Archive for the ‘Environmental’ Category

‘Dome Sweet Dome’

Posted by heidi08 On January - 10 - 2017Comments Off on ‘Dome Sweet Dome’

The inside of a beaver lodge has captured the fancies of folks from Lewis Carol to Ian Timothy! I have been interested in art describing this because we’re thinking about doing some over/under art for our activity this festival. I thought I would show you some of my favorites so far.


Greg Newbold Art

Greg Newbold is an illustrator in Salt Lake City Utah who created this wonderful glimpse of the inside of a beaver lodge.  The colors are amazing, but even his sketch for the finished piece is pretty great. I particularly like the adorable young inhabitants inside. On his website “Life needs Art” he says about this,

I just finished up this one for an educational publisher. It’s fun to dig into details on something like this and create a feeling of reality even though this view is impossible to see in nature. I enjoyed the challenge of making the submerged portion of the beaver abode look like it was underwater which I achieved by shifting colors and values to reflect the effects of the water. Once again this is rendered in Photoshop over a graphite drawing. Size is 16″ x 11″ at 400 dpi. This one will print in the student edition as well as an oversize teacher edition to be used in group reading.

Fantastic job, Greg.  I love watching the family members swim home. Let’s just hope the book says in HUGE red LETTERS This is NOT a beaver dam. Because some people really need help telling them apart, apparently.

I did find a couple illustrations that shows the lodge, the dam, and the important food cache. This is from Miles Kelly publishing.

Or this nice peek from M.H. Peterson, although I’m not sure what that hole is at the base of the lodge. A place to turn around?

And that fun one in the snow from the Adirondack book I posted earlier this week by Mike Storey:


And of course there are a few fanciful ones that just grab our imagination. I came across this last year from an illustrator who’s name escapes me. I know it was a  female and I didn’t find it with the usual suspects looking for ‘interiors’ or ‘inside’ lodge. I will keep trying, because she deserves credit for this wonderful work. Aren’t the colors lovely?


I came across this yesterday and fell in love all over again. It is a watercolor by artist Jodi Lynn Burton of Detroit Michigan.

Get ready for some awesome inside artwork this summer I think!

Underneath that lodge so snowy white!

Posted by heidi08 On January - 7 - 2017Comments Off on Underneath that lodge so snowy white!

We’ve learned to appreciate friends where we find them. It’s not every day that we hear positive things about beavers from Illinois.
WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois
I’m guessing that’s a personal best for the prairie state, who isn’t always ready to share with their furry flat-tailed friends. Great work, wildlife biologist Andy Stetter,

People seem to appreciate beavers in winter, I guess because when you’re outside in the snow its something to look at. Here’s more fine writing from Mary Willson in Juneau.

On the Trails: One thing leads to another

As we pondered the floating skunk cabbage, we noted a pile of sticks, just a little way down the shoreline. We quickly saw that this was a winter cache made by beavers — sticks neatly cut and stacked. The cache held branches and twigs of several species: lots of rusty menziesia, some alder and blueberry and a few hemlock branches. An unusual assortment, in my experience. When they can get them, beavers really like cottonwood and willows, but these were not available in this area.

Cross section of lodge and dam: Mike Storey

beaver reaching snow

Reaching for food: John Warner

If there is a cache, there should be a beaver lodge nearby. But we could find no conventional lodge built of a mound of sticks and mud. Maybe these beavers lived in a bank burrow, under the roots of a big spruce tree. The beavers had built a small dam a short distance downstream of the cache. By raising the water level, they would keep the entrance to their living quarters underwater, protecting their “doorway.”

As we meandered along upstream, after our detour, we began to note the stubs of cut-off shrubs in several areas. These cuts, and those on the cached sticks, looked quite fresh. Soon we saw several narrow trails running from the creek-edge up into the woods, where there were more cut stubs. A few cut branches had been left along the trails, perhaps to be hauled later to the cache. Some of these trails had been made after a snowfall, and there were dollops of mud and footprints as evidence of recent use. Beavers had used some of these trails repeatedly, so they were well trampled. But we could find a number of clear footprints of beavers’ hind feet. And otters had used the trails, too.

beaver and kits in snow

Kits in snow: John Warner

These signs obviously meant that the beavers had been active outside of their winter quarters, even though they had a cache. This is known to happen, but usually beavers spend the winter months snug in their houses, the adults living partly off stored body fat, and the young ones, still growing, feeding on the cache. If you stand, very quietly, close to a beaver lodge, you may hear the family members talking to each other, murmuring and chuckling.

I’ve been beaver blessed in so many ways, and able to hear endless beaver voices discussing the quality of cottonwood and who found it first, but one thing I deeply envy is this: listening to their voices in the lodge under snow, and seeing steam rise from the opening in the top. If I got to have one beaver wish, (I mean besides safety for all beavers and recognition of their value on a national level, and new kits born in our creek this summer, besides all those wishes) that would be it. Thanks Dr, Willson for describing it.

Beaver steps in the right direction

Posted by heidi08 On January - 4 - 2017Comments Off on Beaver steps in the right direction

The NH ‘beaver trapping as a last resort’ law discussion yesterday generated all kinds of fallout. First the usual trolls who commented on the article that “Voices of Wildlife weren’t really conservationists because they were vegan” (?). Second, some local interest by a certain pro-beaver politician that I happen to know  and made sure the article crossed his path. He thought it was pretty interesting and sent me the beavers in Marin article, whose author I then introduced him too. The two swapped strategies for reintroduction And kicked around that crazy legislation in NH. Beaver matchmaker! Nothing may happen but connections were made.

(It was my very best moment of 2017 so far, I can tell you.)

In other news this smart article came out yesterday, but I thought New Hampshire took precedence. It is by photographer Peter Cairns for the Rewildling Europe website.


Glen Affric is one area in the Scottish Highlands that has been extensively rewilded in recent decades.

Glen Affric is one area in the Scottish Highlands that has been extensively rewilded in recent decades. Peter Cairns / SCOTLAND: The Big Picture

The Scottish Highlands, an area covering around half of the country, is a rugged region of wild mountain and moorland and supports a population of just 350,000, or roughly 8 people per With on-going depopulation of the more remote Highland areas, the fragility of some rural communities is ever-present. You might imagine therefore that rewilding, with all the ecological, social and economic benefits it can bring, would be seen as a platform for reinvention; a springboard for rural revitalisation; an opportunity to be grabbed by both hands. You’d be wrong and the tortuous debate over returning beavers to Scotland, offers a clue as to why.

Consider this list of countries: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine. Each of these nations – most much more crowded and industrialised than the Scottish Highlands – has got on with the research, got on with the trials and got on with returning beavers to their landscapes. Germany now has 30,000 beavers. France 15,000. Here in Scotland, after 20 years of debate and a £2m five-year trial, the Government has recently finally approved beavers as a native species and allowed those few animals that exist here to remain.

So why has it taken so long to get beavers back and why, in many circles, is rewilding viewed with such suspicion? Scotland with its near-natural river systems and chains of freshwater lochs is perfect for beavers and yet the process of restoring them has been laboured. The reason, in my view, has very little to do with beavers.

Whilst the ecological case for rewilding is beyond debate in a country that has been burned and bitten to a frail shadow of its former self, resistance to rewilding – and beavers – comes from the threat of change. People don’t like change; especially when that change is perceived to be forcefully imposed. The strong Highland traditions of deer stalking, grouse shooting and crofting have created a barren landscape, bereft of the biotic communities that once kept it alive. Many traditionalists would argue that this landscape should not only be conserved but celebrated; that the Highlands aren’t broken so why try fixing them?

This entrenched perspective is entrenched further by the notion that the “establishment” – those public sector academics and administrators who understand little of rural life – is forcing its will on communities that see no justification for change. The arrival of beavers is perceived as the tip of the iceberg and what next? Wolves? The media in its constant quest for conflict and sensationalism is quick to re-enforce that narrative and further alienate an already sceptical audience.

I’m always interested in the discussion of psychological motives behind beaver resistance but I actually think he’s making a 500 year old mistake here. He thinks resistance to the idea of beavers comes because they have been absent so long and people are afraid of change. Let me tell you, as woman who has researched beaver resistance fairly thoroughly for a decade, it has nothing to do with the amount of time they’ve been missing. People are afraid of beavers whether it’s been five minutes, five years, or five hundred years.

Trust me.

captureBeavers are now going about their watery business for the first time in 400 years and given time, will become part of Scotland’s landscape. For those of us wedded to the vision of a wilder Scotland with more life – human as well as non-human – we have to accept that change is never easy. Returning beavers to the wider Scottish landscape requires the winning of hearts and the unlocking of minds, showcasing successes and learning from mistakes. That can be a slow and frustrating process but further “dewilding” is surely not an option? We cannot carry on losing species and habitats, disrupting natural processes, contributing to an acceleration in climate change and hoping that the fortunes of fragile rural economies will miraculously turn around? The road ahead for the Scottish Highlands remains uncertain but without rewilding, that road will ultimately lead to a dead end.

I have tremendous respect for the rewildling movement and think it represents what is best about our wish to live a more natural life. But whether or not it has any hold on a nation I think beavers should be reintroduced to Scotland. Period. Lynx or no lynx. Beavers are more important than rewilding. In a world where clean water is a premium and biodiversity is on a constant downward spiral, beavers matter more than just about anything I can think of.

Except bees.

Feisty Beaver Firsts

Posted by heidi08 On January - 3 - 2017Comments Off on Feisty Beaver Firsts

Let 2017 be a year of firsts. Our wildlife friends in New Hampshire worked on a bill to make beaver depredation a last resort. They asked me to weigh in on language and used Cheryl’s adorable kit photo for the petition. As far as I know this is the ONLY state where ‘last resort’ has ever even been considered.

Blackberries, beavers and plastic bags: Taking a look at some bills for 2017

Rep. Carolyn Matthews, R-Raymond, wants to boost the protections for beavers in state law. She explained that Voices for Wildlife, a conservation organization, asked her to sponsor a measure that would make killing the animals “a solution of last resort.”

“Right now, anybody, in order to prevent damage to their property, can have a beaver trapped and killed,” she said. “And the group wants to really rearrange the emphasis in the existing law so that people take an honest look at other options before jumping right to destroying the beaver.”

Matthews said her town has had success using dam flow devices to manage beaver ponds.

This is momentous and we should all be extremely grateful to Rep Matthews for carving the way. She’s a new republican in the house. The reference to flow devices is referring to Art Wolinsky’s wonderful work!  I can’t really imagine that this will pass, but I want this law considered and discussed in five more states next year. And five more the year after that. Obviously what this article doesn’t say is that the reason to try something else before you trap beavers is that it makes a huge difference to your state’s waterways, fish and wildlife. Removing beaver is like an amputation. The law is asking you to try first to save the leg.

That sounds pretty reasonable to me.


More firsts. This takes up a lot of space and it should. Because it took a lot of space in my brain to finish. This is our one and only newsletter celebrating our decade (yes decade!) of beavers in Martinez. I will be printing some too. It is wonderful that we get to read some other voices in here, so be sure to read Fro and Jon’s column and Cheryl’s interview. But the very best part are the quotes in the left margin which I am beyond grateful for, so make sure you use the slider at the top to zoom in on those. Thank you to everyone who helped get us here, and to Jane Kobres who painstakingly edited my gibberish with enormous patience. Give it a second to load and then click once to make it full screen. I am really pleased with this.

Leeks for beavers!

Posted by heidi08 On January - 2 - 2017Comments Off on Leeks for beavers!

HA! I thought beavers stopped leaks. Ba-dum-dump. Well wales is next in line and they’re feeling optimistic.

Beavers could be reintroduced to Wales after centuries’ absence

Beavers could return to Wales for the first time in hundreds of years, after being successfully reintroduced in other parts of the UK.

Wildlife experts are submitting a licence application to release 10 beavers in the south of the country and hope the reintroduction could begin this year.

The Scottish government recently decided to list beavers as a protected species after a successful trial reintroduced the animals into the wild, and a pair were also released on the Otter river in Devon in May.

In England, beaver numbers on the Otter have increased, with two established pairs producing offspring, or kits. One female produced five kits, well above the average of three, the programme’s manager, Mark Elliot, said.

A new male and female released on the Otter in May to increase the genetic diversity of England’s only wild beaver population have also settled in well, he said.

“They have been very visible, people have been able to watch them. We’ve had a lot of people down here beaver watching in the summer,” Elliott said.

“That’s been benefiting the local pubs and B&Bs, and people are talking about ‘beaver tourism’, which is really encouraging.”

Alicia Leow-Dyke, the Welsh beaver project officer for the Wildlife Trusts Wales, said there would now be a public consultation. A first application was made to Natural Resources Wales a year ago.

This is why wise mothers never give one of their children a cookie. Because pretty soon they’ll all want one. Wales  is only asking what Scotland and Devon have asked before them. They will be presenting at the beaver conference next month and has been doing their homework studiously.  One thing I will truly miss once every British commonwealth successfully gets beavers, is reading articles like this in a large international papers:

Leow-Dyke said there was evidence from Europe that beavers’ negative impacts could be managed and the scheme would have a net benefit.

The enjoyment factor of seeing the creatures in the wild and easy-to-spot field signs of their presence could be used to encourage children to explore the natural world, she said.

Liz Halliwell, a mammal ecologist at Natural Resources Wales, said beavers were once part of the country’s native wildlife and could create rich and varied habitats that made the environment stronger and healthier.

And trust me, when you read a sentence like ‘observable beaver sign can be educational to children’ you better dam well believe that our work in Martinez has been visible around the world. And I’m not being an ego maniac. Simon Jones was in charge of the Scottish beaver trial and made friends after he saw the video of our kids ‘reintroducing beavers’ in the country at the 2009 festival. And the Devon and Wales beavers learned from him and from Derek Gow who was at the last conference and is a friend of our work.

It’s a beaver club, trust me. And you want in.


Posted by heidi08 On January - 1 - 2017Comments Off on Marin-topia?

I don’t dust off the Star Wars regalia for just any good beaver article. It’s reserved for very special ‘it’s-about-fricking-time’ occasions. But oh-boy  this is one of them. Let’s all assume it’s the best possible omen for 2017 and set our phasers to ‘savor’. The author is Gerald Meral, who was the top water advisor for the governor of California until he retired at the end of 2013. Which means he knows everyone and everyone knows him. He’s currently working with the Natural Heritage Institute. I’m just printing the entire article because you need to read it all. Trust me.

Time to bring beavers back to Marin

Here’s a pop quiz about beavers. Which Northern California counties don’t have any beavers? Answer: San Francisco (no surprise), Santa Cruz and Marin. Every other Northern California county has a thriving beaver population.

Beavers are a cornerstone environmental species. These hardworking aquatic engineers build dams in streams, and those dams perform environmental miracles. By storing water they recharge groundwater, preparing the region for droughts. The ponds are vital rearing habitat for coho salmon, steelhead and other fish species. The adult fish easily pass over the beaver dams on their way upstream from the ocean. Beaver ponds promote the growth of riparian (streamside) vegetation, creating habitat for native birds and other wildlife.

Beavers were present in Marin County prior to European arrival, but were wiped out by hunters and trappers. In the 1940s the California Department of Fish and Game (now the Department of Fish and Wildlife) relocated some beavers to Glenbrook Creek on the Point Reyes Peninsula in a progressive attempt at ecosystem restoration, but the transplant did not take.

Beavers can cause problems. Their dams can flood infrastructure like roads. They can also build dams at inappropriate places along creeks, blocking important water diversions. And of course they cut down small trees along the streams, sometimes to the dismay of nearby property owners.

But there are many modern techniques available to manage beaver populations.

Using recordings of the sound of running water, beavers can be induced to build their dams where they will do no harm, and create beneficial habitat. Careful placement of structures in streams can guide beavers to build where it will do the most good.

As the beavers multiply and colonize new areas, they can be carefully managed. If they get into stream segments where they might cause problems, they can be trapped and relocated.

Farmers sometimes are concerned about beavers impacting streams on their farms. Fortunately in Marin County, beaver dams are likely to improve local surface and groundwater supplies on our relatively small streams, improving water supply for agriculture. Beavers are not an endangered species, so their introduction will not add any new regulations, often a concern for farmers.

So why haven’t beavers been re-introduced to Marin County by now? State Sen. Peter Behr was rebuffed by the Department of Fish and Game in the 1970s when he sought to bring back beavers.

At that time, the department was mainly concerned about problems beavers might cause landowners. Today, the department recognizes the many benefits beavers bring, but still fears criticism and possible liability if they move beavers.

The answer is to allow the Marin County Board of Supervisors to have the authority to relocate beavers to our county. Landowners in the relocation area would be carefully consulted, and a plan of relocation and management would have to be adopted. The goal should be to benefit coho salmon and steelhead, species which are greatly threatened in our county.

Reintroduction would be coordinated with the Resource Conservation District, Marin Municipal Water District and other interested agencies and nonprofits. Legislation to allow Marin County the right to bring back the beavers should be introduced and passed as quickly as possible. The beavers want to come home to Marin.

Jerry Meral of Inverness is the director of the California Water Program for the Natural Heritage Institute.

Whoohooohoo! If there is EVER going to be legislation that allows beaver reintroduction it’s going to be from Marin. They have enough lawyers and enough land and enough money: they will get this done, mark my words. Jerry got his info about beaver population from Eli Asarian’s beaver map, which isn’t exactly time sensitive – but it’s a good general indication. Here is our county map of places that didn’t need depredation permits last year, which I think is a better clue about where beavers aren’t right now.


I really appreciate his look at history for this article. I didn’t know about Peter Behr and will find more. I’m not wild about his saying that beavers can be controlled by the sound of running water and when I mentioned this he explained it was from Jari’s documentary (Michel LeClair).  In general we find better success with flow devices and beaver dam analogs  (BDAs) because beavers like to build where it’s easy. But we’re pretty happy with this article. It’s an awesome way to start the year.

Speaking of awesome ways to start the year, a dozen beaver champions are coming tonight to welcome 2017 with four courses of homemade ravioli’s and beaver shortbread cookies. Everything is ready but the boiling water. We’ll make sure to toast Marin especially. Happy New Year!15826529_10208483818679264_2995351526848242752_n


Beaver wise and beaver foolish

Posted by heidi08 On December - 30 - 2016Comments Off on Beaver wise and beaver foolish

Click to watch News Story

Beavers cause Flooding concerns in Reno: Residents can’t get help.

Leave it to beavers. The critters are causing some Reno residents to worry about flooding. And there’s little that can be done about it.

Lindie Mitchell bought her house along Steamboat Creek, on the south side of Reno four-and-a-half years ago. The water that is just a few yards from her house helped convince her to buy the house.

It was a small tiny little creek,” she said.

But now the stream is much wider and pools in places, including right next to Mitchell’s house. She said several beavers built dams and changed the water flow. Debris is now backing up behind the dams.

“It’s very fast and rapid. It flows over the beaver dam and it’s frightening. It’s rising and rising and rising every time, a little bit more,” Mitchell said.

When there’s a strong runoff, water flattens vegetation on the banks. Mitchell is scared one time the water will flood her property or her house that sits without a foundation. Mitchell said she’s tried to get rid of the dams herself.

“We try to pull it out and they just build it up within 24 hours,” she said.

Gosh darn it was just a tiny creek with birds in Reno. Why did those beavers have to come and make it wider? Now it probably won’t even dry up in the summer. Stupid beavers. Saving water with no thought for unreasonable homeowner panic. Given her worries we’re surprised by nothing in this article but THIS:

Jessica Heitt, the Nevada Department of Wildlife Urban Wildlife Coordinator, said the only option to remove beavers is to hire a professional to trap them. It’s open season from Oct. 1 through April 30.

“If it’s outside of the season they have to apply for a depredation permit,” Heitt said.

“We would usually go out and investigate the area and go and make sure there’s a significant amount of damage before we ever issue a permit.”

Can that possibly be true? Did Jessica make a mistake? Does Napa REALLY send a NDOW worker out to see whether a depredation permit is warranted? How oh how did that policy get started and when can California adopt it please? I’m pretty sure all you have to do to get a depredation permit in California is check a box or pick up the phone. Could nevada really go out for every request?

Well, there are probably less requests with fewer beavers/people and more trapping in the state. Maybe they only get asked to depredate a few beavers a year. Imagine if California Fish and Wildlife went out for all 800 requests to depredate beavers it receives every year. They’d never have time to issue fishing permits and shoot coyotes!

Let’s have a little good news closer to home, shall we?

Seldom seen visitors return to Napa River waterways

The bounty of rain we have received this fall and early winter has opened the door to some wonderful displays of wildlife in the Napa River and Upvalley tributaries.

During my visits to favorite haunts along the river between Yountville and St. Helena as well as Sulphur and York Creeks and even Garnett Creek in Calistoga, I have had the good fortune to witness the return of both the North American beaver and Chinook salmon.

Before the heavier flows began in the main stem of the Napa River, beavers had built a dam a ways north of the Pope Street bridge to provide some deeper water to protect themselves from predators and to cache food. They had yet to construct one of their lodges before the early rains began to dismantle their dam, so there is no longer any visual evidence of their presence other than some cropped vegetation along the bank with chisel-like teeth marks.

Generally, biologists and ecologists consider beaver building activity a positive sign of a waterway’s health, as their dams remove sediments and pollutants as well as enhance habitat for fish and other aquatic resources. Some uninformed folks believe that beaver dams will cause flooding and want to prevent colonization, but in rivers like the Napa that flows through St. Helena, winter flows quickly breach the dams (compare the Oct. 23 and Nov. 21 photos). If we are lucky, they will grace us with a resumption of their amazing industry and engineering skills in spring when conditions favor their return.

No less surprising than finding beavers in my figurative back yard was this year’s surge of Chinook salmon into Sulphur Creek and other tributary streams.

It’s no coincidence that you’re seeing beavers and chinook in your waterways all of a sudden. In fact if the documented and heavily researched importance of beavers to salmon didn’t exist, I doubt you’d be seeing either one. It’s because of the role beavers play for salmonids that anyone tolerates them in your county at all. Beaver dams increase invertebrates and leave safe places for juvenile salmonids to grow up. More beaver means more salmon. It’s that simple.

I am delighted that you are enjoying both their returns. Thanks for this article, Richard Seiferheld.