Archive for the ‘Educational’ Category

Making beavers count

Posted by heidi08 On January - 25 - 20151 COMMENT

We’ve talked before about the hero from Pocatello that managed to get Audubon to provide a grant for a beaver count in the habitat in Idaho. Mike Settell is a friend of this  website and pulled off his own musical beaver festival last summer (the dam jam!). Now he’s in the news again, training volunteers for a snowy beaver count.


Locals Prepare for Beaver Count

 Watershed Guardians began training Saturday for their fourth annual Beaver Count.  The Beaver Count is a free winter event where teams snowshoe, ski or hike through various drainages in the Portneuf Watershed to count Beaver activity.

 KPVI News Six met with them on Saturday up at Mink Creek to learn more about their role in Beaver sustainability.  Members from the Watershed Guardians prepared lunch in a yurt for volunteers coming back from training for the 4th annual Beaver Count.

 The training was held at Mink Creek’s Nordic Center. 

While the volunteers trained, they learned about the Beaver’s role in a healthy watershed and the current state of the Beaver in Idaho.  Watershed Guardian volunteer Joan Bernt says training the volunteers is essential for the Beaver Count.

 “The other thing is, is we want to make sure that people realize what they are looking for when they are looking for an active beaver colony. Just because they see a dam, that doesn’t mean that’s an active live Beaver maintaining that dam,” says volunteer, Joan Bernt.

 The Beaver Count consists of teams surveying different zones in the area where they will be looking for Beaver activity such as fresh cuts where beaver have chewed on trees, Beaver tracks in the snow and Beaver dams and lodges.

Hooray for Mike and the Watershed Guardians! And congratulations for luring the good folks of Idaho into the snow to appreciate beavers! It’s wonderful to think of folks learning how to keep an eye on the beavers around them and hearing why they matter.  I espsecially love the part where the article emphasizes the event is FREE. It reminds me a little of Tom Sawyer or P.T. Barnum.

This way to the Egress.

Great job fanning the beaver flame, and I’m thrilled the reporter added this at the end.

Mike Settell says the data collected from the Beaver Count will be presented at ‘State of the Beaver’ conference in Canyonville Oregon in February.

I can’t wait! See you there, Mike! And good work reminding people why to care about beavers!

Now on to Beaver appreciation in New Hampshire where a trip in the snow reminds folks that beavers are under the ice.

A trip to beaver lodges

HOLDERNESS, N.H. —One of the benefits of all this rain and cold weather is that it has allowed us to do some ice skating and exploring on our local bogs and ponds in the region.

Recently, we went on a beaver lodge tour of Hawkens Pond in Center Harbor and Holderness and were able to admire up close these houses made of sticks and mud. At the very top of the lodge you could see the chimney of sorts. Rime ice was collecting, indicating something warm inside was exhaling into the atmosphere

Their presence is a good indicator of a healthy habitat. Beaver flowages are important habitat for many other species including great blue herons, osprey, kingfisher, mink, otter and muskrat.

For those of you keeping track at home, that’s beaver appreciation in Arizona, Idaho and New Hampshire in the past two days. Not to mention the usual defenders in Washington and New York. I’m thinking its past time we adopt Dean’s “50 State Strategy”.

stencilTime to congratulate my brilliant husband and beaver man-Friday who undertook the impossible task of cutting out a stencil so we could spray paint our keystone tails. My brain couldn’t even imagine the task of cutting away the shapes you wanted to remain but he boldly finished a design and knocked of 25 of these.

Just 125 more to go!

One of the final benefits of shining the beaver light so steadily and strong for so many years is that there is now an international army of folks keeping watch for beaver treasures around the world. Peter Smith of Kent England posted this find this morning, which I promise will make you smile. Enjoy!

Beaver treats

Posted by heidi08 On January - 24 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

 Beaver making an Arizona comeback


A beaver lodge built into the bank of the San Pedro River indicates the presence of the aquatic rodents, which were reintroduced to the river in 1999. About 50 beavers inhabit the San Pedro National Conservation Area.

“A hundred-and-fifty years ago, it was called the Beaver River because there were so many beavers,” said Dutch Nagle, former president of the Friends of the San Pedro River, an organization that promotes the conservation of the river.

Thanks to reintroduction efforts by the Bureau of Land Management beginning in 1999, an estimated 50 beavers now roam the waters of the San Pedro. The beavers have built dozens of dams that slow the river’s flow and create ponds. Along with raising the water table near the river, the slack water provides increased habitat for a variety of plant and animal species.

 One of the species that prospers from the beavers’ tireless dam-building is the lowland leopard frog. “Historically, I’m sure there was a very close relationship between beavers and leopard frogs,” said Mike Sredl, who leads the ranid frog projects for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Along with environmental factors such as tree density and the availability of food, beaver behavior can have a significant impact on the number of birds along a river.

“The beaver contribute most in defining how many birds are in an environment, and the reason for that is they change the environment,” said Van Riper, who is the co-author of a study that examines the effects the reintroduced beavers have had on various bird species.

Great work from our beaver friends on the San Pedro! It is lovely to read about the difference beaver can make – especially in arid land. Of course the article takes time to whine a bit about how there are also more bullfrogs and non-natives but I don’t think anyone really takes that seriously anymore. I know I don’t. It’s like saying we shouldn’t repair our roads because it makes it easier for thieves to get away from the police.

The thing we want matters infinitely more than the thing we don’t.

In case, you, like me, are dying to look at Van Riper’s bird study, the whole thing is available here. It’s a very interesting read, but I think overly cautious about the benefits of beavers. For example, they note they “can’t conclude whether” the increase in biodiversity near beaver activity represents beaver effects, or just beaver CHOOSING richer habitat to settle in.

(Sheesh. Because you know how those lazy opportunistic beavers are -  always picking the nicest neighborhoods to move in. Grr.) The report generously concludes that at least beavers did not appear to make anything worse.

Beaver reintroduction did not appear to have detrimental effects on any species of conservation concern and, in fact there was evidence that a breeding bird community is more abundant and more diverse where beavers were present.

Mighty white of you, I’m sure.


Now for an unmitigated treat, check your insulin levels first, because this is too sweet to be believed. The kit is at Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma WA and her grape-testing made TIME this morning. Her name is Hazel.

Still, if you think its cute when beavers in zoos eat grapes, you should see what it looks like when wild beavers eat strawberries.

Yearling eating Strawberries - Photo Cheryl Reynolds

Yearling eating Strawberries – Photo Cheryl Reynolds

Beaver Literacy

Posted by heidi08 On January - 16 - 2015Comments Off

CaptureThe Watershed Wisdom of the Beaver

You know what a stream looks like. It has a pair of steep banks that have been scoured by shifting currents, exposing streaks and lenses of rock and old sediment. At the bottom of this gully—ten to fifty feet down—the water rushes past, and you can hear the click of tumbling rocks as they are jostled downstream. The swift waters etch soil from first one bank, then the other as the stream twists restlessly in its bed. In flood season, the water runs fast and brown with a burden of soil carried ceaselessly from headwaters to the sea. At flood, instead of the soft click of rocks, you can hear the crack and thump of great boulders being hauled oceanward. In the dryness of late summer, however, a stream is an algae-choked trickle, skirted by a few tepid puddles among the exposed cobbles and sand of its bed. These are the sights and sounds of a contemporary stream.

 You don’t know what a stream looks like. A natural North American stream is not a single, deeply eroded gully, but a series of broad pools, as many as fifteen per mile, stitched together by short stretches of shallow, braided channels. The banks drop no more than a foot or two to water, and often there are no true banks, only a soft gradation from lush meadow to marsh to slow open water. If soil washes down from the steep headwaters in flood season, it is stopped and gathered in the chain of ponds, where it spreads a fertile layer over the earth. In spring the marshes edging the ponds enlarge to hold floodwaters. In late summer they shrink slightly, leaving at their margins a meadow that offers tender browse to wildlife. An untouched river valley usually holds more water than land, spanned by a series of large ponds that step downhill in a shimmering chain. The ponds are ringed by broad expanses of wetland and meadow that swarm with wildlife.

As Bill Mollison has observed, everything gardens. The beaver, however, goes far beyond simple gardening to feats of complex ecosystem transformation. Beaver don’t merely build dams that create ponds. They control the flow of vast amounts of energy and material. With tough incisors and instinct, beavers create a shifting mosaic of moist and dry meadows, wet forests, marshes, bogs, streams, and open water that change the climate, nutrient flow, vegetation, wildlife, hydrology, and even geology of entire watershed

There aren’t very many articles that I want to copy and post on this website from the first declarative sentence to the last dizzying conclusion. This one by Toby Hemenway breaks all prior records. Go read the whole thing and then think very seriously about what America did to it’s streams and pastures by eliminating the beaver.

Beaver choose the gently sloping lower reaches of valleys for their work. A small dam on flat land impounds more water behind it than one on a steep slope, doing the least work to create a large pond. The water that backs up behind the dam saturates the soil beneath it, creating a blend of anaerobic and aerobic pockets, varying with water depth, vegetation, soil type, and distance from the pond edge. Decomposition at the anaerobic sites is slow, preserving organic matter. Dead trees and snags left by the beaver or killed by flooding become home to a wide array of animals and microbes. The structural, biological, and chemical complexity of the region increases.

Vegetation drowned by the pond rots, releasing vast flows of nutrients into the water. The pond bubbles methane into the atmosphere. Erosion caused by the lapping of the expanding upstream shoreline pulls more nutrients into the water. In the pond and downstream from the dam, biomass now surges because of the water’s increased fertility. The growing plants and animals trap these nutrients and begin to cycle them.

 Ecosystems that retain nutrients recover more easily from disturbance than nutrient-losing ones. This means the pond communities and those around it are likely to persist for a long time.

But just as significant are the varied habitats that ring beaver ponds. Upstream and down are open stretches of flowing water, home to stream species. At the pond edges the beaver have created bogs, marshes, wet meadows, and riparian forests. The new wetlands and meadows contain more nutrients than the older uplands, and so support more types and numbers of living beings. Edging the wetlands are dry meadows and woodlands. And beaver meadows are very persistent, because their previous flooding has acidified the soil, helping them resist invasion by shrubs and trees.

series of beaver dams

Toby Hemenway is the author of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, which was awarded the Nautilus Gold Medal in 2011, was named by the Washington Post as one of the ten best gardening books of 2010, and for the last eight years has been the best-selling permaculture book in the world.

Go. Read. It. Seriously. Then pass it on.

Even Steven with Beaver Stories

Posted by heidi08 On January - 12 - 2015Comments Off

Two steps forward, two steps back. I don’t think we’re moving at all. But I guess good news takes a ton more work to get published, so it matters more. We should be content to see the positive paired with a couple stinkers. Especially in January. Let’s be good stoics and save the good news for last. Before the sugar we need two spoonfuls of bitter beaver ignorance from Massachusetts.

City gets approval to trap beavers causing flooding in South Lowell

LOWELL — A bucktoothed menace reared its furry head in South Lowell last spring, turning Charles Tamulonis’ backyard into a mosquito-infested swamp.

“There’s always this thing about ‘save the beavers,’” Tamulonis said. “But it’s the greatest nuisance in the world depending on where you live.”

 Soon after the dam appeared, he began writing to every city official he could think of. For almost a month, nothing happened,

 But eventually he spoke with Ralph Snow, commissioner of the Department of Public Works, and the city embarked on the arduous task of securing the proper permitting to breach a dam and trap the beavers — not to mention actually taking on the dam itself.

 It took more than five months for the city to secure the proper approval. During that time, a trapper caught 12 beavers behind Tamulonis’ property, some of the weighing more than 50 pounds.

 You asked public works last? I would have asked them first. They are notorious for hating beavers! Lessons learned I guess. So you killed a dozen beavers. 2 parents, 5 yearlings and 5 kits. Now the water won’t drip into your basement any more. Never mind that Mike Callahan of Beaver Solutions is 100 miles away, and could have fixed this problem for the long term. Never mind that he just emailed that he gave a TALK last year to the Lowell Conservation Commission. You wanted those 12 beavers dead, and now they are.

Je Suis Castor?

(Mike just added that 12 beavers would be HIGHLY unusual for an urban setting. 5-6 is more common.  Sometimes trappers lie to inflate their fees. Which is pretty comforting, but I still need to post this:)

On to the next lie:

 Towns to discuss mosquito control budget

 The Central Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project also runs a program to breach beaver dams, which cause rivers and streams to become stagnant and attract mosquitoes.

 “Those impede water flow,” said Oram.

 The $2 million budget, which is a 2.1 percent increase over the $1.9 million fiscal 2015 budget, includes a $20,000 increase for pesticides, garden tools and supplies, $10,000 more for spraying equipment upgrades and $70,000 more in salary increases.

 Obviously they need more money. It’s hard work thinking up lies that good! And all those mosquitoes won’t kill themselves! I suppose if Northboro is good for the money they should ask for the moon and see what happens. It’s not like anyone will point out that if more fish and invertebrates are found in beaver ponds, they’ll be lots more trying to eat that larvae. Why worry your pretty head about details like that?

Bring us some good news. I’ve had my fill of liars and murderers this morning. Okay, how about this from New Hampshire?

Beavers help environment, but conflicts with humans can arise

Moose and deer, wood frogs and salamanders, mergansers and great blue herons, otters and weasels – all thrive in the habitats created by beavers.

“I think of them as great little wildlife managers,” said Dave Anderson, a naturalist and director of education at the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

Beaver is a “keystone species,” Anderson said. “If we were to eliminate their activity, we’d lose wetlands that are critical habitats.”

 Anderson, who also co-writes the “Forest Journal” column in the New Hampshire Sunday News, said killing all the animals in an area isn’t a long-term solution to beaver problems.

 ”You can’t trap them out of existence,” he said. “If you make a gap and the habitat’s suitable, there will be (other) beavers moving in.”

How much do you love Dave right now? Hurray for beaver wisdom in New Hamshire! Dave is also a forest columnist for the New Hamshire journal, so he has a great platform to preach the beaver gospel. But he needs to be a little less passive with his solutions for land-owners I think:

 As long as a well or septic system isn’t threatened, homeowners can just wait out the beavers, Tate said. Once they exhaust the available food supply, they’ll move somewhere else, and new ones won’t move in for another seven years or so.

 Well, I think I will write Dave about fast-acting solutions that will let land owners cooperate with beavers. In the meantime thank you SO MUCH for your great promotional efforts! I think this is probably the VERY BEST article we have had on beavers from the state.

Let’s conclude with some very cheerful beaver reporting from Kent England. I can’t embed the video but if you click on the photo it will take you to where you can watch three minutes of the delightful story unfolding Enjoy!


 Beaver Colony Flourishes in Kent

Pin the tail on the beaver!

Posted by heidi08 On January - 11 - 20152 COMMENTS

Let’s say, (and why not) that you’re an eager child at the beaver festival who wants to do the keystone project again. You’re thinking to yourself, I wonder what it will be this year, necklace? Bracelet?  You march to the info booth and say that beavers eat leaves and build dams and that Heidi lady gives you something new.

tailshapedEverything changes, especially with beavers!” she explains. “We’re not doing the charms this year”, she adds.  Instead she hands you a beaver tail made of burlap. “All around the festival at the different exhibits there buttons you can pin to this tail to fill up the Keystone arch and show how beavers make a neighborhood.” “You will earn the buttons by learning how beavers help each animal, because that’s what KEYSTONE SPECIES means. They make all this possible”.

Heidi passes you a laminated card. “This will help you learn how beavers help us, and if you have questions, the people at the booths can make sure you understand.” The card shows how dams lead to bugs, which get eaten by fish and birds, which get eaten by otters and mink and bigger fish. There are pictures so it’s pretty easy to understand. “We aren’t telling you where the buttons are this year.  Think of it like an Easter egg hunt. You have to look in every booth and find them, but when you’re all done, you will know a lot! And your tail will look like this.

Keytone species project 2015

“The buttons are yours to keep. Bring the laminated cards back to me for someone else to use. Then we would love you to take a short quiz to help us show that this was a good idea and tell what you learned. Put the quiz in this box when you’re done with your mom or dad’s phone number. At the end of the day two quizzes will be chosen at random and the winners will get a beaver kit puppet to keep. Thanks for your help, go show off your tail and teach someone else what you’ve learned!”

arch assembly

Honestly, how cool is that?

This free activity for 150 children is the subject of a grant application to the Fish and Wildlife Commission of Contra Costa County. But don’t worry, even if they turn us down we are doing it. The genius behind those lovely button designs is this man, Marc Poulin from his downtown studio in Oakland. Go right now and  look at his designs, because he has made a million things you will want to buy.


And before you ask, calm down. This project will be available for adults to do too, for a small fee.

What will we do with the other four hours?

Posted by heidi08 On January - 8 - 2015Comments Off

American Beaver Special for 20 Hours Straight

American Beaver Airs from 7 a.m. Monday,
Feb. 2, 2015, to 3 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015

(WASHINGTON, D.C. – Jan. 7, 2015) The groundhog is a big player on its big day, appearing for a few seconds on Groundhog Day to tell us how long winter will last, then disappearing for an entire year. Now Nat Geo WILD gives another member of the rodent family its due, dedicating an entire day to the American Beaver. In the grand tradition of Bill Murray’s classic holiday movie Groundhog Day, Nat Geo WILD will replay its American Beaver special for 20 hours straight, airing from 7 a.m. Monday, Feb. 2, 2015, to 3 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 3. (For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter at

Just 20 hours? How will we occupy ourselves the other four? Oh, right. Follow that link on the left margin and watch Jari Osborn’s PBS documentary.


It’s nice to see someone celebrating beaver. They certainly deserve it. And besides, we just found out that National Geographic has NEVER had a beaver on its cover. Ever. So they’re certainly due. If you’ve never seen “American Beaver” you’re in for treat. Here’s a glimpse but you can watch more snippets here:

You just know that they saw the PBS  documentary and the NYTimes article and the AP article and thought, hmm how can we ride on these successful coattails?coatWell all I can say is it’s about time. Now if they would only cover this next  kind of story. Too bad they don’t mean the OTHER kind of beaver bounty.

Increase in bounty brings more beavers

FOREST CITY, IA – More beaver tails have arrived at the Winnebago County Auditor’s Office the past several weeks since the county raised its bounty on beavers.  Deputy auditor Kris Wempen said the county has paid about $600 in bounty since the bounty was raised to $50 on Oct. 28.

Beavers on the radio

Posted by heidi08 On January - 7 - 20152 COMMENTS

CaptureThis is half of a great interview from CBC and half an ad campaign for the trapping industry. The best part is with Michael Runtz, who’s book is coming out any minute. The whole thing is an interesting study on the unlevel playing fields between people who know what they’re talking about and people who make stuff up with regards to beavers. Here’s B.S. central:

“If we could find a way to keep beaver away from those roads, we wouldn’t have to destroy them. But there’s no way they have found that they can do that yet,” said Barnes.

 My posted comment

 ”If they could find a way?”

The ways of coexisting with beaver are known and documented, and expert Glynnis Hood located in his own province can install them. That makes as much sense as saying “If there were some way to look up for sure how to spell a word correctly, I would do it.

 Anyone smarter than a beaver knows how and why to live with them.

Beavers impact on forest and industry ‘dam’ complicated

Balancing the impact of beavers and their dams on the ecosystem and industry is a complicated process, according to a retired Lakehead University biologist.

The comments from Don Barnes come after an Alberta mining company was fined $1,500 for destroying a dam near Savant Lake in northwestern Ontario.

‘It creates water’

 ”It creates water, where there wasn’t water before so ducks get in there, muskrats. And all those dead trees that are flooded, they become homes for the woodpecker and pine marten,” said Barnes

michael-runtzMichael Runtz said the beaver pools are also vital to the health of moose.

Runtz is a wildlife photographer and lecturer at Carleton University.

His latest book, ‘Dam Builders: A Natural History of Beavers and Their Ponds’, will be published in Feb. 2015.

 Runtz said the edges of beaver ponds are the preferred habitat for many sodium-rich plants.

 He said moose are particularly drawn to these salty treats.

 Michael Runtz has written, and provided the photographs for the new book “Dam Builders: The Natural History of Beavers and Their Ponds.” It will be available on Feb. 1, 2015. (Carleton University)

 ”And I dare say, if we didn’t have beavers and beaver ponds in the boreal forest, we’d have a paucity of moose. Moose get most of their sodium from plants growing in beaver ponds.”

This is Michael’s book which Amazon assures me is coming out ANY DAY NOW. He is a good friend of Donna DuBreuil of the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre, and we’ve corresponded in the past. It makes me insane that this article didn’t talk to a single person who knows how to solve the problems beaver cause. It makes me insane that Michael didn’t say it himself or that if he said it they edited it out.

But I am very picky about this subject, and I guess having the discussion is dimly better than not having it.

In case you missed it last night, Leonard Houston gave a great beaver interview on KMUD’s Environment Show with Kelly Lincoln. I thought her questions were remarkably water-astute and realized she must have some Brock-Dolman based permaculture training in her recent past. She’s interviewing Kate Lundquist next week.

Oh and there was a special surprise caller you may recognize.