Archive for the ‘Environmental’ Category

Godot Beaver

Posted by heidi08 On June - 17 - 2016Comments Off on Godot Beaver

Day four of “Project Habituation” and as predicted it was the most successful yet. Two beavers and several visits by dad working on the lodge. Even mom was seen (larger) shaking her head and feeding. Nothing while it was bright enough to film so mostly we were eagerly watching a bunch of this:

But still. Much better than the start and I’m sure if the project had days 5,6, and 7 we’d be happier still. Dream on! I’m just lucky I got Jon to ever agree to this brief insanity and won’t push my luck.


We were still thinking about our slow improvements and micro-curve of success when Rusty Cohn’s photos arrived from last night. Of course beavers, and of course beautiful. Talk about the grass being greener! Still scratching his mosquito bites and hunched from lack of sleep Jon cursed at the computer screen before grumbling back to bed.

“fuckingnapa fuckingtopia!

In addition to the enviable beaver photos, I particularly like that capture of the green heron doing his odd neck stretch. The birds are so twisted and stump-necked I never would have thought it possible if I hadn’t seen this a few years ago.  Apparently beaver ponds are the gift that keep on giving.

Dam Useful

Posted by heidi08 On June - 14 - 2016Comments Off on Dam Useful

DSC_7102Two beavers this morning at 5:00, one noisily chewing near the hole and the other swimming across. When it was still not quite light he or she plunked down toward the edge of the water and munched something with their back turned to the intrusive humans. We are on day 1 of “Project habituation” where we are trying to get the beavers acclimatized to us by repetition. I’ll let you know how it goes.

The only thing I was able to capture in with enough light was this feral cat making his own particular use of the beaver dam. It makes you think about how many species were affected when the beavers left, not just fish and ducks, but raccoons and deer. Beavers and their dams make such a difference that I’m sure many creatures come to rely on them.

One idea that Jeanette Johnson suggested at the meeting was scrabble tile earrings, which I of course had to try right away. I amused myself a great deal with these.

red earringsIMG_1219


Hmmm do you think an etsy shop is in our future?

Very nice article from our friends in Devon, England that several folks sent my way. It deserves our only slightly divided attention. It doesn’t list the author, but its featured in the “rewildling britain” magazine.

Devon beavers are officially working their magic

As an ecologist, it’s clear to see how the beavers have had a huge impact within the enclosure. Habitat variety and structure are the first things that have changed – wet areas, ponds, deadwood, open grassland, scrub and trees and areas of sphagnum. Visually, there also seems to have been overall improvement in biodiversity.

But not everyone is an ecologist and sometimes we take it for granted that everyone sees what we do. Others may just see an electric fence, or a flooded area, or not really see it at all. So how can we influence political and economic decisions if we can’t relay this message to those who don’t appreciate or see nature and wildlife in the same way? How can we say for sure that biodiversity has been improved? Based on our experience, we would expect this to be the case, but in what way has change occurred? And how does this relate to other disciplines such as hydrology?

Beavers and biodiversity

We picked the most relevant indicator groups related to change associated with the beavers: bryophytes, bats and aquatic invertebrates

Ecosulis, driven by its shared vision of rewilding Britain, uses a Biodiversity Quality Calculator, developed by Dr Alan Feest, which measures change in biodiversity quality. 

The bespoke calculator has been used in many ways to measure change as a result of management prescriptions and to gauge the effectiveness of biodiversity off-setting schemes. More recently, it was used to measure the change in biodiversity quality, using a range of indices, as a result of the beaver reintroduction at the experimental site in Devon. 

Particular focus was given to finding out if the beavers could help maintain the open grasslands in the face of encroaching scrub species. This could allow us to see how biodiversity changes over time and could also be linked to other environmental changes, such as nitrogen or hydrology. This could then also be used to influence decisions on whether reintroductions should be undertaken on a wider scale or if management plans and prescriptions should be modified.

To do this we picked what we agreed to be the most relevant indicator groups related to change associated with the beavers: bryophytes, bats and aquatic invertebrates. One of the key benefits of the calculator is that historical as well as current data can be analysed, allowing for trends to be determined. We measured the changes in biodiversity quality between 2012 (one year after beaver introduction) and 2015 data collected by Ecosulis for bats and bryophytes (invertebrate data yet to be assessed). The data revealed some very interesting trends:


  • + Increase in species richness
  • Increase in species evenness, indicating less dominance of common species
  • – Decrease in species dominance
  • Increase in species rarity scores on the site, including rare grey long-eared and barbastelle bats
  • + Increase in biomass, indicating an increase in invertebrate prey species on the site (and number of bats)


  • + Increase in species richness
  • + Increase in species evenness, indicating less dominance of common species
  •  Decrease in species dominance
  • + Increase in biomass
  • + Increase in nitrogen intolerant species (indicating lower nitrogen levels)
  • + Increase in species associated with well-lit areas, and species associated with acidic soils


  • + Increase in species richness
  • + Increase in species evenness
  •  Decrease in species dominance of any one species
  • + Increase in population density
  •  Slight decrease in species rarity\

Rewilding – right here, right now

After an absence of 400 years, beavers are back in England and, within a few short years, are having an amazing effect

The scale and direction of the changes have been compelling. By taking a relatively simple, cost-effective and standardised approach to collecting biological records, a clear picture of biodiversity change has been recorded at the Okehampton site. The increase in indices such as biomass and species rarity reveals that habitat structure and the carrying capacity of the site have increased. A rise in biomass for bats indicates higher levels of invertebrate prey, which in turn benefits other species including birds. 

The beaver have turned what was an area of dense scrub and simple channel into a mosaic of scrub, pools, dead wood, banks, culm grassland and habitat piles. After an absence of 400 years, beavers are back in England and, within a few short years, are having an amazing effect. Associated species are now diversifying and thriving, instead of declining – this is rewilding in action!

The full results are due to be published in the next Devon wildlife Trust Beaver Project update.

Beavers build nitrogen sinks

One unexpected consequence of the beaver was a potential reduction of nitrogen levels at the site, as indicated by the bryophyte assemblage recorded. By linking bryophytes with their nitrogen sensitivity we discovered that our data supports recent research that indicates beavers produce nitrogen sinks (Geographical. October 2015). This could be a handy additional tool in the argument favouring the reintroducing of beaver to Britain.

Clearly one of the fundamental principles of rewilding projects is that there is no ultimate destination. Rewilding is a journey and one that is to be shared both by people and wildlife. Like any journey, it makes sense to have a reference point to determine whether you’re heading in the right direction and are not back in the same place you started.

Our assessment measures the changes in biodiversity quality without the added value judgement of one species being more important than another. Instead, it tells you whether you have a dominance of any particular species, if you’ve recorded all the expected species present, what the spread and biomass of the species are and how this can be interpolated against the expected outcomes.

Once this quantitative assessment has been made, it can be incorporated into biodiversity and rewilding decision-making related to issues such as the location of rewilding projects, appropriate management regimes and the effects of externalities.

The next steps for the method are to help inform the debate regarding the decision to reintroduce beavers more widely back to Britain. We can also consider if this method might be applicable to other potential reintroductions such as those for pine martens or even lynx.

How’s that for a thorough recap of beaver benefits? Honestly I almost hope the United Kingdom never approves beaver reintroduction because it make for such fantastic efforts by the media to convince them – which benefit everyone! Go read the whole fabulous article, and share it with your friends or nonbelievers.

Captur1eThe city of Vallejo had such success with their Nature celebration last year for the anniversary of the State parks that they are working with USFS and FWS to do it again, specifically celebrating”Wild in the City”. Steve Dunsky has already asked me to give a Martinez Beaver intro and yesterday the project put out the plea for corporate sponsors. Uh oh. Check out their photo for the ‘Beaver sponsors’.

CaptureYou would think that a team of scientists would know better than this, but you’d be wrong. Because I was three feet away from Dr. Michael Pollock of NOAA fisheries when he proudly displayed a photo of a nutria in is beaver talk. I of course wrote them they might want to make a correction, and supposedly they will. In the mean time their mass email asked us to share it on social media and I see no reason not to oblige.



Fortune Favors the Beaver

Posted by heidi08 On June - 2 - 2016Comments Off on Fortune Favors the Beaver

Yesterday was a day of gifts. Early in the day Julian Fraser posted this photo from States Coffee downtown, and asked if I had something to do with it. I replied that I was innocent of contribution, but sure wanted to ask for one to be donated to the silent auction at the Beaver Festival.  He took it upon himself to ask the manager Julian Gomez who thought it was a wonderful idea but needed to check with his boss. A few hours later I got a call to pick up one of these:

Beaver stateHooohooo hooo! Apparently they’re nearly sold out so you may want to bid on it in person in August. Thanks Julian and Justin! And thank you States Coffee for coalescing the community just like the beavers did before you!  Later in the day the mail contained this special donation signed by the author.

When I wrote to thank him, he warmly responded this;

i love what you are doing and am happy to help!

John Muir Laws

As if this all these rewards weren’t heady enough, at the end of the day I received notice of this article about Louise Ramsay.

Beavers are helping to restore the biodiversity to the Perthshire countryside

It is an immensely beneficial animal, restoring biodiversity to the countryside, and where it builds dams in riparian forest, slowing the flow of water in a way that may contribute to the moderation or prevention of flooding downstream, as well as holding water in times of drought – that in the highly managed farmland of the low-ground the beaver can be challenging.

Beavers are also not good garden animals.

For example, if your garden is next to a stream or pond inhabited by beavers you may prefer to wrap any trees you want to protect with wire mesh before a beaver comes and chews them.

But, on the plus side, the branches in the water create a microhabitat which is a playground for small fish, giving them somewhere to hide from predators. The lying trunk of the dead tree will become home to many fungi and invertebrates and a crossing point for red squirrels.

On low-ground farms beavers may present problems if they build dams in ditches (and water backs up into valuable arable fields), or burrow into flood banks and weaken them.

Luckily there are solutions to these problems. Various devices such as pond levellers and beaver deceivers have been developed in North America and used with considerable success. Electric fencing can be used in suitable situations.

The good news is that one or two local people in this area are now learning how to apply the best of American beaver mitigation to our farmland – and all they need now is some farmers to try it out.

The wider environment wins because it gets more wildlife habitat, and if there is any agricultural run-off coming from the fields then much of it will be stripped out by the dams and wetlands, purifying the water that goes into the river and ultimately the sea, preserving more aquatic wildlife.

Ahh Louise! If only there were a primary election coming up for you as beaver president!  This is a fantastic article that carefully lays out my two favorite beaver talking points: how and why! I have found that both are ESSENTIAL in changing minds. Thank you for making our case so clear and talking frankly about problems and solutions. Scotland beavers are lucky to have you, as are we all!

Beaver Easter came late this year…

Posted by heidi08 On May - 16 - 2016Comments Off on Beaver Easter came late this year…

CaptureFor some reason the Handel version of this verse was playing in my head all morning. From the black pre-dawn sky where we stumbled down the dark alley to the dam, to the first initial trills of bird song as the steely darkness was haloed in a sherbet dawn, through explosion of bird chorus that followed, muffling the train whistles, all the way until I saw this:

A Beaver! What is that sudden lightness I feel between my shoulders? Am I falling upwards? Could it be the final easing of that dread harness of grim resolution in the face of overwhelming loss?  Was the sunrise always this splintered by all this moisture? Is it possible that it really was darkest just before the dawn?

Maybe you’ve never sat up through a candlelit vigil waiting for Easter to dawn, but my teenage days remember these things. You know how it is, that person you like talks you into going even though you’re not sure you really believe this stuff. I vividly remembered that spooky darkness replaced by irrational sunrise and this merry welcome of the day with lots of hugging. (Oh! the hugging!)  I was raised catholic but there was a bible-study period in my teens where I briefly mistook a crush for faith.

But of course you know my true religion now.

There s/he was building a dam in front of me. As if to prove that I wasn’t the only one happy for the dam’s return, a mother mallard with 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 babies suddenly appeared, the ducklings zipping so quickly that hardly my eyes or the camera lens could keep up. Like fleas or rolling peppercorns, their rapidly expanding circles were pierced by a swimming turtle before they banded together like a seed pod explosion in rewind and followed mom back down stream.

The tide will be excellent for another day or two, you should go. I’m hoping Jon can be persuaded to make the journey again. Tomorrow we present at the Parks, Recreation, Marina and Cultural Commission to get permission for festival IX. Then it’s last minute details to take care of before Portland.

It all seems like perfect timing. Like destiny. If you believe in that sort of thing.

New website and old complaints

Posted by heidi08 On April - 29 - 20162 COMMENTS

From the ridiculous to the sublime. Let’s start the day with the appropriate mocking of Mr.  Settlemeyer of Bladen County North Carolina. And believe me, his complaint is a doozy.

Carver’s Creek running over with beavers

Settlemeyer said when he first saw beavers on his land back in the 1970’s he thought the critters were kind of cool. “The first time I saw a beaver I said, ‘Oh man this is wonderful, we got beavers!’” Settlemeyer said.

But that opinion quickly changed when he said the rodents took over. In fact, Settlemeyer said if he were to guess he’d say there are about 200 of them on his property. “It’s good for the ducks, good for the turtles, but it’s not good for your timber,” Settlemeyer said.

He said some of his roads have been washed away because beaver dams prevent water from flowing the way it naturally would. He said there is little he can do to stop them.

“Back before 9/11 we could go buy dynamite. We dynamited the beavers. We’ve got heavy equipment and dug the dams out, we’ve trapped, we’ve shot them, but they’re so prolific we’re not gaining any ground,” Settlemeyer said. “It’s an aggravating problem. They’re like fire ants and coyotes, they’re here to stay. I don’t know what kind of alternative we have.”

He said almost every stream in the Carver’s Creek community has a beaver dam in it and it’s causing big changes to the ecology of the area.

Just for clarification, Bladen county is in the lower right corner of the state with 874 sq miles of land and 13 sq miles of water. Even assuming his property runs that entire length of the creek, and allowing 7 beavers to a colony, he is alleging he has  a beaver family every .15 miles of water, which, if it were true, would deserve a federally funded research project and a documentary. It is far more likely that he found 10 dams on is land and just calculated in his folksy way that there were about 20 beavers to a dam, don’t you think?

Love the part where he blames 9/11 for keeping him from blowing them up though. I guess they’re right, every great tragedy still has a silver lining.

On to the sublime. Let’s welcome our friends at Sierra Wildlife Coalition to the beaver website neighborhood! They just launched a very lovely new sight with excellent info and Sheri Hartstein’s fantastic photos. Take them for a test drive and enjoy the view. Click below to visit their site and help them establish some links, but don’t get so dazzled you forget who sent you there. (Remember to notice who is listed as the FIRST resource on their contact page.) Ahem.




Busy as a you know what!

Posted by heidi08 On April - 26 - 2016Comments Off on Busy as a you know what!

We are FINALLY paintbrush-ready on the mural project. Mario will come today to start priming, but tomorrow there are supposed to be thunderstorms so more delays are imminent. I’m just happy the city was able to finish all the contracts, waivers and ryders necessary to undertake the dangerous painting of a two foot wall of concrete. Hurray for beavers not giving up!

about timeThe timing works out well enough because on Wednesday I’m back to the SF Waterboard to talk more about urban beavers! New folks heard my talk was so good they wanted it too so I’ll be with strangers on a different floor than last time. I think I’m ready, but it’s a little harrowing going to that tall building and through security on yet another rainy day!

waterboardsAnd it never rains but it pours, because I just got the event flyer for Portland, which looks amazing. The final PDF will have working links and go out soon. But I thought you deserved a preview. In between events I’ll be talking to Kiwanis and watching our Mural unfold. And then it’s time to start getting ready for the festival! Isn’t that exciting?

portland flyer

Helping the Helpers

Posted by heidi08 On April - 22 - 2016Comments Off on Helping the Helpers

Tomorrow is Earthday Birthday celebration at the John Muir Historic  site and the AWARD WINNING nonprofit Worth A Dam will be on hand to answer beaver questions and do a fun beaver activity with the children.  Here is a noble volunteer demonstrating said activity.IMG_0768IMG_0770


Now usually our activities are run by a handful of loyals who form the backbone of Worth A Dam. But this year  two of our core members are literally out of state, and FRO has gotten so busy being an artist that we only get her for the festival, so I got a little panicky and started asking for help. I asked Deidre of Oakland who runs the silent auction at the festival. And she was doing another event in the morning but was happy to come in the afternoon. Then I thought of these charming girls and their hardy grandma. They have been beaver supporters since the very beginning, know everything about them, and even asked about doing a children’s booth at the next festival. Here they are on the footbridge after watching Jari Osborne’s “Leave it to beaver’ documentary on PBS. They will be helping in the morning with their intrpid grandma!

Not fully staffed yet, I thought I’d reach out to Caitlin McCombs of Mountain House.  She was very interested in learning about how to help and agreed to come all day! She even had the courage to be exited about it! So I felt pretty confident we could carry the day off well.

It never rains but it pours, they say. Yesterday I got an unexpected message from someone I never met who’s a student at UCB ‘naturalist’ program named Leslie. She lives in town, works for the city, and wondered if she could help in preparation for a presentation she’s giving in May that needs a service component. Surprisingly, she is coming to help us unload and staying all day tomorrow.

Well, okay then.

I figure if we end up with more volunteers than actual children, I’ll talk April and Alana to being undercover agents and get them to recruit.  Or just pretend their doing the activity and having ENORMOUS fun and make other kids come investigate. So it will all work I’m sure.

Or, we can leave it all to their capable hands and Jon and I can just drive to Reno. :-)

Just to keep us all on our toes, there was another dramatic story of a beaver attack yesterday. This one from Latvia. It hasn’t received multiple reports yet, but I’m waiting.

Beaver attacks Latvian man, who couldn’t be helped because police thought his report was a prank call

Inna Plavoka, editor at the local Seychas daily newspaper, told Latvian Radio 4 that the man, who was referred to only as Sergei, was walking outside late at night when a beaver ran up out of the bushes and bit him in the leg. Knocked to the ground, he tried to get up and run away, only to be bitten again.

The beaver then stood guard, refusing to let him get up. In the words of the Latvian Public Broadcasting report: “The beaver was in effect holding Sergei hostage.”

Sergei attempted to call police for help, but was hung up on because they believed he was making a prank call. So he then tried a friend, who also believed him to be joking, until Sergei finally convinced him he was in peril.

Then the beaver was holding him HOSTAGE and he couldn’t get away. His friend sped to the police to get help and was pulled over for speeding. When he told them what he was doing they thought he was drunk and asked him to submit to a breathalyzer.

I think I’m drunk just because I’m typing this BS.

So a beaver, leapt in the to attack a TWO MEN, bit one twice, and then HELD that man hostage?  And the police didn’t believe it because it was unbelievable? And the article reports its true but only manages the first name of Sergie? I find myself unable to offer a comment on this claim. I’m going to have to rely on my good friend Monty to help.