Archive for the ‘Educational’ Category

In which British scientists discover gravity also works in the UK

Posted by heidi08 On November - 14 - 2015Comments Off on In which British scientists discover gravity also works in the UK

To say the UK is ‘flirting’ with beaver reintroduction is a vast understatement. The relationship has moved way beyond the blushing sideline gaze phase and now moved to furtive groping under the table. We have an film crew coming from the UK to film beaver stories next week as evidence, and I wanted to share this little bit of excitement as well from New Scientist.

Should the UK bring back beavers to help manage floods?

It seems that beavers’ dams might help prevent flooding, cleanse water as well as help boost fish populations and wetland ecosystems.

The dams regulate the water flow both during heavy rains and droughts. “When it rains, more water gets stored in ponds behind the dams, and when it’s drier, water is gently released to keep rivers flowing,” says Richard Brazier of the University of Exeter, UK, head of the study of half-a-dozen beavers confined to an isolated woodland in Devon.

If reintroduced, they could be of most use in narrow tributaries and headwaters near the sources of major river systems where holding back water could potentially have most impact on preventing floods.

Brazier’s study, due to finish next March, also found that the staircase of dams filtered pollutants washed off farms. “We found that on average each litre coming in contains 150 milligrams of sediment, but only 40 milligrams on the way out,” he says. Likewise, nitrates arrived at average concentrations of 6 milligrams per litre, but left at less than a milligram per litre, and phosphorus levels dipped from 0.16 to 0.02 milligrams per litre.

Well, well, well. So beavers control water, help biodiversity and reduce toxins eh? You don’t say. I always suspected as much, but of course I wanted to be absolutely sure that things didn’t work completely differently in the UK than they do in every other country on the planet. You know, the way chips mean fries or having your landlord ‘knock you up’ in the morning doesn’t mean he impregnated you, – so you’re saying beavers might not destroy the ecosystem there?

Believe me, no one is more surprised to learn that the laws of nature operate the same way across the pond than the chief researcher himself who notes;

His preliminary findings compare brown trout populations from two similar streams that drain into a loch near Inverness, one with reintroduced beavers and one without. “There were more than double the number of trout on the ‘beaver stream’, and they were bigger,” says Kemp. He says that like beavers, trout prefer deep water so they luxuriate in beaver ponds.

Only Elaine can adequately express my shocked response to hearing that the habits of anglican fish parallel the habits of every other fish on the globe. I should send this to NOAA right away, because Michael Pollock is going to be so relieved that his decades of painstaking research haven’t been casually disproven in by a boy scout in Scotland.


For something truly fresh and surprising, lets finish with this nice article from Illinois on beaver sculpture.

Good Natured: Sculpture in the Park: The Delnor Woods Edition

Sure enough, not far from the front pond at Delnor Woods, a 20-foot-tall elm tree lay by the asphalt path. A helpful visitor had come along and lugged it out of the main thoroughfare, but it still needed a little cutting to be completely out of the way.

As I dragged my trusty bow saw back and forth across the 5-inch diameter trunk, I once again, as I always do, marveled at how beavers can cut down trees using nothing more than their really strong jaw muscles and four sharp incisors.

I was bent, at a somewhat awkward angle, over the tree and saw and thoughts of beavers occupying much of my attention. But I happened to look up, for just a second. And that’s when I saw it. Delnor Woods’ answer to Sculpture in the Park.

Perhaps it was the way the sunlight was hitting it. Or maybe it was the fact that I was somewhat sleep deprived. At any rate, I positively was awestruck by the beauty of the creation before me.

Readers of this website should not be surprised to know that author of this charming speculation, Pam Otto, is not the first person to consider the idea that beaver chews were art.  This topic has been much discussed over the years, and our beaver chews are among our most precious items for display. In fact one has even been stolen!

Pam’s right to be impressed, but that’s hardly the best we’ve ever seen.  Check out this offering from a friend on the Beaver Management Forum a few years back.

chewy chewI almost forgot, there are two gifts from friends that I wanted to share this morning, the first is chckle is from Napa’s Rusty Cohn:

beaver barAnd the second is from our old friend Ian Timothy, whose illustrious academic career at CalArts has clearly not dampened his beaverly Holiday Spirit:


Gingerbread cookies by Ian Timothy

On a clear day, you can see for beavers

Posted by heidi08 On November - 12 - 2015Comments Off on On a clear day, you can see for beavers

CaptureHere’s a nice article from last month’s Freshwater Magazine. It’s a sweet piece of writing with some delicious frosting added yesterday that I’ll tell you about later. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

When a group of five scientists in the Pacific Northwest began advertising for workshops on the science of beaver restoration, they didn’t anticipate a few things.

The workshops would be filled to capacity within a week. There was so much interest they needed to increase both the workshop size and the total number of workshops offered. There would be a waitlist, followed by phone calls and emails from people clamoring to get in.

“People are starting to see the value of beaver for more than just their pelts or more than just pests, but how we can work in concert with them to fix more rivers and streams.”

Regulatory agency staff, nonprofits, tribal representatives, private landowners, members of the general public and others paid the $50 fee for one-day intensives on the science behind how beaver restore streams.

But the sharing of knowledge and best practices would live beyond the day-long events. Workshop discussions were captured in an official guidebook on beaver restoration, published this past June.

“The publication is meant to be an accessible resource for anyone using beaver to restore waterways,” said Greg Lewallen, a master’s student at Portland State University and the research assistant for the project. “With enough educational outreach, the perception of these animals will start to change. That’s why it’s critical we continue to spread the word about the large role that these animals play in ecosystems.”

This article does a great job of emphasizing how thrilled they were by the  response they got. Waiting lists are a reminder that the west was hungry for this information. You probably remember this publication from the delightful cover that featured Cheryl’s photo. People were really excited by this information. Now the crew was so estatic by the response they got that they want to work on volume II.

CaptureOnly in this second version they want to include a chapter on the topic dearest to my heart. Are you sitting down? They want to include a chapter on this:

urban beavers

Did you know that 81% of all Americans live in urban settings? So if most of us are going to deal with beavers its going to be someplace next to sidewalks and parking meters. And if the fact that they were including a chapter on the topic was all the news for this morning,  that would be enough. I’d be in heaven floating on a pink fluffy cloud.

But that is not all. No, that is not all.

Now if you want to study tortoises you go to the Galapagos, if you want to see the works  of Michaelanglo you go to Rome, and apparently if you want to learn about Urban Beavers you contact Martinez.  Greg wrote me this week and we arranged a fantastic phone call for yesterday, where I told him the long and winding story of our beavers and the tireless work the people of Martinez had done to save them.

I was so flattered to be asked, and thrilled to think that before our city the topic of Urban Beavers  was never even discussed.  (In fact the words were probably only paired as an obscure reference to leggy females that drank Manhattans and smoked black cigarettes.) But now the words actually existed. And Urban Beavers were a THING, like open space or two-way traffic. And they wanted to include them in the next edition!!!

My excitement could only be described with this video short.

So  I was as excited as little Madeline here during our conversation, and kept missing words and skipping over myself. But, since this was a story I had told a thousand times before, I found my way well enough. And before the conversation was over, a little moth of a thought started fluttering wistfully in my mind. I shushed it away many times but it came only back stronger.

What if I could be a co-author on this chapter. Was it even possible?

All through the hour long conversation I waived the fluttering thought away and tried to imagine whether I was qualified for such an auspicious venture. It’s true I had already co-authored two papers on beavers that were published in scientific journals. And a few in my trained field of psychology, where I had even been sole author. So maybe it wasn’t a crazy idea. But was it impossible? This was NOAA, Fish and Wildlife and the USFS; did my scrabbling, back room beaver-tactics really belong there?

Well, some dreams never see the light of day, and some apples fall to the ground before they ripen.We can never know what would have happened if I had summoned the courage to ask Greg if I could be a co-author of the chapter.


Guess what I answered. Go ahead, guess, I can wait.


There’s too much nature in our parks

Posted by heidi08 On November - 10 - 2015Comments Off on There’s too much nature in our parks

How much nature is TOO much? Let the biologists decide.

Maya Shikhman has photographed a Staten Island beaver busy at work, building and nibbling. The large, semi-aquatic mammal has been observed at two locations.

Beavers join the parade of wildlife attracted to Staten Island life

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — They have not been on Staten Island since the 1800s, but a few beavers have taken up residence in the last year or so.

Their population has increased in near-by locations in New Jersey and downstate New York. It’s likely our beaver were ‘disperser’ who left their original area due to competitive pressures from other beaver… similar to why the deer have come to the island,” said Wollney, a doctoral biology candidate at the College of Staten Island.

The growing numbers of the semi-aquatic mammal in New Jersey are leading to the consideration of solutions to manage their numbers.

“The Control Operators Association estimates New Jersey has around 10 million to 15 million beavers, mostly concentrated in the northwest part of the state,” reported the Associated Press in a story in January.

“Busy as a beaver” is an accurate description of an industrious animal or person. “The beaver’s ability to modify its environment is second only to humans,” reads the NY Department of Environmental Conservation website.

And though their industry is irresistible, it is not without consequences, beneficial or not, depending on the environment. Noting that in more wild areas, these “habiat engineers” play an important role by creating pools that become habitat for other species, Wollney observes “on Staten Island, their presence is generally not good.”

“The issue is that we have so few streams that they are all ‘sensitive’ to changes. Simply, we’d lose valuable habitats if the beaver alter it too much. The chewing down of trees just opens up the ground to be invaded by very undesirable non-native, invasive plants and ecosystems to replace what are right now “kind of” natural plant communities,” said Wollney.

Hmmm.Your use of the word ‘disperser’ was encouraging. But I’m concerned about your expectation of beaver population explosion. You do know these guys are territorial, right? I mean I suppose if the island has a million luscious trees and streams they will tolerate more sharing, but mostly beavers are pretty territorial. Which is why that little beaver had to swim so far to find a home in the first place.

I feel fairly certain that Wollney’s Ph.D. isn’t in beavers. Call it a hunch.

Finally, says, Wollney, they have “damned up a Blue Belt stream which is intended to relieve storm-water stress on the roads and sewers. The South Shore beaver(s) pose the same issue.

One of the streams they are damning drains the Greenbelt and is used by American eels. “Their damn has the potential for blocking young eels from getting up in the water-shed where they mature,” said Wollney.

Well now you’ve gone and done it. You think you’ve heard it all. Every spurious beaver complaint the world can dream up. Blocking culverts, salmon, attacking dogs, causing beaver fever. But THAT is a new one. Blocking EELS. I have to hand it to you Wollney, for originality at least. And for giving me a chance to post my favorite brief poem of all time.

I don’t mind eels
Except as meals.
And the way they feels.

Ogdon Nash

I will try and track folks down and breathe a little beaver council their way, in the meantime our friend Sherry Guzzi of the Sierra Wildlife Coalition sent this my way and I’d knew you’d want to see it. Watch all the way through and look for a beaver surprise in nearly every frame.

Painting the town – er trunk, in Fargo

Posted by heidi08 On November - 8 - 2015Comments Off on Painting the town – er trunk, in Fargo

Beaver Backers paint trees in Fargo to protect furry friends

Thief River Falls resident Nina Berg, a member of the Beaver Backers organization that sprung up to defend the Fargo beavers, said the large-scale tree painting Saturday will hopefully spare the beavers.

The board voted to cull beavers after hearing concerns from residents and staff about the animals destroying trees and costing the city thousands of dollars. Park District officials said later they were open to non-leathal options.

The painting is a solution that will appease beaver backers and those concerned with the trees, Berg said.

“(The mixture) will be very unappealing to the beavers, and they will avoid those trees that we’re trying to protect,” Berg said.

The group spent several hours on Saturday painting more than 1,300 trees on the Fargo side of the river. The group will paint about 75 percent of the trees in the park and save 25 percent of the trees for the beavers to munch on and build dams

Hurray for the sensible, compassionate folks of Fargo who held a kickstarter to raise funds for the project and got 30 volunteers out in November to sand paint trees! 1300 is A LOT of trees. They are officially the tree-painting capital of the world now. I’m thrilled that this was able to happen, but still a little confused about the color choice.? Why not match the trunk? We’ve certainly marched into Home Depot with willow branches for them to match. But heck, maybe mint green was on sale.

Michelle Peterson said the painting will save beavers and the trees and hopefully sway the Park District to allow the beavers stays of execution. “If they come out here and see that it’s working, then hopefully they’ll let us keep coming out and doing this every year,” Berg said, adding that the group had permission from the Park District to paint the trees.

Nina and Michelle ROCK! They got tons of media for this project and volunteer support. Fingers crossed they used enough mason sand to really discourage those beavers. Jon always found that by the end he was using his hands to really get the sand to stick.

And because remarkable stories like this deserve a treat, I’m sharing the stunning photo found by Ann Cameron Siegal on Creative Commons. It was taken by Elizabeth Haslam and posted yesterday on the US Fish and Wildlife Facebook page. And some lovely human said, “I just saw this fantastic documentary on all the great things beavers do”.

Guess what the nation’s wildlife experts commented. Go ahead, guess.

great mother kit beaver

Elizabeth Haslam: Creative Commons

“Awesome! Do you remember what it’s called? In case folks are interested.”

That’s right, even though all of America and parts of Canada watched Jari Osborne’s incredible documentary in 2014, and all of Canada watched it in 2013, even though it had the highest ratings of any Nature program on Public television that year and was the one that PBS sent for Emmy consideration, the experts at fish and wildlife didn’t even know about it. Because, I guess, busman’s holiday. They already know it all. Why learn more?

If they wanted to learn more they should come to the beaver festival this year. I spent yesterday finishing the grant application for this year’s children’s activity. It details how Mike at Wildbryde will design charms shaped like rail cars to for children to fashion into a bracelet. I can’t help being a little proud of this.

all aboard


“Oh, the beaver and the cowman should be friends”

Posted by heidi08 On November - 7 - 2015Comments Off on “Oh, the beaver and the cowman should be friends”

Do you know who Carol Evans is? You really should. I read about her work in Elko, NV many years ago and knew I had to reach out. You for sure saw her in the beginning of the PBS documentary checking out the beaver restoration of Suzie Creek in Nevada with Suzanne Fouty. Now do you remember? Carol has been working her special collaborative magic with the unbelievably complex cast of characters in her state with some pretty amazing results.

So amazing, in fact, that she was recently invited to a biodiversity and climate change workshop at Tufts University in Boston. (Which is about as close as you come in this line of work to being a rock star). Because the university is among the finest in the land, the web page for the conference has everyone’s presentation and slides up and downloadable. You could spend many hours but, start with Carol and Jon, who are a superhuman tagteam of why to live with beavers.

I know that everyone is busy and maybe thinking you don’t have time to watch. But believe me, you should. Here’s my favorite slide of Carol’s, showing the ground water increases adjacent to a beaver dam.
shallow groundwater better(That’s a little thing beavers do called “recharging the aquifer”.)

And just in case you are inclined to watch hers and not  his, I will warn you that you would be making a very grave error. Because Jon Grigg’s straightforward, plainspoken presentation is wonderfully powerful. I can completely understand why they have had such success all over the state because of his resonance. I don’t agree with every single thing he says, but that is how collaboration works. You form alliances based on mutual interests and set aside disagreements until you get things accomplished. And I am proud to think both of them are allies in our work to educate folks about beavers.

Wasn’t that awesome? That’s right, now even Nevada knows more about beaver restoration than California. Sigh.

I got a call this week from a producer working on a beaver film for the UK, he wanted to make the argument for beaver reintroduction there and will be interviewing Carol, Mary Obrien and Michael Pollock, among others. They will be doing the bulk of their filming in Nevada and Oregon, but I made a strong case for urban beaver restoration and pitched what we had done and what Napa was currently doing. He was actually really interested in including Napa because it was so well known and was going to pitch the idea to his team. Fingers crossed, their local beavers maybe stars someday.

It’s been a weirdly busy month. In addition to everything else, I received a disappointing note that my beaver article won’t be included in this ‘Phoebe’ newsletter for the Sierra Foothill Audubon Society because it got bumped for climate change. Hrmph. Another year of massive beaver depredations in Placer county I bet. Hopefully it can appear sometime in the future. In the meantime, I received a great video this morning about genetic resilience and climate change in cottonwoods, that actually has a segment on the importance of beavers. The title is aptly a quote from Martinez’s own John Muir.

Its very well done, I learned several new words and you will be much smarter at the end than you were at the beginning. It won’t let me embed it here, but click on the title to go see for yourself. The beaver segment starts at 31.20. Just remember, we are what we learn.


A Thousand Invisible Cords: Connecting Genes to Ecosystems, the complete movie from Research on Vimeo.

Wait, Wait! Don’t Tell Me!

Posted by heidi08 On November - 4 - 2015Comments Off on Wait, Wait! Don’t Tell Me!

Oh look, California has a drought sad. They think concrete dams will make them happy. Good thing they have millions of dollars. Here’s a clip from yesterday’s PBS Newshour.

You know they said the word ‘environmental’ several times in this report, but did they ever say the word FISH? I don’t think so. Or SALMON. I mean obviously the fact that they talked to Dr. Moyle means they know the word and are thinking about it, but I guess they didn’t want to say it aloud?

Imagine what other western states use to save water? I’ll give you a hint. It starts with a “B” And it works for free. And it eats from a tree.

And California kills a bucket load of them.

You know I’ve been in the beaver biz so long that I remember how THRILLED I was when this video came out. Five years ago I thought for SURE this would turn the tide. Hahaha. I was so young and naive.

Thanks BK for sending this and HI PETER MOYLE who often is willing to play name that fish with us! I only wish the News Hour would invest this kind of money in the real solution which California ignores and kills every day.

Now beaver fans everywhere have an important job to do, and that is to turn the head of the master craftsman who made this stunning piece. I wrote him yesterday how beautiful I thought it was and told him I would send him a million beaver friends, asking him to think about donating to the silent auction.

I heard back from him right away. He had a purchase from England immediately after my email. And he’s thinking about it. This morning he is sold out of beavers, but has other beautiful wildlife to choose from. Help him be persuaded?

William Guse, known in the Society for Creative Anachronism as Master Ark of Ringholden, has been making Medieval jewellery for over 35 years. He has spent his whole life as a craftsman. Making things is not just his livelihood, it is his passion.

Good news and a repair

Posted by heidi08 On November - 3 - 2015Comments Off on Good news and a repair

Let’s start with the repair first. A few days ago I wrote about the the Fork Factory Brook installing some pipes to ‘make the beavers leave.’ It was badly written report from the local paper, and I heard back from nearly everyone involved. clarifying that the didn’t just install pipes and had training and consultation from Mr. Beaver Solutions himself. I couldn’t be happier.

Actually I thought Mike Francis of The Trustees of Reservations did an excellent job of beaver ‘splaining. However, this is a classic example of a reporter writing an inflammatory article to excite readership. Trying to create an issue when there isn’t one. The author quoted people not directly involved who had inflammatory things to say about beavers. Nowhere in the article did it say that a few weeks ago Mike hired me and we met on site with the Highway Superintendent, Board of Health Agent, and Conservation Commission for an hour and a half. I made suggestions to improve the Pond Leveler pipes TTOR installed, and the Highway Super. was very satisfied with the plan. Try to find that info in that crappy article. – Mike Callahan

Thank you for sharing your comments and concerns on the beaver deceiver. To clarify, the two culvert pipes that The Trustees installed have cages on the inflow end, for the reasons that you pointed out. We’ve worked with Mike Callahan from Beaver Solutions in the past and he visited this site to share insight and recommendations. The Trustees will be installing a third pipe and expanding the size of the fence/cages to prevent the beavers from sensing water flow around the cage. Thank you for sharing the link to the book. -Mike Francis

And from Wayne:

I would appreciate it if you actually visited the site before publicly deriding our work to mitigate the beavers in Fork Factory brook. We do have a cage, something you would have know if you had gone to check out the site yourself instead of relying on a poorly written newspaper article. – Wayne Clullo

Well, you got me there. It is a poorly written article.

I did visit the site, it took a bit of doing but I eventually found your beaver management plan. And full marks for your saying trapping would be used ONLY as a last resort. There were no photos I found about beaver installations.  I’m just thrilled BEYOND MEASURE that you took appropriate measures, consulted Mike, and didn’t do it wrong on purpose so you could kill them later. I’ll afford you the benefit of the doubt and not suspect ill intent even though the article quotes you as saying ‘the real long term solution will be trapping’. You have earned a retraction. Consider it done.

Now that this housekeeping is out of the way I can share the EXCITING new from our Southern California Beaver friends.


(Photo by Piotr Kamionka via Shutterstock)


There’s A Proposal To Bring Beavers To L.A. To Help With The Drought

In the midst of the devastating Californian drought, one woman is proposing that we reintroduce beavers to L.A. County to mitigate our water problem.

A couple of weeks ago, Britt Sheflin, a 37-year-old private chef for software startup company Oblong Industries, submitted her beaver campaign to GOOD Maker—a platform for social action—as one of the over 70 proposal entries for its “LA is the Best Place to Live” competition. The challenge encourages people to submit ideas, projects or programs that would make L.A. the best place to live today and in 2050. Voting for the competition ends on Nov. 3, and the winner will receive $100,000 to work on their project.

Sheflin’s plan is to reintroduce the North American Beaver (a.k.a. castor canadensis) to “to key areas where we need to control drought, flash floods, and further loss of fish and wildlife habitat,” she writes on GOOD. Sheflin suggests that the ways these “hydro-engineers” could benefit L.A. County includes “intensive water filtration, drought ‘savings accounts’ created by the deep, topographically varied ponds, and naturally rich soil that is dispersed throughout regions where beaver reside.”

If she wins this challenge, she would use the money to conduct research, work to advocate with policymakers, manage the project, and bring people who have handled the beavers on board.

How cool is this? Beavers make front page news in LA! If you’re anywhere in the vicinity you have about three hours left to vote. So DO IT! The article goes on to talk about her thinking that doing this will create better conditions for her 15 month old daughter, and refers to the recent water article and the Methow project. But the coolest part about this article is that ALL THIS isn’t even the coolest part yet. That I’m saving for last:

Sheflin also refers to the the beavers in Martinez, California as an example of a successful watershed program involving beavers. Back in 2008, a family of beavers began living in the area’s Alhambra Creek, according to Bay Nature magazine. While some were afraid the beavers would cause flooding and wanted them out of the area, the City Council voted to let them stay. Since then the beavers have helped create habitats for other species, and keep a healthy watershed.

And that, as they say, is some mighty good promotion of Martinez as a beaver-lovin’, problem-solvin’ community! Your welcome, Mr. Schroder. Can I expect my key to the city in the mail? Or will you just drop it off yourself on your way home?