Archive for the ‘Environmental’ Category

Message Delivery

Posted by heidi08 On February - 27 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

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


Trapping vs Depredation

Posted by heidi08 On February - 23 - 20152 COMMENTS

Yesterday was a lovely day of post conference glow, but now it is monday and the ominous week awaits us all. There is never enough time to do all the things for beavers that we imagine. Yesterday I poured my free time into puzzling over the trapping records which were meticulously maintained since 1950. I got thinking about it listening to Mike Settell’s presentation about trapping in Idaho.

CaptureYou see, fur-bearer trappers have to report their take of species by county at the end of the season. And Fish and Game has been compiling these records back since 1950. They have to also indicate how many of the furs they sold and for what price. Over the years the very most lucrative fur has been muskrat, with a decade of interest in bobcat as well. Beaver prices have never been worth much, varying in price from a high of 21 in 1980 to a low of 4 in 1970.

If we were to take these beaver trapping records and plot them on a graph they would look like fairly steady slope downwards. There were 1686 beaver reported trapped the year I was born and only 60 last year. Now you might be thinking, wow that’s great! Less beaver killed! But you’d be wrong. Because while trapping has gone down, depredation has gone UP.

It is illegal to sell fur after depredation. And you can imagine that the rugged outdoorsy trapping has gone down as we’ve become more urbanized. Clearly the conflicts with landowners has gone up as we moved into every nook and cranny of wild space.Theoretically the two systems are independent and have different unredeeming qualities For example, there is no limit of ‘take’ on beaver so you could trap all you want. But there is a limit to ‘depredation’ and you can only kill what you have permission to remove.  However, when you trap there is at least some record of how many were killed because you need to report what you took and where it was from, whereas no one has to report their totals in beaver depredation at all. Trapping records, such as they are; are public and online. They are fairly comprehensively organized by county and species. Depredation permits are private, hard to access and cryptically maintained.

In fact, I would argue that depredation is the vast black hole into which our beaver resources are being poured today.They disappear and no one records the loss. Robin and I will be working on a spread sheet of the declining trapping business on beavers, but here is a little taste of the numbers.

CA trapping

You can see the pattern fairly clearly here. The big surprises for me were the numbers taken in specific counties. The year I was born  there were a whopping 96 beaver trapped in Contra Costa County. The 60 year record goes to Plumas county with 282 beaver trapped in 1955. Butte county is a consistent high water mark regardless of year, Stanislaus and Sacramento are high until depredation takes over.

The shocker to me came in the very first record for 1950. when it reports an impossible 182 beavers were trapped in Riverside county in Southern California. The arid region boasts .3 square miles of water. And zero depredation permits in our last accounting. There are minimal numbers of beavers all the years since. So where does this boom come from? I can only conclude it’s a data entry error. Riverside is right next to Plumas in the list, and Plumas often has large numbers. So that’s probably what happened.

Unless there was a beaver invasion in Southern California in the 50′s?



Talking about beavers

Posted by heidi08 On February - 15 - 2015Comments Off

Beaver-in-Knapdale_eating-c-Steve-Gardner-660x496Knapdale scientists to discuss beaver studies

People interested in hearing about studies of Knapdale’s famous beavers are being invited to attend an event in Argyll next week.

The beavers were released in May 2009 by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland on land managed by Forestry Commission Scotland as part of the five-year Scottish Beaver Trial.

And a series of independent scientific research projects were carried out into the effects of the beavers on the area during the trial, which finished in May of last year.

Dr Martin Gaywood, of Scottish Natural Heritage, who managed the independent scientific monitoring of the trial, said: “We’re keen to bring local people up-to-date on the studies that have been carried out over the last five years.

 “There are some interesting and quite surprising results and this is a one-off opportunity to hear about them from the scientists themselves

Don’t you wish you could be there? I love that they’re taking the results straight to the public and starting the conversation. Of course I and Derek Gow and Paul and Louise Ramsey can’t be there because we’ll be in Oregon presenting at the Beaver Conference! In fact I actually present on the same day! Do you know what that means? They’re 8 hours ahead so for an entire 16 hours over the span of 6000 miles the people will be talking and learning about beavers.More if you count the days before and after! The planet will hum with beavers!

Isn’t that awesome?

Beavers causing headaches for Berrien Co. residents

Bad news for beavers in Berriens county Georgia, which is just a little above Florida. Our retired librarian friend BK says the region is very flat, with lots of beaver problems. Apparently when they rip out one beaver dam the road gets flooded. Say, I’ve got an idea for them! (Don’t rip it out)

Some of you might remember that Berrien county is the home of the beaver-kill tail contest that upset me so much I sent a pack of children’s beaver drawings to the commissioners many years ago. They were from our very first Earth Day event. I even had a friend of a friend in the state send them so it would look like they were coming from constituents. It did no good at all but it made me feel better. Apparently they are still up to their old tricks.

Also there must be PLENTY of alligators to keep their beavers in check!, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Too bad that culvert fence isn’t a trapezoid- or fenced on bottom, because you know beavers will be incorporating it into their dam soon.

Now I thought yesterday there needed to be a better graphic for a beaver conference. And I’m happy with this one.

the gathering

Beaver maybe’s are better than no’s

Posted by heidi08 On February - 14 - 2015Comments Off

I guess beaver ambivalence in Massachusetts is a step forward?

New ‘neighbor’ sparks worry, excitement in Ponkapoag

A new neighbor has moved into the Ponkapoag section of Canton, and it’s either a reason for celebration or a cause for alarm — or possibly both.

In an email to the Mass. Water Resources Authority, Kodzis wrote, “It seems some beavers have done some work to plug up the brook and it is now flooding. My concern is that the flooding will get to a level where the new sewer access manholes will be covered with water. There also seems to be some erosion of the new access road as the brook has been redirected. I think it deserves a walk-through since beavers can be very destructive.”

“It was a privilege to have found it,” he said, “but I also realize that it does bring its problems.”

Yes, unlike humans, pets, and freeways, which never cause concern, beavers can bring problems. They’re completely unique in that way. And since you live in Massachusetts there couldn’t possibly be a company an hour away called Beaver Solutions. Because obviously, beaver problems can never be solved.  I guess we should be pleased that you were at least happy to be the one who found ‘it’.  It could be worse. You could be him.

Mark Thomas, another Ponkapoag resident and owner of a wildlife removal business, Baystate Wildlife Management Inc., was more matter-of-fact in his assessment of beavers in the neighborhood.

 “Beavers are bad news,” said Thomas, who recently spotted the beaver in question near the brook. “It’s cute and cool in the beginning, but then it really becomes bad pretty quickly.”

 In addition to the flooding problems, Thomas said beavers “kill all the trees” in the area and are generally more disruptive than they are beneficial — at least when they are located too close to human development.

 Thomas said that beavers, if allowed to remain, would be one more wildlife problems in a neighborhood that is already dealing with more than its share, including a recent infiltration of coyotes.

Mark sounds like a real wildlife lover doesn’t he? Like the Jane friggin’ Goodall of  Ponkapoag. Beavers are bad news!  I’m sure he misspoke, though, when he said beaver were bad news. Since he makes his living with wildlife removal, they must be GOOD news right? I mean, no one hires a company to get rid of a problem that doesn’t exist, right? If there was no bad news you’d never make your boat payment, right?

According to MassWildlife, “By damming streams and forming shallow ponds, beavers create wetlands. These wetlands provide habitat for a tremendous diversity of plants, invertebrates, and wildlife, such as deer, bats, otter, herons, waterfowl, songbirds, raptors, salamanders, turtles, frogs, and fish.”

 The state agency suggests that humans also benefit from beavers, as these new wetlands help to control downstream flooding, improve water quality, and can also recharge groundwater.

MassWildlife, for instance, suggests a number of nonlethal solutions to address human conflicts with beavers, including tolerance, fencing, dam removal, and water level control devices, or “beaver pipes,” which allows water to flow through a dam while remaining undetected by the beaver.

Talk about ending on a positive note! This is a reporter that really did his homework! Jay Turner talked to the doubtful, the opposition, and the advocates! And ended his thoughtful piece on a positive note. As a woman who has written about beaver news in almost 3000 columns, I can firmly attest that almost never happens. I’m a little hopeful for those beavers in Ponkapoag. Aren’t you?

As for Kodzis, the man who got to the bottom of this neighborhood mystery, he is still undecided about how he feels about beavers. Personally, he said they do not bother him “one way or the other,” although he acknowledges that their presence may impact some more than others.

Nevertheless, Kodzis finds it “amazing” that there is so much wildlife right in his backyard. “And if the beavers are going to be here,” he said, “then we have to learn how to live with them.”

How-to-live-with-beavesNow on another more pragmatic note, dentists have finally noticed that beaver teeth might turn out to be useful to human teeth!

Beavers Show Way to Improve Enamel

Beavers don’t brush their teeth, and they don’t drink fluoridated water, but a new study reports beavers do have protection against tooth decay built into the chemical structure of their teeth: iron.

This pigmented enamel, the researchers found, is both harder and more resistant to acid than regular enamel, including that treated with fluoride. This discovery is among others that could lead to a better understanding of human tooth decay, earlier detection of the disease and improving on current fluoride treatments.

Layers of well-ordered, carbonated hydroxylapatite “nanowires” are the core structure of enamel. The team led by Northwestern researcher Derk Joester, PhD, discovered in rodent teeth that it is the material surrounding the nanowires, where small amounts of an amorphous solid rich in iron and magnesium are located, that controls enamel’s acid resistance and mechanical properties.

Hmmm. It turns out a diet rich in iron is what makes beaver teeth stronger than human teeth. It also prevents tooth decay and happens to be what turns beaver teeth orange. Should we be expecting the classic Hollywood smile to be orange soon? The article ran with a nice, uncredited photo shown here. Based on that nose I’d say this was castor fiber. But I’m sure the enamel is the same.

5301452959_a064b64a7c_z Before I go let me wish all those beaver lovers out there a happy valentine’s day. There’s good evidence secondary dam is getting worked on so we’ll stop by under the stars to share our love with them. The primary dam is not getting worked on, so we may have to have an official renaming ceremony soon.

Beaver Art, Craft and Vandalism

Posted by heidi08 On February - 13 - 2015Comments Off

Ohhh whew. Thank goodness the heroes at Trout Unlimited got rid of those pesky cheerleaders just in time for the football team to arrive at the party. You know how much they hate hanging out with each other.

Capture1Tell me when fishermen are going to stop removing beaver dams as if they were water condoms, blocking the creek’s manly flows? I was alerted to this article from Joe Wheaton who was alerted by Chris Jordan of NOAA, so you know much smarter minds are trying to change this stubborn behavior. Apparently with little success in our middle states.

Much better article this morning from Manila of all places…

 Beavers, ecosystem engineers

Previously their dams are obliterated by dynamite and bulldozers because of causing flooding, but now they are becoming respected as a defense against the withering effects of a warmer and drier climate. They raise the water table alongside a stream, aiding the growth of trees and plants that stabilize the banks and prevent erosion. They improve fish and wildlife habitat and promote new rich soil. And most importantly beaver dams do what all dams do: hold back water that would otherwise drain away.

The beaver is famed for its industriousness and its building skills. Beavers burrow in the banks of rivers and lakes. But they also transform less suitable habitats by building dams. As a family moves into new territory, the beavers drop a large tree across a stream to begin a new dam, which creates a pond for their home called lodge. They cover it with sticks, mud and stones. As the water level rises behind the dam, it submerges the entrance to their lodge, which makes entry nearly impossible for any other animal. By constructing dams they create wetlands – lush environment which host a variety of animals, fish, birds, frogs and other creatures.

And why is it that people in the Philippines know why we should coexist with beaver but people in North America don’t? Well, I guess we should just be grateful and not speculate on whether it’s easier to admire beavers when you don’t actually have to deal with them plugging your culverts.

This morning I heard from Suzanne Fouty that she is coming to the state of the beaver conference and looking forward to my talk! I’m so excited! She said she was coming in 2011 but got tied up with another job. Then said 2013 but that didn’t work. Then she and Jari Osborne of the beaver documentary talked about coming to the beaver festival last year and that didn’t work out either.  Fingers crossed she and I will finally get to meet in person in five days time! In this clip she’s carrying the  backpack on the right.

Finally a smile sent by Rusty from Napa, whom you should all be getting ready to welcome because he’s taking over website duties while I’m in Oregon. (Thank you very much!) Now I would find this comic very witty IF I hadn’t already seen Dad beaver personally do that when kits brought wood to the dam. He’d let them enthusiastically stick it in any which way, appear to approve, watch them swim away and then very quietly move it to the proper place.  :-)



Great people do great things for beavers!

Posted by heidi08 On February - 10 - 2015Comments Off


Need something beavery to do tomorrow morning? There’s still time to sign up for Joe Wheaton’s webinar on Beavers and Climate Change. Offered in combination with the Grand Canyon Trust and Utah State University, you know I’ll be there and it will be a dam good time!

Beaver and Climate Change: Free Webinar

They are the West’s most savvy water engineers. Here on the Colorado Plateau, ground zero for climate change, we humans have a lot to learn from these furry creatures.

What Can Beaver Teach Us About Adapting to Climate Change and Building More Resilient Systems?

FREE WEBINAR February 11, 2015 10 -11 a.m. MST

 Utah State University fluvial geomorphologist Joe Wheaton studies rivers and the changes we humans – and beaver – bring to them. Joe and his colleagues observe, map, and document what happens when rivers are fortunate enough to have beaver, both here in the West and around the world.

 In this 1-hour webinar, Joe will share what he and others are learning from beaver, explain where and how their dams interact with climate change, and take your questions.

Go here to register, and pass it on!

Now it’s time for our awed thanks to our Martinez resident talent Amelia Hunter who has outdone herself yet again on the poster image for the 8th beaver festival. I don’t know  about you but that might be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Note mom’s tail. This is the first painted image of a beaver getting a tail ride on the entire internet. I’m expecting it to inspire a Canadian coin design next year.

 2015 oval

Original artwork by Amelia Hunter
New festival