it?

I heard from Jennifer last night because I sent her this article, which a friend from England sent in my direction. It’s a much richer read then we have time for, but it’s Sunday and honestly, this is the best possible day to go savor it in its entirety. You might want to get the book too. It’s that good. There are a few short sections I wanted to share, to whet your appetite.

Robert Macfarlane on rewilding our language of landscape

The same summer I was on Lewis, a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary was published. A sharp-eyed reader noticed that there had been a culling of words concerning nature. Under pressure, Oxford University Press revealed a list of the entries it no longer felt to be relevant to a modern-day childhood. The deletions included acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture and willow. The words taking their places in the new edition included attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail.

Eight years ago, in the coastal township of Shawbost on the Outer Hebridean island of Lewis, I was given an extraordinary document. It was entitled “Some Lewis Moorland Terms: A Peat Glossary”, and it listed Gaelic words and phrases for aspects of the tawny moorland that fills Lewis’s interior. Reading the glossary, I was amazed by the compressive elegance of its lexis, and its capacity for fine discrimination: a caochan, for instance, is “a slender moor-stream obscured by vegetation such that it is virtually hidden from sight”, while a feadan is “a small stream running from a moorland loch”, and a fèith is “a fine vein-like watercourse running through peat, often dry in the summer”. Other terms were striking for their visual poetry: rionnach maoim means “the shadows cast on the moorland by clouds moving across the sky on a bright and windy day”; èit refers to “the practice of placing quartz stones in streams so that they sparkle in moonlight and thereby attract salmon to them in the late summer and autumn”, and teine biorach is “the flame or will-o’-the-wisp that runs on top of heather when the moor burns during the summer”.

Even if you aren’t immediately enchanted remebering the caochan’s you have passed or wondering if Eit’s really attract salmon, I assume readers of this website will be outraged that the OED for children once removed acorn, otter, and kingfisher! It immediately makes me think of the beaver words we have lost over the years. How thick with experience of them we must have been at one time, and then how nearly fully we extincted them. The phrase ‘beavering away’ for example, was once as common as OMG,  and visible in every single historic paper I reviewed for our prevalence research.  I know I miss a word for the sound kits make. Mewing just doesn’t communicate how purposeful it is. And whining sounds to negative.

Hey, I have an idea. Let’s make up our own beaver lexicon.   We talk about them more than anyone has since the fur trade I’m sure. And I’ve written close to 3000 columns on the subject. Why not make up some words to describe what we’ve seen?

Tales of Tails

Posted by heidi08 On March - 9 - 2015Comments Off

Into every life a little rain must fall….

a dam washoutI love this photo, sent by Paul Ramsey of Scotland of the beaver dam on his property washing out during a storm while we were all busy conferencing. Doesn’t look like the cover of a novel you can’t wait to read?

I’m sure that novel would mention that sometimes, after it rains you get things like this:


I spent yesterday organizing 200 x 20 buttons for the keystone species project at the beaver festival. Mark Poulin and his amazing staff finished the order and shipped it this weekend. Kids can ‘earn’ these at the many different exhibits and get a grand tail to display what they know. Honestly if you live anyhere in California or even the west you had better plan a visit on August 1st, because if your child misses out on this delightful opportunity they will never let you hear the end of it. Mark designed each button for us personally and even borrowed a larger machine to make a slightly bigger beaver! Thank you so much Mark for your creativity and hard work!

After which they can add all those buttons to a burlap beavertail that will eventually look like this:
new tailNow I’m off to settle the account for this magical effort. Let’s hope the K.E.Y.S.T.O.N.E. project grant is funded by our friends at the fish and wildlife commission. Don’t you think it deserves to be?

Keep it Rural – with beavers!

Posted by heidi08 On March - 6 - 2015Comments Off

Chalk this up to the list of things I never expected. Maria Finn’s smart beavers and salmon article was just picked up by the Daily Yonder of all places. It’s based in Tennessee and Kentucky and focused on rural living.


The California drought, now in its fourth year, has put a hurtin’ on wild salmon populations in the Sacramento and Klamath rivers. Enter the beaver. Once thought to hinder the salmon’s upstream migration, the role of the tree-downing, dam-building mammal is being reconsidered.

 Beavers, which were almost hunted to extinction in California during the 1800s, can help restore this watery habitat, especially in drought conditions. Fishery experts once believed the animals’ dams blocked salmon from returning to their streams, so it was common practice to rip them out.

 But, consistent with previous studies, research led by Michael M. Pollock, an ecosystems analyst with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows the opposite: wild salmon are adept at crossing the beavers’ blockages.

 Beavers are tireless workers (and work for free) that raise the sparse water tables.

 ”One of our largest expenses is electricity for pumping water. With beavers on the land, the water tables are higher, and we’ve had a 10% to 15% reduction in pumping costs.”

 Along with saving money, Plank now boasts 76,000 Coho fingerling (very young fish) and 35,000 Chinook fingerling in his property’s rivers.

 So rejoice, fishermen and environmentalists. And respect your new buck toothed friends.

 PS – Beavers are fascinating, FYI.

The blurb links to the full article AND the PBS beaver documentary. How’s that for surprising range? I’m sure people interested in rural living are hurt by drought just as much as salmon, so lets hope they tuck this away and remember it next time beavers make a nuisance of themselves down that way.

The Water Institute at Occidental Arts and Ecology Center has a shiny new website you’ll enjoy checking out. Why not pay them a visit? You’ll especially enjoy the beaver mapping project with Eli Asarian and maybe you can even add some sightings of your own!



Looks like we got ourselves a horse-race!

Posted by heidi08 On March - 5 - 2015Comments Off

Beaverton beaver dam causes park to flood

Nancy Freeman’s home backs up to the park, and her deck has a view of one of the beaver dams. She loves watching the wildlife, and hopes what THPRD says is true.

 ”So much has been displaced because of development. Our animals, the creatures that were here first, we sometimes forget and want to displace them because they inconvenience us.”

 The options are to create a wildlife viewing area, construct a new trail around the flood water or build a bridge over it.

 A date hasn’t been set yet, but THPRD says it will hold a public meeting in April to get feedback on the options. Officials have already been hearing from park visitors.

Hmm, the Beaverton story is shaping up to have all the ingredients of a beaver polity. You remember, like we had in Martinez a few years back. I got several emails from the reporter and the natural resource guy yesterday, and there were a ton of responses to the article. Now I don’t like to gamble, but I’m going to guess that there’s a good chance the park will accommodate the beavers.  I heard from the park yesterday that trapping them out is NOT being considered.

Readers say ‘Go, Beavs’ as THPRD ponders options for beavers at Greenway Park

The Greenway Park beavers are pulling in some interesting and funny comments from folks, most of whom support the beavers.   The comments:

 thomasg86 As a frequent user of the park, I have noticed this transition over the last few years. The “main route” is still mostly clear, except when passing under Scholls Ferry Road… a lot of the flooding seems to be on the “secondary loops” north of there. A big attraction with this park system is the eight or nine continuous miles through the heart of Tigard and Beaverton… that’s a pretty cool resource. So if we have to avoid a couple side trails to make peace with the beaver, I’m okay with that.

 Jimmy Carter Just change the name to Peopleton and everything will be okay.

 kpu7m Long live the beaver state….learn to coexist.

 Values Voter Humans have dammed nearly every major river in North America and flooded the homes of billions of animals. Who is the bigger and far more destructive beast?

 outersepdx Guess this is the only place where the Beavers (OSU) can get a win??? ;) I’m guessing it’s duck fans who want to take the dam out.

 sangre_naranja Go Beavs!!

I’m thinking we should just sit back and watch this one.  It promises to be good.

Ohhh and two stories this morning you might not read anywhere else. The first that a 185 year-old gold beaver coin sold yesterday to a collector in Eugene:

 Eugene dealer snares 165-year-old Oregon ‘Beaver Coin’


Nelkin bought the $5 gold coin in August from a private collector, who had paid $257,000 for it at an auction three months earlier.

 The coin was made in 1849, a decade before the Oregon Territory became a state.

 It’s unknown how many of the Oregon gold coins remain in existence. But fewer than 50 out of the 6,000 $5 coins made in Oregon City in the 19th century have been certified as authentic, Nelkin said.

 Ooh a beaver coin valued at over a quarter of a million. That seems about right to me. Beavers are almost as valuable on a coin as they are in your creek! Amazing!

And this last story has nothing to do with beavers (probably), but blew my mind and I know will interest you. Get ready for a fast ride.

Weasel Rides Woodpecker in Viral Photo—But Is It Real?

Can weasels fly? According to an image captured by amateur photographer Martin Le-May, they can if they hitch a ride on the back of a woodpecker.

The picture shows a least weasel (Mustela nivalis) clutching on the back of a European green woodpecker (Picus viridis), likely as a result of a predatory attack gone awry. (Watch: “Hoarders: Acorn Woodpeckers.”)

Le-May told BBC News he snapped the photo Monday afternoon while visiting Hornchurch Country Park in East London. In fact, his presence may have saved the bird’s life.

 ”I think we may have distracted the weasel, as when the woodpecker landed it managed to escape and the weasel ran into the grass,” he told the BBC.

I know what you’re thinking. Is this a photoshop fake? National Geographic doesn’t think so.

But is the photo now known on Twitter as #WeaselPecker a fake?

 Hany Farid doesn’t think so. Farid is a professor of computer science at Dartmouth College, in New Hampshire, who researches digital forensics and image analysis.

 Farid said that while the image’s low resolution makes performing a detailed analysis difficult, there are several other factors to consider. For starters, because the weasel is virtually hugging the woodpecker, forging such an image would be extremely challenging.

 ”This would have required a nearly perfect and coincidental alignment of the two animals in their original photos so that they could be composited together,” said Farid. “This type of forgery is therefore more difficult to create than, for example, two animals simply standing side-by-side.”

The fact that Le-May has posted several other photos of the scene is another indicator that the images are probably real, because it would be even more problematic to consistently alter two or more photos.

 Finally, Farid said there doesn’t seem to be any obvious lighting, color, focus, or quality differences between the weasel and the bird.

 ”Combined, I don’t see any evidence that the photo is not real,” he said.

That is one lucky weasel. And considering he was probably pouncing for his meal, one lucky woodpecker to boot. The photo is one in a million, but honestly, I couldn’t get this song out of my head all day…

Message Delivery

Posted by heidi08 On February - 27 - 2015Comments Off

Indiana University researcher reports that isolated wetlands matter a great deal – just not the things that make and maintain them.

Isolated wetlands have significant impact on water quality

Geographically isolated wetlands play an outsized role in providing clean water and other environmental benefits even though they may lack the regulatory protections of other wetlands, according to an article by Indiana University researchers and colleagues.

 Given those benefits, the authors argue, decision-makers should assume that isolated wetlands are critical for protecting aquatic systems, and the burden of proof should be on those who argue on a case-by-case basis that individual wetlands need not be protected.

 ”Geographically isolated wetlands provide important benefits such as sediment and carbon retention, nutrient transformation and water-quality improvement, all of which are critical for maintaining water quality,” said lead author John M. Marton, assistant scientist at the IU Bloomington School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “We demonstrate that continued loss of these wetlands would likely cause serious harm to North American waters.”

 Yes it’s true, wetlands are really important, especially when they’re in unconnected areas that aren’t attached to other wetlands.  Our top notch researchers think they’re so important that people should be prevented from ripping out those wetlands. And the government should play a roll in making them.

We don’t have the foggiest idea of how those wetlands get there, but we know they’re important.

Yes, webs are important but spiders don’t matter at all, nests are invaluable but we aren’t sure what makes them. and eggs are vital but who cares about chickens?


Oh alright, maybe you’re getting the football very close to the end zone and it’s up to some other researcher or environmental attorney to get it over the line. Certainly this lays a certain foundation. And I would know JUST where to look for argument if I were trying to save beaver in Indiana.

Citing research literature, the authors say geographically isolated wetlands are highly effective “biogeochemical reactors” that improve water quality. They often retain water longer than protected waters, such as streams and wetlands that are directly connected to navigable water. And they have a higher ratio of perimeter to area, allowing more opportunities for reactions to take place.


This morning a quick update from beaver friend Lisa Owens Viani, the founder of RATS, who guest posted this article on 10,000 birds. Apparently the raptor-killing fiends of the world have come up with the excellent idea to name their new rat poison “HAWK”, because you know, hawks kill rats too, get it?

22Hawk.22-2-400x280It takes a lot of nerve—or something that can’t be printed here—to name your rat poison after the animals that so effectively and efficiently control rodents but that are also being poisoned—as “non target” animals—by your product. The label on Motomco/Bell Lab’s rodenticide “Hawk” even sports a drawing of a hawk getting ready to pounce. But “Hawk”’s active ingredient, a deadly second-generation anticoagulant, bromadialone, has been implicated in the deaths of Red-tailed Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, and other raptors: American Kestrels, Barn Owls, Golden Eagles, Great Horned Owls, and Turkey Vultures. These birds are being poisoned after eating rodents that have been poisoned by products like “Hawk.”

You can read the entire article here. I told Lisa not to worry because this was such a tone deaf marketing decision they could easily turn it to their advantage. Instead of writing outraged letters or presenting them with a cease and desist letter. send the most flowery thank you card you can find, and say how much you appreciate their help in  linking rat poison to hawks, reminding every single buyer who the real victims of their products are. That kind of branding is invaluable. It’s hard work doing it yourself and billboards are very expensive.

Ask when their similar products of OWL or BOBCAT will go on the market, and say you appreciate their help in this matter. If you thank them sincerely enough, I said, that label will disappear.


Magical beaver day

Posted by heidi08 On February - 26 - 2015Comments Off

Yesterday we had arranged a meeting between two Watershed Stewards Program Americorp interns and the city engineer of Martinez to talk about planting willow in the beaver habitat. It all became possible after my presentation at the San Francisco water board in December. Rebecca and Corie took Amtrak out from Oakland and we gave them a tour of the planting areas and beaver dam before taking them to the meeting. On the way we came across the most darling little beaver chews from our 2014 kit that we presented as souvenirs (along with hats, which were much appreciated, as you can see).

Desktop3Then we sat down to what we expected to be a challenging meeting. Historically it has not been simple to negotiate with the city to put trees in the beaver habitat. (Take from that what you will-it’s almost like they don’t want the beavers to stay!) But we were hopeful that having some professionals in uniform might make it easier. We talked a little about the areas we wanted to plant, and then discussed the ideas I had encountered regarding fascines at the beaver conference, which prompted our interns to talk about their recent projects at Baxter and Strawberry Creek where they had used fascines of both willow and dogwood.

We talked about timing and their experience, and then the city engineer said he would handle things with the council and with Fish and Game and we could get the project moving within two weeks.(!) They would do the planting and get the willow cuttings, and encourage some colleagues to help out on the day. We promised to reward everyone with hats if they did!  And then the meeting was over. Approximately 15 glorious minutes after it started.

No, really.

Jon and I were in varied states of amazement. To say that was not the reception we’d been expecting is a significant understatement. But I swear it really happened. And we are on board to get willow in the ground before the middle of March. Riley will help arrange for them to harvest it from wildcat canyon in Berkeley, and they will make the fascines and plant them. (Just pray that it rains SOMETIME along the way.) And thank you to Riley for sending these hardworking city-soothers our way. This video will teach you about what facines are, and this one could show you the magical way they work in less than 3 weeks! Our fascines will be buried in the unrocky bank.

Still don’t believe it? The day needs more incredulity, so I’m going to show you the very best beaver news out of Canada that was ever filmed. I can’t find a date on this story, and can’t embed it so you will need to perform the onerous labor of clicking on it and watching an ad, but trust me, even if you never trusted me before and never will again,  it’s worth it.

CaptureStarving beavers kept alive by couple after dam destroyed

Don’t you LOVE these people? Someone give them a bag of sweet potatoes right away!

Fnally I got a delightful email from Rusty in Napa yesterday because the beaver pond in Tulocay creek was visited by a whopping 5 pairs of hooded mergansers that evening. He was surprised how people shy they were in such an urban setting. But very kindly shared these photos. The beautiful one is the boy, and the rusty hairdo is the female. Enjoy.

HM napa

Hooded Merganser at Tulocay Creek – Rusty Cohn

hmpairs Napa

Hooded Merganser pairs – Rusty Cohn