Archive for the ‘Environmental’ Category

That exciting beaver news must have excited EVERYONE EVERYWHERE because today it’s on the BBC, the Washington Post and National Geographic. Sadly, this means it has completely squeezed all other beaver stories out of the news, because no self-respecting paper can run TWO beaver stories on the same day, (heaven forbid).

That’s okay though because the Smithsonian one has nice details that are worth sharing.

Ancient Toothy Mammal Survived Dino Apocalypse

Though small, the mammal is an exciting find, the researchers said. It belongs to a group of rodentlike mammals called multituberculates, named for the numerous cusps, or tubercles, found on their teeth. Multituberculates lived alongside dinosaurs, but managed to survive the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous period. They lived for another 30 million years before they, too, went extinct, the researchers said.

So THAT”S what multituberculates means, many cusps! I don’t think any other source explained that fact, This is the part I especially loved.

Spectacular teeth
Researchers named the newfound species Kimbetopsalis simmonsae, in honor of the area in which they found it, Kimbeto Wash, New Mexico. The Greek word “psalis” means “cutting shears,” a reference to the creature’s magnificent teeth, and the species name, “simmonsae,” is a nod to Nancy Simmons, a researcher at the American Museum of Natural History renowned for her work on multituberculates.

Magnificent Sheers! That sure sounds like a beaver to me. I had to go look up Nancy Simmons and her famous work on the cuspadors. She’s home grown and graduated from UCB. Here’s what else I found:

Dr. Nancy Simmons

Faculty and researcher at the American Museum of Natural history, Dr. Simmons specializes in the morphology and evolutionary biology of bats (Chiroptera). She works with both living and fossil species, and is interested in patterns of speciesdiversification, biogeography, the evolution of dietary habits, higher-level bat relationships, early Tertiary fossil bats, and the evolution of flight and echolocation. A morphologist by training, she works with data gained from museum specimens and high-resolution CT scans, combining these with DNA sequence data generated by collaborators to build and test phylogenetic and evolutionary hypotheses. In addition to her work on bats, Dr. Simmons is part of team working on further development of tools for managing large-scale morphological projects (e.g., build the Tree of Life).


Another example of what bats and beavers have in common! Corky would be so proud.

Imagine getting a species of beaver named after you…I admit,  I’m kind of jealous. Do you think they’ll ever be a city dwelling beaver named after us?


The truth about the tooth

Posted by heidi08 On October - 4 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

Jack Laws
Speaking of people drawing beaver teeth inaccurately – guess what I just noticed! The amazing see it and draw it in nature John Muir Laws, who sketched our beavers lo these many years ago, did a portrait last month on how to tell beavers and otters apart. This was in the July – September issue. And it took me a while to even recognize what I was seeing.


Can you say chip monk? Or bear with beaver teeth? How could such a talented man forget everything he learned here in Martinez? He needs a dose of beaver watching STAT! I’m writing a letter. You see for yourself whether this portrait he did in person isn’t more accurate.

Unravelling Mysteries of the Beaver Genome

Posted by heidi08 On October - 2 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

Here’s something we missed in September.


Fun video. Makes me genuinely curious about what they’d find. Hey, how much would we have to donate to have Bennie at a beaver festival? Looks like they’re having troubles raising the funds. I bet this website can help them a little. I’m not a fan of beavers in zoos but since he’s thereCapture already we might as well harmlessly learn what we can from him right? I mean since beavers are a big mishmash genetically because of US we should help fix what we can, right?

This article from New York tells us little that is new, but it’s a pleasant read anyway.

Species spotlight: The beaver’s tale

Looks like: The Beaver is a large, unmistakable rodent that can reach up to 26-65 pounds and features a broad, flattened tail that can reach 9-10-inches long and 6-inches wide. Beavers have yellow-brown to almost black fur, webbed feet and prominent orange teeth.

Niche: Beavers are herbivores, eating tree and water plant parts. As winter approaches, they will collect and cache food underwater near the entrance of their lodge in a “feedpile” to use during winter. Beavers can be prey for coyote, fisher, bear and bobcat when they leave the pond in search of food. Kits can also be prey for mink, otter, fox and great-horned owl.s tale

Not nearly enough about how this keystone species builds wetlands that safe fish, frogs, birds and otter. But it’s nice to see anyway. I am impatient for the day when the people who decide to print “interesting facts about the beaver” have things to say that are REALLY interesting.

I don’t know how your blood pressure is this morning, but I’m heading out on vacation tomorrow so mine’s looking pretty good. I’ll try to reach over the mai tai’s and coconuts and manage to post something, especially Wednesday because it will be the auspicious occasion of our 3000th post. Wow. I’ll make sure to tell you a really closely guarded beaver secret that day to make it worth your while.

In the mean time, your blood pressure can take a vacation by watching this, from our Norwegian friend of the Scottish beavers, Sylvia Mueller. She took this on holiday in Germany.

Beautiful footage. Enjoy.

Not Enough: The AE Report

Posted by heidi08 On September - 30 - 2015Comments Off on Not Enough: The AE Report

Did you ever have an arch enemy? I mean someone who thwarts your every move, foils your every plan, and seems to lurk just over your shoulder where you can never, never see them? AE’s are respected and listened to by all the wrong people and whatever work you do to dismiss what they say it’s too late because they’ve already gone on to speak to the next group that you’re going to have to try and re-educate.

The Martinez Beavers have had lots of enemies, city council, public works, hired environmental consulting firms, a few reporters, handsomely paid attorneys and various property owners. But we only ever had one AE. And if you don’t know who that was by now I’m not doing my job.  Here she is talking at the April 2008 council meeting. And here I am over her shoulder looking inceredulous. I believe among her many erroneous points were;

  1. that our beavers were leaving (or had already left),
  2.  that every flow device she had ever seen installed had failed,
  3. and that trees can be protected with blackberry bushes because beaver never eat them as they dislike the thorns.

Originally Mary Tappel offered her services when our city was responding to beaver problems and she was supposed to present formally to the beaver subcommittee. We all got copies of her resume in preparation. But I happened by chance to recognize her name from an article about the Elk Grove beaver fiasco in the Sacramento Bee, which my folks used to get delivered to their home in the foothills. I remember being jarred by her comment in the article at the time that the beavers had to be killed because being sterilized was stressful. I thought, ‘isn’t being killed stressful?’ Then heard later  that she was coming to Martinez to offer l her skills.

At the time she told the reporter for the Gazette that beavers “breed for 50 years”. I remember because when I read the article I wrote him and asked whether it was a typo. The editor said ‘no’ and called her to check that he got the quote correctly. And just like that my AE announced that she would  not present to the subcommittee, because we were too inflamed and hostile, and she would just meet behind the scenes with city staff.

This meant that she could whisper her poisons unchallenged into their willing ears. Telling staff once that the father beaver should be killed so that the mother would have to mate with her sons when they grew up and slow population growth in that way. No. really.

God only knows what else she said.

The mayor liked her council so much that he invited her secretly to the April 2008 meeting where the subcommittee  results were going to be presented. I remember how surprised we were to see her in the hallway outside. To this day I wonder what funds changed hands to get her there. That same night I had suddenly found out I was going to be the one to present our results. No warning, just like that go ahead and talk to 200 people. And then Mary would go after me and dispute everything I said.

It turned out to be okay though, because she was not very convincing with her waving cardboard sign. My luck. And she went away and we got what we wanted, so that seemed like a victory.

Imagine how excited I was when Jack Sanchez of S.A.R.S.A.S heard my talk in Santa Barbra and invited me to come follow her presentation on beavers in Auburn. The shoe was finally on the other foot! I was so happy. I pulled together the latest fish data and they said the talk was the best attended and the best delivered they ever had. I was on cloud 9 when it was over. Especially because of the intelligent comments of one listener from FWS who knew everything about the fish issue and could soothe anxieties at the end of the talk. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

One particularly knowledgeable young man introduced himself as Damion Ciotti from the Habitat Restoration Division of US Fish and Wildlife Service. We connected several years ago and he was very interested in our work in Martinez. I made sure he left with a copy of Mike Callahan’s DVD. You can’t imagine how helpful his comments were in soothing the beaver-disbelievers in the room. I couldn’t have orchestrated it better than to let fish savvy folk do the defending for me!

So I was stunned to hear a few months ago that my AE was invited BACK to S.A.R.S.A.S. to speak on beavers this September. Again? I got word yesterday from Damion that he attended her talk and was dismayed to hear her describe beaver as responsible for “Ecosystem Collapse“. He tried to ask pointed questions but realized she didn’t have any sources for her info but anecdote. She apparently said that there was no region in California where beaver should ever be introduced.

Ecosystem Collapse. If you google the phrase with the word beavers you get zero hits. Only articles about them being a keystone species. I guess the research world doesn’t think like Mary Tappel.

Damion said she introduced herself as working for the state, and he was worried about the influence she might have with policy. She is still staff on the regional waterboards, which is a division of the CAEPA. (Bravely protecting the environment from beavers, apparently). She is still marching around calling herself a beaver expert, and even boasts of her work with Martinez on her resume.

Mary also dealt with beaver management questions and in foothill areas such as Granite Bay, Loomis, & Roseville; and towards the Bay/Delta area in  Martinez, and to the south in Elk Grove, all in creeks and small retention basins. Mary’s involvement in foothill areas and smaller streams has always included salmonid passage concerns.

What a coincidence. With the exception of Martinez those cities are the very ones that issued the most depredation permits. Isn’t that just an amazing coincidence?


Which is not to say she hasn’t learned anything over the years. She used to preach devotedly that beavers ruined salmon passage, and now she says the salmon make their way around dams. Which is something. But I realize, sadly and with no small amount of panic, it’s not enough. I haven’t done enough. People want to hear what she says because they want to get rid of things that are inconvenient. She has a resonant message to deliver. And they want to hear what I say less because co-existence seems like it means work. Screw the salmon. Or the frogs. Just let me do what I want to do, sound environmental and give me cover. So I can get away with it.

I haven’t done enough. And even though, if you google her name, the warnings of this website are nearly the only thing that come up, even though I was able to follow her talk on her home turf in the very county where they kill the most beavers in the entire state, and even though I talked BWW into taking her off their resource list for beaver experts in CA: It’s not enough. I’m not doing enough.

My arch enemy continues to influence the American River area and all its surrounds. She has a powerful platform and a respected government job to grant her credibility. And I haven’t beaten her.


It’s in the bag!

Posted by heidi08 On September - 28 - 2015Comments Off on It’s in the bag!

Suzi at workOhhh it’s so nice to be back on the HUGE familiar pc screen where everything is still broken in the usual ways. You might have to hear more from me as a result, I’m sorry to say. I thought I’d share some photos from the beaver art project taken by Suzi Eszterhas. Other photos taken that day might make it to the Ranger Rick story but she said I could share these and they’re a great introduction to a fun use of Susanna Street park.


This is Ethan who is  wearing an original Martinez beaver shirt that he made himself. He’s proudly showing his Father and son beaver bag puppets. If you wish you  could make some of your very own, the patterns are here. The paws are wooden forks. The tails and hind feet are from Dugmore’s Romance of the Beaver, but don’t forget it was Heidi’s endless labor that got them to print double sided. (The hope is that since the book is 101 years old now it will be public domain-y enough for Ranger Rick to print our pattern. And we really MIGHT have an army of beaver puppets across America.)


Bella made a beaver kit and her own frog original puppet. She knew just about everything about the bebellaavers and explained to the other children why they should use orange teeth on the older puppet. Towards the end of the event she got a little restless and went around the park picking up large sticks for her beaver to eat. It was pretty adorable.

This is Brynn who wore two charm necklaces from the past beaver festivals. She also finished thebrynn buttons this year but said that her favorite festival was two years ago when she was able to bring her best friend. If you peek to the left of the kits tail you can just make out the dragonfly and mom’s tail charms. Imagine growing up with beaver festivals. She’s been coming since she was 4.

For some reason I didn’t get photos of April and Alana from Suzi to share, but they were a dynamic duo of beaver information. April posed her beaver kit with a Fennel stalk and explained how Mom beaver liked to eat it when she was pregnant. Alana described how it might have been the salt water that killed the kits. They were both very attentive to details and asked through their grandmother if they could have their own children’s booth at the festival next year. No, really. Since I don’t have their photos to share, I will share this clip from when we met on the footbridge after the PBS beaver documentary aired. They had this feedback for the Canadian producer Jari Osborne:

Jari, btw, was delighted when I sent her this clip and wrote back on youtube:

Thank you so much, April, Alana (sp?) and Heidi!!!
Girls, I am so delighted to know you watched, enjoyed and cared about what you saw on Leave It To Beavers. It means so much to me to hear from you! ~Jari

Ethan Heidi

Which just goes to show you that beaver puppets can swim a long, long way into many people’s hearts. You’ll see. Just watch.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Posted by heidi08 On September - 24 - 2015Comments Off on Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Oh sure. No beaver news for 5 whole days and then an EXPLOSION of stories to share. Well, we have to start with this, because I told you it was coming 10 days ago.

Beaver: Back to the Future

Beaver, whose dams help slow the flow of water, play a key role in the health of our forests. They create wetlands, reduce the force of floods, and expand riparian habitat for wildlife. In our new 13-minute video “Beaver: Back to the Future,” four Forest Service employees and a retired Regional Forester eloquently and enthusiastically praise the power of beaver to beneficially restore and manage national forest water flows in the face of climate change.

Beaver: Back to the Future from Grand Canyon Trust on Vimeo.

Wasn’t that awesome? Everyone did such a fantastic and compelling job. And Trout Unlimited funded. How long must we wait for it to catch on. The smartest beaver folk in three states. Now only 47 more to go!


Maybe Coca cola can help. Beaver: the paws that refreshes!

Coca-Cola Leaves It to Beavers to Fight the Drought

What do Coca-Cola and beavers have in common? It sounds like the setup of a bad joke, but the fates of beavers and bottlers look increasingly intertwined. Coke is funding the deployment of beavers in the United States to build dams and create ponds that can replenish water supplies for local ecosystems and ultimately, people.

Coke’s deployment of engineering rodents has a similar goal: getting water into the ground. Before Europeans’ arrival on the continent, beavers lived in nearly every headwaters stream in North America, and they shaped the continent.

“They were everywhere and having a huge impact on the landscape and the hydrology,” said Frances Backhouse, a Victoria, British Columbia–based author whose book, Once They Were Hats, about the history and environmental role of beavers, will be published Oct. 1.

“Beavers mean higher water tables and water on the landscape throughout the dry seasons as well wet seasons,” she said. They are, according to Backhouse, “the only animal in the world that can rival us in terms of engineering the landscape.”

The funding repairs stream crossings and restores streams damaged by wildfires in California, New Mexico, Illinois, Michigan, and Colorado. It is helping to pay for the beaver project, which seeks to boost water retention in the Upper Methow River watershed in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Washington state.

Natural solutions like deploying the beavers are a good value, said Radtke. An earlier project in the Sierra Nevada Mountains used heavy equipment to install a series of plugs to contain water so it could seep into sediment. “It was fantastic,” he said. “It was working. But it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The Upper Methow Beaver Project, a joint effort of five organizations, accomplishes the same thing for less. Coke’s investment in the project in 2014 was around $40,000. Total project cost for that year was $271,000.

“It turns out that beavers work cheaper than big, heavy, yellow equipment,” said Radtke.

Ya think?

Alright, credit where credit’s due, relocating beavers to save water is MUCH better than killing them, and kudos to Coke for having the sense to fund a winner. But really the ideal place for beavers to be improving water is everywhere there is water and people to drink it, and I’ll be happiest when they are allowed to relocate themselves.


Smiling beaver kit by Cheryl Reynolds

Update on the little munchkin at Lindsay who survived the night and was looking healthier today. He’ll be ready to leave in a couple days, and if they can’t locate his family he’ll go to our friends at Sonoma Wildlife Rescue to mature and learn to be a beaver. This morning Cheryl and Kelly went out looking for his family and may have seen another kit and some chewed tulles. Fingers crossed he’ll be reunited with loved ones soon.

A day in the life of a beaver advocate

Posted by heidi08 On September - 21 - 2015Comments Off on A day in the life of a beaver advocate

Yesterday in Sonoma was hot. hot. hot, with surprises of the nice variety. There were many many people who knew that beavers create habitat because they had watched the documentary, read a book or heard my talk at Santa Rosa Audubon or Kate’s talk at Pepperwood. And the booth right next door was the executive director of Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation who had formerly been the beaver management guy at Huntley Meadows in Virginia! He happened to know our friend Ann Cameron Siegal, who has been taking jaw-droppingly beautiful photos there of beaver life for years.

Crazy small world.

Beavers on ice 2 002I came home thinking about the idea of the beaver as an ecosystem engineer, and wondering whether our next activity at the festival could help children understand that concept.

An ecosystem engineer is an organism that modifies, creates or destroys habitat and directly or indirectly modulates the availability of resources to other species.

Wouldn’t this make a cool activity for kids to earn from the different booths if we can figure it out? You know like each car links together to make the train bracelet?


Two awesome beaver birthday cards came to me yesterday that I really need to share. Love the beaver strategy meeting especially.

beaver strategy meeting cutest

Ohhh and just in case you’re interested, here’s what I thought yesterday about turning 50.