Archive for the ‘Environmental’ Category

Beavers win all around!

Posted by heidi08 On August - 25 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

A local paper wrote about my Placer presentation. Based on his questions, I was worried the article would be all about mosquitoes but it turned out okay


– Heidi Perryman, of non-profit, Martinez-based Worth A Dam, spoke in favor of beaver dams, saying that with techniques like beaver-proof culvert protectors, communities and the large, toothy rodent can live peacefully together. Jack Sanchez, founder of Save American River Salmon and Steelhead, went so far as to say in introducing Perryman that there would be no need for dams like Shasta if beaver dams were allowed to proliferate and store water. Martinez now has a Beaver Festival every August to celebrate how the community has learned to accept a beaver population. About seven beavers make Martinez their home, on average.

I’m certain I said nothing about culverts in my meager 15 minutes. He must have drawn on his own experience with beaver problems? But okay.  The really exciting news is that someone from CDFG saw this post yesterday and wrote me about looking for folks interested in a beaver reintroduction program in the sierras and had some ideas about funding. I knew this was going to be a really popular idea with several major beaver players in the state so I sent out an email blast to make them aware. You won’t believe how quickly they responded. Fingers crossed the right folks will get together to get moving on this.

(Even though, based on the depredation permits we reviewed last year, they don’t need to relocate beavers so much as to just STOP TRAPPING the ones that are already there!)

Meanwhile TWO beaver books have been nominated for the  “Lane Anderson award for Canadian science writing“. Both are good friends of this website and I could NOT be happier for them or for beavers.

Both are wonderfully rich and detailed works that taught even ME something new about beavers. Winners will be announced in late September. May the best beaver book win!

It’s obviously the year of the beaver for our northern cousins, and the mountie story is just icing on the cake. Here’s a nice interview with the pretty thoughtful man whose action inspired a nation!

I love the part about wanting to give back to nature.His impluse created such a stir it even made the weather channel. No really.

Outlasting the Outliers

Posted by heidi08 On August - 24 - 20163 COMMENTS

I was never very good at math, but for some reason I really got statistics. (Unlike Jon who is excellent at math and dismal in is stats class. Go figure.)  That way of thinking about numbers just made sense to me. I could put the formulas together and analyze what came out. That said, I would be the first to admit that I remembered only what I needed to know to graduate and retained a chalk outline of the information in my brain once the dissertation was signed.  But it generally helps me read research better and understand what was being done.

What remains of the chalk outline tells me that regression analysis is something you do when you have a bunch of numbers you’re trying to tease out the most significant factor that makes them different from each other. Why do some kids drop out of college and others succeed? Is it money? IQ? Parental support? Social skills on campus? etc. And of course identifying the primary cause is important because you want to use that in making future decisions down the line. So when a friend of a friend in the field of social stats for medication offered to work with the county portion of our depredation stats I was very excited.

This is what he wrote at the time:

I used the square miles to predict the expected # of permits for each county, bases on the square miles of water.  Then I looked at the actual number of permits, and calculated a ratio of the two.  The data and graph are attached.regression analysis

You have one county that is clearly an outlier – Placer. This country issued almost 7 times as many permits as expected. 

So yesterday I spoke to the Board of Supervisors of the outliers in question. The county chambers were  high tech – there were four large wall screens and the entire meeting was streamed to Tahoe where it aired live with participants. There were two computer/media guys on hand to make sure everything ran smoothly and two women taking notes up front. The Commissioners filed into their seats on the dais and the meeting started a little after nine. There was an award for a stalwart Rosie the riveter airline mechanic who had worked for years and years at the historic society, and then several multi million dollar contracts were approved for snow plow equipment and police squad cars. You really got the impression that this was a county with discretionary funds.

And then there was me and beavers.

A CDFW supervisor from Tahoe introduced me and then Jack Sanchez from SARSAS added a nice introduction as well.

Heidi  has become the nation’s foremost beaver specialist as a result of a beaver family moving into Martinez Creek in front of a Starbuck’s and producing kits.  She started Worth A Dam and has spread the beneficial aspects of beavers in waterways worldwide.

Because Placer County allowed housing development too close to its waterways, an adversarial relationship has developed with beavers.  I believe if the English, Russians and beaver trappers had not exterminated beavers in Ca in 18th and 19th centuries, we would have no need for our Rim Dams, Shasta, Folsom and Oroville.

I present with great pleasure Dr. Heidi Perryman to talk about beavers.

My talk went as it was supposed to, and everything worked the way it was supposed to. The four screens displayed my slides which were also streamed in Tahoe, and even without video and 8 the last minute surprise I think the message really got across. When it was over several commissioners asked questions and repeated the phrase “Seven times more”  with horror. I really had the impression that the talk registered with them and left a mark. Vice chair Jennifer Montgomery even said she remembered our friends at the Sierra Wildlife Coalition in Tahoe saying something similar years ago when the beavers were killed at Kings Beach.

When I left the meeting I was followed out by the CDFW man who thanked me for an excellent presentation and talked about how they had made a mistake in Tahoe years ago because they didn’t understand and now knew better, and a reporter for the Auburn newspaper who wanted to talk about 7 times more and ask about mosquitoes. Jack and his wife came to say what a good presentation it was and so did one of is board members. They had already scheduled a private meeting tomorrow with one of the commissioners to follow up!

Honestly, we floated home feeling that we had really done something useful. I thought about Robin from Napa getting the PRA in first place so we could analyze the data, and Jon and I slogging through all those grizzly permits, and me writing my grad school friend in a panic about the data, and her asking her friend from Infometrics who generously donated his time and my meeting Jack when I presented at the salmon conference in Santa Barbara, and us all collaborating to prove that beaver belonged in the sierras, and I really felt like all the piano strings had pulled in just the right way to make this happen.

Afterwards Commissioner Jim Holmes sent me this very nice note.

Dear Dr. Perryman,  Thank you so much for your very informative presentation on Urban Beavers. It gave me a wonderful overall picture of the importance of beavers in our ecosystem.

The recorded meeting should be available soon, and in the meantime I am definitely very aware of the step they took forward and the role we played in making that happen. Sometimes I think what I like best of all about this beaver chapter of my life is the self-guiding interdependence of it – weaving the help of friends into a creation of my own imagining without anyone telling me what I should do and letting that make a difference.

Wide open beaver places

Posted by heidi08 On August - 19 - 2016Comments Off on Wide open beaver places

CaptureThere’s a slick new beaver-friendly article in the online world. This one is fCapturerom “Sonoma County Wildlife” and features Cheryl’s photos (one with misattributed credit to me). It’s one of those very confusing articles to review, because I’m very very happy with the tone, and the resources, but predictably frustrated with the details about us.

Why we need beavers

Environmental improvements to the landscape

By felling trees and making ponds, beavers create diverse micro-habitats, adding wetlands and deep pools. According to the OAEC report, fish, insects, birds and amphibians and river otters proliferate in beaver-influenced landscapes. Beaver dams slow down streams, reduce erosion, and allow water to sink into the quoteground. The ponds they make are deep, cool places where young fish, like coho salmon smolt, can survive through the summer.

Beaver increase diversity in plant life as well. Shallow parts of the beaver pond become wetlands and eventually meadows where unusual plant species can flourish. Beaver ponds and marshes help to filter out sediment and pollutants, making the downstream water cleaner. Wetlands support greater plant growth and also wet decomposition of plants which removes 5 to 40% of nitrogen pollution from stream water.

Beaver activity even sequesters carbon. Recent research shows that meadows and wetlands created by beavers capture more carbon than the grassland or forest that they replaced. One estimate by geologist Ellen Wohl is that a beaver meadow contains 10 to 30 times the carbon of a dry grassland, depending on its size and age.

See this kind of article is exactly the cowpusher we need to get reluctant farmers off the tracks and keep them from standing in the way of beaver success: detailed and scientific listings of their benefits, which is great at encouraging folks to think about beaver in a new way. I’m guessing that most of this article was based on the ‘Beaver in California” report from OAEC recently released. Because they got very minor details about general Vallejo right, and very obvious details about Martinez wrong.

Learning to live with the urban beaver

beaver dam on Sonoma Creek

Beaver seem to be slowly moving back to the North Bay. A nonprofit in Martinez called Worth a Dam just held its 9th annual Beaver Festival, celebrating the more or less continuous occupation of a pond on Alhambra Creek since 2007. When beaver first moved into Alhambra Creek, in downtown Martinez, the city made plans to have them trapped and killed. A group of residents persuaded the city council to try an intervention that would keep the pond from flooding and it was successful. Beaver also appeared in downtown Napa in 2014 and are still there.


In Sonoma County there is only one verified beaver pond, on Sonoma Creek in Maxwell Farms Regional Park just outside the city of Sonoma. This is the second recent attempt by beavers to repopulate Sonoma Creek. According to an article in the Bohemian, a beaver family moved up Sonoma Creek to Glen Ellen in the 1990s, but was soon caught eating grapevines and exterminated. Left to themselves though, they will slowly re-populate our streams. Young beavers naturally disperse to find their own territory as adults and move from one watershed to another, either overland or by water.

Getting these techniques right involves understanding how a beaver thinks. When the City of Martinez ran an underwater pipe through the beaver dam to keep the pond below a certain level and prevent flooding, they made sure that the ingress and outlet of the pipe were both placed underwater since the sound of running water will prompt the beavers to build their dam higher. Also necessary is a change of human attitude, regarding beaver as environmental friends rather than enemies.

The funny thing is that this links to OUR description of the flow device and still manages to get the details wrong. The pipe goes over the dam and the outflow was above water in every condition but high tide. People over focus on the noise detail because they love the story about Michel LeClare discovering that beavers covered the tape recorder with mud. But in reality there are other essential things beavers respond to that we have no way of observing. Like feeling the suction created by a leak on their very sensitive vibrissa or guard hairs.

mom eye close 1

But really, you’re just being picky Heidi. These are minor details in some really good advertising for beavers. Thanks, Sonoma Wildlife!


Feel sorry for the trapper in New Hampshire

Posted by heidi08 On August - 17 - 2016Comments Off on Feel sorry for the trapper in New Hampshire

With Pelt Prices Dropping, N.H.’s Beaver Population Grows

New Hampshire NPR would like you to consider the poor, unappreciated and undervalued trapper this morning. Because you know, those icky beavers can’t be regulated in any other way. Everyone says so, Even the NH Furbearer biologist Patrick Tate, whose salary is paid by selling trapping licenses. Go figure.

CaptureWell sure, this report contains a brief ineffective interview with a ‘save it all’ vegan at the end, and no discussion whatsoever of the valuable services beavers provide or the fish and wildlife that are harmed by their removal, but the real issue of whether this is a trap-happy report or not comes down to this essential question: A) Does it feature a sympathetic photo of the trapper? And B) is he presented in some humble, hardworking way like sitting on the stairs, writing a letter to his mother or standing on the street in his socks? Answer here:


If only there were a hole in his stocking! That would be really effective story telling. Because OBVIOUSLY no one else in the ENTIRE state can manage the voracious beaver population without help from trappers! I mean it’s not like our NH friend Art Wolinsky as been living peacefully with the flow device he and Mike installed and his beavers for half a decade right? Icing on the cake: Art just wrote me that they invited Mr. Tate to watch Mike install this flow device in person. No kidding.

Well the important thing is that the trapper is knowledgeable about what he’s doing. He clearly is very informed about beavers, right?

Kaska’s not sure how many beavers are in this pond. He should be able to tell once he catches one—by looking at its tail. Beavers are territorial: they fight by biting each others’ tails.

If tomorrow I find a beaver in one of my traps that has bite marks out of his tail, that will tell me I have two different family units in this area. Maybe I’ve got the stranger; maybe I’ve got the resident. But that tells me that I maybe have more.”

Yup. Because tail marks always mean that a stranger beaver is snooping around the area, right?

Mom's tail

Mom’s tail

Beaver Power to the Rescue!

Posted by heidi08 On August - 1 - 2016Comments Off on Beaver Power to the Rescue!

You gotta admit it’s nice when the bad dam system fails and the GOOD one moves in. Check out this story from Idaho where a hydroelectric company lost their permit and have to restore a creek. Things were going not so well until they got a certain flat-tailed helper.

Z. Tuana transformation

In 2004, when Idaho Power’s federal license for hydroelectric production at nearby Bliss Dam expired, the utility began an effort to restore the riparian habitat of Tuana Creek — a requirement of its Bliss Dam relicensing.

Past land use in Tuana Gulch had left a landscape with little value to wildlife, said Utz, the Idaho Power senior biologist who leads the company’s habitat mitigation from Milner Dam to Swan Falls.

“The bulk of what you’re looking at now is native,” Utz said, scanning the creek’s vegetation-lined beaver ponds from a footpath on the slope above its south bank. “This is a much more lush, green, useful area for wildlife. And they seem to be responding to it.”


Idaho Power didn’t accomplish this alone.

The company killed Russian olive trees and planted willows, cottonwoods and wildlife-friendly trees that produce fruits, berries and nuts. The plantings didn’t do well.

But a few isolated locations elsewhere on Tuana Creek had beavers, and beavers are territorial creatures whose young must disperse to colonize new areas. Finally, just enough of Idaho Power’s willow and cottonwood plantings survived to attract beavers.

Their dams impounded the creek, slowed it down, broadened the water’s zone of influence and created the conditions that allow native riparian plants to flourish.

“The beavers kind of did what we struggled to do,” Utz said.

Beaver ponds drowned many of the original willow plantings — “which is a nice problem to have,” Utz said — but new growth stretched up the reshaped banks.

“There’s a nice little cottonwood getting started,” Utz said, pointing to a sapling beside the creek. “See it? If it survives, it’ll be a 120-foot tree someday.”

Okay, now the cynic me has to point out that at least part of this story is about a power company fixing a problem with as little money as possible that they were quite content to spend a great deal of money to cause in the first place. But never mind that they’re doing this on the cheap. It’s Idaho and they could use a reminder of how much transformation beavers can bring. I’m sure they killed a peck of beavers back in the days of the hydro was running, but now they’re finding out what happens when you let them live.

Beavers can do this.

Beside a C-shaped beaver dam less than five years old, he watched dragonflies flit above the pond and named off the cattail, goldenrod, stinging nettle, common teasel, veronica, duckweed, sedges and bulrush. He pointed out the viceroy butterfly wings left behind after a bird’s meal and an empty duck eggshell left by a skunk, raccoon, snake or other hungry nighttime prowler.

“There’s a lot going on here that you can’t normally see,” he said.

Sure, you coi got thisuld build artificial ponds with berms and dikes and equipment. But that’s short-term and can be wrecked by flooding. Engineering can’t mimic the natural dynamic. Flood a beaver dam, he said, and the beavers just rebuild.

Restore habitat naturally, and it’s long-term.


And baby makes three…

Posted by heidi08 On July - 30 - 2016Comments Off on And baby makes three…

Meanwhile the folks in Olympic Village are worried where there beaver kits will grow up. And have apparently forgotten about yearlings entirely.

Baby beavers in Olympic Village may struggle to find a home in Vancouver

The struggle to find housing is a classic Vancouver dilemma and it seems even beavers in this city aren’t exempt. 

A growing family of beavers living in a park by Vancouver’s Olympic Village may soon find themselves struggling to find a new habitat because nearby urban areas suitable for rodents are at capacity.

Based on public videos and photos, Vancouver Park Board biologist Nick Page believes up to three baby beavers are now are living with their parents in Hinge Park.

“The challenge is as the beaver population expands, that habitat isn’t large enough to support even a pair of beavers,” said Page.

Hinge Park, a man-made wetland, is considerably smaller than the usual habitats beavers tend to occupy — which means far less food. The baby beavers will likely live with their parents for at least another year before a new litter comes when he expects the trio will be forced to move out of its current lodgings.

Hmmmm that’s a head-scratcher for sure. Where the heck will those three beavers go to find their home? Obviously they won’t be allowed to stay in Hinge park. How can they POSSIBLY escape with all that concrete? I have a guess. Do you?

CaptureApparently Canada has forgot A LOT of what they learned about beavers – including that yearlings stay with the family another year or two to take care of the new kits. And they forgot that beavers don’t need to live in small waterways and can be perfectly happy in larger bodies just like they are on the Carquinez strait which gets salt water from the ocean and fresh water from the valleys. There are a lot of bays and inlets in that Salish sea that will probably work and remember beavers can thrive in water as salty as 10 parts per 1000.  IF all three kits live that long, which isn’t a sure thing in this world they’ll find a home.

Yesterday we worked on the prize wheel that was generously donated by Jeanette, shown with her niece working at prior festivals here. She was planning on being there to borrow one of the large ones from her corporation, but when that didn’t work out she bought one for us instead. This will be at the membership booth and donations of 20 dollars or more will earn a spin and win one of these fine treats! Hopefully the lovely clicking noise it makes when it spins will lure traffic to the booth and compel hard working folks to invest in some amazing beaver opportunities!



Scientific American Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On July - 26 - 2016Comments Off on Scientific American Beavers

Our friend Nick Bouwes is in the news again, this time in Scientific American.

CaptureHere’s a nice discussion of his work and findings on ’60 second science’ by Jason G. Goldman. You really should stop what you’re doing and listen because it will make much more sense than anything I’m going to write this morning.



Don’t you love it when people are talking about beavers in Scientific American? Better yet, when SA is talking about a subject YOU ALREADY KNOW about. Yes we are cutting edge here at beaver central, scientific institutions with large budgets and research teams are scrambling to keep up.

It occurs to me that there is a trace of Rick Lanman’s influence evident in this article. His intelligent re-examination of historic writing and lore was fairly unheard of in beaver research before our historic prevalence papers. Now even Bridge Creek is talking about Lewis and Clark as a way to understand what was lost when all the water-savers were killed.

Nice work, Rick!

I’m driving back to Auburn tomorrow to give a presentation to the Fish and Game Commission of Placer. It should be mighty interesting to talk to them about what Martinez did and gained  in contrast their own particularly horrific track record. I’m hoping that they’ll at least start thinking about what else they might be losing by killing 7 times more beavers than any county in the state. Wish me luck.