Archive for the ‘Environmental’ Category

And beavers for all

Posted by heidi08 On October - 30 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Say what you want about my idiosyncratic reporting, but this has sure been ONE HELLUVA WEEK for beavers. This morning a retied librarian beaver friend sent this my way with best wishes. It was published online exactly two days ago.

Ecological engineering and aquatic connectivity: a new
perspective from beaver-modified wetlands


1. Habitat fragmentation and wetland loss due to anthropogenic causes are usually attributed to physical modifications of the environment; however, the loss of key species can compound these impacts and further reduce the connectivity of aquatic ecosystems.
2. Ecosystem engineers can play a critical role in modifying aquatic systems by altering the bed of ponds and streams, increasing water coverage and influencing biogeochemical processes within and adjacent to freshwater habitats. However, there is a paucity of research on how these organisms enhance connectivity among aquatic habitats, especially in otherwise isolated wetland systems.
3. In this study, we collected field data at natural and agriculturally impacted sites to quantify physical alterations to otherwise isolated, morainal wetlands modified by beavers, and to determine how these modifications might enhance connectivity. For finer-scale analysis, we collected and modelled bathymetric data for 16 wetlands, eight of which were occupied by beavers and eight abandoned by beavers.
4. We demonstrated that beavers actively increase the volume-to-surface area ratio of wetlands by almost 50% and that their digging of foraging channels increases average wetland perimeters by over 575%. Some channels were 200–300 m long, which enhanced the interface between the riparian zone and upland forests. A coarse estimate of soil displacement due to the digging of channels by beavers exceeded 22 300 m3 within the total 13 km2 natural area. Additional measures of wetland depth, basin complexity and basin circularity revealed other dramatic differences between wetlands with beavers and those without in both natural and agricultural landscapes.5. Exclusion or removal of beavers could limit ecosystem processes and resilience, especially in areas with otherwise isolated aquatic habitats and limited connectivity. Conversely, reintroduction of such an ecosystem engineer into areas targeted for restoration could result in significant increase in habitat heterogeneity and connectivity.

Keywords: beaver channels, Castor canadensis,

CaptureBefore we even launch into the article or the full awesomeness that is Glynnis, take a close look at this graphic showing the difference between beaver-present ponds and beaver-absent ponds. They differ in water carrying capacity by some 575%. No, seriously. Because you know Dr. Hood of the impeccable credentials and methods has had her graduate students meticulously measure and GPS it twice. Check out this quote from the discussion section.

The increase of wetted perimeter of morainal wetlands by more than 575% on average demonstrates the important role one species can play in patch dynamics, spatial connectivity and habitat creation.Complex configuration of these perimeters (Fig. 5)also increases within-pond habitat heterogeneity byincreasing shoreline complexity, cover for waterfowl(Nummi & Holopainen, 2014) and potential dispersal corridors for other species to upland and adjacentaquatic habitats (Anderson, 2013).

If there is a rock star of beaver research it is Glynnis Hood. She is thoughtful, observant, charismatic, research driven, and she loves beavers.  If I could be twenty years old again and a graduate student in ANY campus, I would pick the University of Alberta, sit in the front row, take notes in two colors and hang upon her every word.

High shoreline complexity is one of the most important factors for enhancing biodiversity in wetlands (Hansson et al., 2005). In our study, the influence of beavers on shoreline and basin complexity at the local (wetland-specific) scale was easily observed; however, this complexity was also readily apparent at the landscape scale. Beaver channels were used not only to link a wetland with its adjacent upland habitats; they also joined one wetland with another over 10s or in many cases 100s of metres. Those wetlands would similarly be joined through the same process over increasingly larger scales.

Go Glynnis go! Here’s my 2012 interview with her. Oh and this is my very favorite part of what is now my very favorite paper, proving the inherent inter-connectivity of all things:

Many of these beaver-modified wetlands (active ones in particular) had an outward appearance resembling neurons with dendritic extensions into the ‘tissue’ of the surrounding landscape (Figs 2 & 5). 

You want to know the funny thing about the word DENDRITE? (I mean besides the fact that mine are busy de-mylinating at an alarming rate.) The funny about the word Dendrite is that it comes from the word Dendron in Greek, which means “Tree”. “Dendritis” means tree-like in Greek. So those fractal neural connections in our brains were called Dendrites because of trees.

Which beavers eat.

“Made beavers” vs. “Beavers that have Got it Made”.

Posted by heidi08 On October - 21 - 2014Comments Off

I came across this video the other day and thought you might find interesting too. It’s a fairly concise description of the fur trade – well, one PART of the fur trade. Calling HBC the fur trade is like calling Shell the oil industry. Remember that there were many other companies all doing the same thing at once.

It’s amazing any survived at all. Lets not think any more about ‘Made Beavers”. Let’s think about “beavers that have got it made”.




Wonderments of the East Bay Celebrating 80 years of EBRP

 The East Bay Regional Parks abound in wonderments: animals, plants, sounds, geological formations, histories, and languages that stimulate our curiosity and expand our capacity for awe. In exquisite, lyrical essays, Sylvia Linsteadt and Malcolm Margolin—with help from their friends—revel in these wonderments.

Our complimentary copy arrived yesterday with 4 pages of the Martinez Beaver story. They declined to use Cheryl’s excellent photos (or my accurate writing, ahem) but gave a gallant tale of civic response and public interest. The story  puts Martinez in a community-building light and says we had people from all over coming just to see our beavers. I remain fairly picky about the details. (If you’ll remember the original chapter had said Martinez brought in a “Team of engineers” to fix the flooding problem and I was terrified everyone would think it was expensively hard work  saving beavers.) I managed to get that wording fixed, but sadly the chapter still said mom had three babies and we discovered the first ever tulle perch in Alhambra Creek, which makes me mortified that my name was dropped in the passage without a corresponding footnote saying, “Heidi never said this and didn’t write it.”

A reasonable woman would be content that it makes it clear that the beavers had a positive effect on our creek and grateful that they sent me a copy. I strive to be such a woman. I’m not worried about the idea of giving EBRP credit for our beavers, (since they’re on city land), because I crisply remember a lively conversation I had with park wizard Hulet Hornbeck before he died, where he told me that they had been working for 50 years to clean up the Marina so that the arrival of the beavers would even be possible. And since he was wise enough to see the beaver family as a compliment,  I heartily believed him.

It’s a very nice looking book and a trove of local treasures. I know you want to pick up your own copy  here, or wait for the silent auction!


Now you’ve done your history homework you deserve a treat. R.E. from Napa sent this yesterday and it’s very lovely. I won’t even bother telling you to enjoy it, because I know you will.

lorna and curtAnd finally a HUGE thanks to our friends at Safari West. My niece just got married in the Redwoods and since my wedding present to her had been an overnight stay at our favorite wilderness adventure in the wine country, they made sure she and her new hubby had an awesome time. The highlight came  last night when Kimberly Robertson met the couple after their tour and dinner to take them for a tower feeding that left my well-spoken niece speechless.  Thanks so much Safari West for making so many people so happy, and don’t forget to remember them if you’re looking for the PERFECT special day for someone in your family!


Beaver Restoration means River Restoration

Posted by heidi08 On October - 17 - 2014Comments Off

West Coast Beaver evangelism coming to a state near you soon. Don’t miss the chance to hear about beaver restoration from the heavy weights whose research made this all sound possible. Hey, if you’re in California why not make a  Beaver vacation out of it? Stop in Weed for their full blast of wisdom then toodle up the coast for the 4th annual State of the Beaver Conference the following week! There could be an entire fortnight of beavers!

restore3Five interactive workshops focused on the use of beaver in aquatic restoration will be offered from January through April, 2015. Workshops are intended for land owners/managers, and restoration funders, reviewers, and practitioners who are actively involved in aquatic ecosystem restoration. There will be an opportunity to sign up as a peer reviewer of the draft Beaver Restoration Guidelines at each of the workshops, or request to be a reviewer by e-mailing

Locations and Dates:

• Everett, Washington, January 14th

• Portland, Oregon, January 21st and 22nd

• Weed, California, February 12th

• Juneau, Alaska, April 14th


Michael M. Pollock, Ph.D., Ecosystems Analyst, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Chris Jordan, Ph.D., Mathematical Ecologist, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Janine Castro, Ph.D., Geomorphologist, US Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries

Gregory Lewallen, Research Assistant, Portland State University

Mary Ann Schmidt, Director, Environmental Professional Program, Portland State University


Go here to register or here to download the flier and share with your friends.


Beavers Far and Wee

Posted by heidi08 On October - 14 - 2014Comments Off

Beaver fence aims to stop pathway flooding in Fish Creek

A beaver appears to be missing a paw from a trapping mishap in Fish Creek Provincial Park. (Ingham Nature Photography )

A beaver appears to be missing a paw from a trapping mishap in Fish Creek Provincial Park. (Ingham Nature Photography )

Calgary officials are trying out a new way to manage beavers that are causing problems in Fish Creek Provincial Park.

The rodents keep packing mud and logs against a culvert in a city-owned storm pond. If left, the dam would cause the pond to overflow and flood a popular pathway.

In the spring, the city’s water services department is going to install something called an exclusion fence — a trapezoid shaped fence made of wire that prevents the beavers from plugging the culvert.

The city used to deal with situations like this by trapping and killing the beavers, but it reviewed that policy after an incident in July. A beaver got caught in a trap, but didn’t die and was spotted struggling to free itself.

Fish Creek Park Beavers

The area in Fish Creek Provincial Park where city officials tried to trap and kill the beaver over concerns it would flood a bike path. (Carla Beynon/CBC)

Upset animal lovers launched a petition to stop trapping in the city. That prompted the review, which revealed that debris got caught in the trap, causing it to malfunction. Since then, the city has been working with the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals to come up with non-lethal alternatives.

“We want to go a different route so we don’t actually have to kill beavers,” said water services spokesman Randy Girling. “We don’t want to be known as killers or anything like that. We want to do the best we can for the wildlife in our parks.”

Hurray for Adrien and Fur-Bearer Defenders! They managed to convince the good folk of FCPP that it was better to try something new than claw their way out of any more bad press and public wrath. Adrien says it was hard, hard work. Like pushing a grand piano through a transom. But they persevered and were granted permission to install a beaver deceiver  now. Gosh, I’m so old I can remember when Adrien installed his first leveler!

Sniff, they grow up so fast.

Speaking of the long arm of beaver defenders, I got an invitation this morning to present at the San Pedro Valley Park in Pacifica on beavers. A month after I’ll be talking in Auburn. That’s 133 miles apart for beaver defense. 1670 if you count Utah and Oregon. And Cheryl just visited Big Break in Brentwood where she snapped these videos of our work at the visitors venter!

Pretty cool to be long-range beaver preachers!

Adventures with Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On October - 11 - 2014Comments Off

More beaver intrigue from Rick Marsi:

Beaver lodge visits make waders required attire

Put on your long johns and waders. We’re going over to the biggest beaver pond around to see what we can see.

 The pond consists of a tangled mass of small willows and alders, flooded to a level of 3 or 4 feet. Near its center, where the beaver lodge is located, the water becomes deeper and relatively uncluttered.

 As we approach the pond through this stand of trembling aspen, don’t be surprised if a woodcock flies up in front of us. The poplar-lined stream banks beavers choose for pond sites also provide prime habitat for woodcock.

 Look at the size of this aspen the beavers have just cut down. It must measure 12 inches in diameter. Beavers won’t inhabit an area that doesn’t offer abundant soft wood trees such as aspen and willow. A tree this size is an easy night’s work for the beaver’s four chisel-shaped incisors.

 We’ll follow this well-worn path down to the pond. Beavers use this route for dragging freshly cut branches to the water. These paths usually lead to fairly open channels that emanate from the lodge and provide beavers with a waterway system that penetrates the most tangled sections of the pond. Hopefully, this channel won’t run too deep, and we’ll be able to follow it to the lodge.

 As we move through dark water, walk slowly and quietly. Test your footing before each step. The pond is loaded with submerged tree branches and muddy drop-offs.

Beavers have added fresh mud and sticks to it in recent days. They’re insulating for winter. Note all the branches they’ve buried underwater to provide an adequate winter food supply. When the pond is frozen, beavers will dive out of an underwater lodge exit to access the branches. Once dragged back to the lodge, each branch will be twirled about by front paws, while its soft outer bark gets eaten like corn on the cob.

Now that’s a fun read. The title gripped me with terror that they were working there way IN the lodge, but the actual column is just  delightful appreciation. It talks about wildlife at the pond, and the varied pond floor which we know means bug variation. And he doesn’t bother the beavers, which is perfect etiquette in my book.

We should take our leave before darkness falls. A northwest wind and chilly water have got me shivering. I wanted you to see this place before ice entombed it, so you’ll be able to come back on your own next spring.

Fun ad this morning for a new notebook. See if you can spot the most impressive photo-shopped image:

And the Yakima outrage from yesterday gets better [worse]. Leonard Houston sent a note this morning pointing out that the beaver left behind had an ear tag. That means they know all about this abandoned soldier. They know his number and they know he didn’t make it into the mothership for rescue.

They just couldn’t be bothered.

closerOr I suppose the kindest possible interpretation is that the beavers they relocated weren’t tagged. And this is one relocating himself into vacated lodge the very next day. Which, come to think of it, is as good as an explanation of why getting rid of beavers doesn’t solve problems as I can think of.


Triumph at Taylor Creek

Posted by heidi08 On October - 1 - 20143 COMMENTS

sierra wildlifeGreat news from Taylor creek in Tahoe which has been the site of the most glacial-paced evolution in beaver management. I can’t tell you how many folks have been hard at work advocating the use of flow devices, but Sherry and Ted have been at the forefront every step of the way. They finally got the go-ahead to install a leveler in the side channel a while back, and since that was so successful they were recently given the go ahead on the main channel. I’ll let Sherry tell you about it herself.

The US Forest Service, pleased with the success of the Leveler installed by SWC as a “research project” on a small beaver dam on a man-made side channel at Taylor Creek, has asked SWC to also install Levelers on the main channel! The first Leveler kept water from saturating a meadow and running onto a trail that crossed the meadow. They requested that we install a Leveler on a beaver dam and pond some distance downstream from their Stream Profile Display, again in order to avoid any flooding on trails (and beaches where visitors watch the Kokanee Salmon spawning). Fish & Wildlife will be increasing flows in Taylor Creek this week, in order to let Kokanee salmon begin their fall spawning. The new Leveler on the main creek successfully kept the lower beaver dam at a level the Forest Service likes when flows were increased for one day last week. We look forward to installing another Leveler on the main creek channel at the beaver dam that is near the FS Display, to prevent any flooding of the trails and display, and, more importantly to prevent the Forest Service from tearing out this beaver dam, as they did last winter and years past. That was SWC’s major goal (and it only took 2+ years).

 Also the FS is actually asking F&G to do as little ‘notching’ of beaver dams as possible, and to wait and see if fish can actually cross the beaver dams on their own – we’ll see if that really happens. (Plenty of fish managed to cross the beaver dams last fall during the government shutdown, when nobody could be taking out dams.)

 Too much information, I’m sure, but thanks so much for all your posts. The last 2 photos were taken yesterday, 9-29 (Leveler installed Wed. the 24th) – the Leveler at noon, in the full sun you can see everything. (This is off the trails, where most people won’t see it at all.) And the main beaver dam upstream – you can see how low the water is now (and would be naturally – they’re raising it tomorrow for the fish).

And again, a huge thank you for your donation, all of which we’ll be using for this!!


Congratulations Sherry and Ted on a monumental job well done! As always, it turns out that fixing the problem is fairly straightforward, it’s changing those minds that’s hard, hard work! You did outstanding on both accounts, and the beavers thank you!

Taylor Creek for Beavers Hands (Medium)

Taylor Creek for Beavers Hands: Haerr

Wondrously familiar

Posted by heidi08 On September - 28 - 2014Comments Off

This is what two mostly damp beaver advocates look like at a Utah festival, On the left is Mary Obrien of the Grand Canyon trust, and on the right is me looking dazed to be sitting at the first booth at the Utah festival where a bright young college student tells you to take a treasure hunt and find the 5 ways that beavers help wildlife. Then come back wih your card filled out, paint a tail, and decorate a beaver-shaped gingerbread cookie!

It was raining the first time I gave my talk indoors at the nature center. So there were lots of folks who wanted to be dry and listen. Thank goodness it stopped soon and folks turned up anyway.  At one point I sat by the pond and gave an interview to their tech crew about our experience, the student asking the questions was actually from Danville! Later we went down to the festival proper where we heard about one little boy who had had gotten the notice at school but his mom said “I’m sure it was probably cancelled with the storm”. He convinced her when he somberly said, “But we have to go check“.

Just in case you think I was exaggerating about the storm, the big empty stone-lined waterway around the nature center was RUSHING with muddy water that day. We were told that it probably rains 2 days a year in St. George and that summer temperatures commonly reach 115.

One great idea we want to try at home was a beaver lodge the children made – with the orignal frame of a dome tent covered with willow that kids added branches to to make a beaver house. They were running in and out hiding from ‘otters’ later in the day. Mary had also boldly invited the trappers association who displayed pelts for the children to feel. One surprising trapper commented, “People just don’t realize how good beavers are for streams and wildlife”. Which might have blown my mind if I was not already through the looking glass.

I gave the talk again in the afternoon and then came back to the hotel while they cleaned up. That night Mary picked us up and brought us to their camp sight in Sand Hallow where 15 tents circled their giant field station horse trailer-with-sattrlite dish. The cooking crew made us an awesome dinner of jumbalaya which we ate in a giant circle under the stars. The looming clouds were on the opposite bank and kindly stayed away from us.


After dinner there was a single darting bat, a crescent moon, and looming stars overhead. The great arc of 21 young students of semester in the west introduced where they were from and their majors, then said the favorite part of their day. It was amazing to hear their stories and did you even know there were political majors like environmental politics or environmental humanities? Then  Mary asked me to say a little about the research we did on the historic prevalence papers. A huge gust of wind made my teeth chatter too much to talk anymore and fortunately caused the pages of ‘data’ to blow away so that everyone scrambled to retrieve it. Then we said our goodnights and thank you’s and dashed back to the car where Phil brought us back to the hotel.

This morning, Mary picks us up and brings us back to Cedar Springs, from where we will fly home tomorrow morning. The Whitman crew will head off for North for a 5 hour drive to their final camp, where they will end their journey and take finals before heading back to Walla Walla.

Dinner under the stars with tomorrows smart, talented environmental advocates was definitely the best part of the journey. But the woman who introduced herself at my talk as a docent from Yellowstone who does the beaver talks there was definitely a close second.

Then there was the child who explained he knew why beavers were important because (and I quote) “they make honey”