Archive for the ‘Educational’ 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!

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


Riparian Ecology 101 and Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On December - 18 - 2016Comments Off on Riparian Ecology 101 and Beavers

It’s hard to appreciate beavers in South Carolina. Even if you’re an environmentalist and teach riparian ecology, apparently. Sigh.

ECOVIEWS: A beaver dam could test your environmental conscience

Whit Gibbons

My first evidence of something unusual happening came in autumn after a month of no rain when I measured the water level. I do this at least once a week downstream from our cabin and was surprised to find that instead of dropping an inch or so, it had actually risen 2 inches. I attributed it to mismeasurement until I took my walk.

Beavers are unquestionably keystone species in a region with small to moderate-size streams. They not only modify the habitat but can also change the environment in ways that dramatically influence the lives of animals, including people, and plants.

Beaver activity can result in big trees dying from flooding and smaller ones being debarked for food or cut down for dam construction. A mile downstream from my incipient beaver dam a larger one has flooded several acres, leaving tall, lifeless sweetgum and pine trees that began life in a terrestrial habitat and cannot persist in an aquatic one.

Whit Gibbons photo

Animals are affected, too. Large aquatic salamanders called sirens thrive and become more abundant in pools of a stream created by beaver dams. We once observed more than 500 sirens along the margins of a small stream when a dam was removed and the water level dropped.

Cottonmouths, watersnakes and turtles are more apparent, and maybe even more abundant, around beaver dams, which create areas for basking on sunny days. Waterfowl, such as wood ducks, are attracted to the pond created above the dam. Clearly, beavers and their dams set the tone of the neighborhood for many wildlife species.

So close. So very close. I feel we are standing  at the very threshold of almost discussing beaver benefits – peering through the keyhole at the verdant green garden on the other side. But Whit isn’t wild about beavers. And he’s surrounded by UGA buddies who feed him bad information.

Beavers live 35 to 50 years in zoos and more than 20 years in the wild.

One of the conundrums with beavers is that their positive traits – being chubby, cute, industrious pioneers – aren’t always enough to outweigh less desirable traits. I know folks who have had beavers cut down a beautiful dogwood tree, flood an area intended for a garden not a fish pond and dismantle a wooden boathouse to build the beaver lodge. The predicament is how to keep beavers for outdoor show-and-tell yet not have them misbehave, from a human’s point of view.

An ecofriendly society will always face perplexing wildlife problems and environmental dilemmas. Entertaining, yet potentially destructive, beavers are a good example of the complexity inherent in environmental preservation, with no simple solution as to how to handle the issue. A range of responses are available for dealing with nuisance wildlife. Which solution people choose will depend in part on their environmental conscience.

Whit is a reflective and thoughtful man with an ecological conscience. He wants to appreciate the inherent coolness of beavers because it’s fun to see wildlife in his creek, but he doesn’t want to be flooded out for 50 years. What’s a good man to do?

When information fails you its time to get better information. I’m glad you asked.  First of all beavers don’t live for 50 years. Who ever wrote that down was wrong and should have their credentials surgically removed. I did read a scientific report that identified one as 19 once, but in the wild 10-15 years is an astoundingly good run.

Secondly, if beavers are flooding an area you can’t live with then you install a flow device and make the water a height you can tolerate. Here’s a video that will teach you how to do it cheaply yourself. I know these things work because they solved our problem for a decade. The first flow device was invented in your own state! But this works better and is cheaper to install. Oh, and if the bad beaver is eating your dogwoods try wrapping the trees with wire or painting them with sand.

Beavers do cause problems. True. And cars get flat tires. We can fix them.

Why not just trap the beavers and get rid of them instead of fixing the problem? First of all you can’t, because more beavers will return to adequate habitat and you’ll be in this fix all over again in a year or a season. But more importantly all the wildlife that depends on the beaver dam will be lost if you remove the beaver. Meanwhile, that dam is removing nitrogen, letting trout fatten, filtering toxins, and regulating water flowlearning curve which god knows you need in South Carolina and Georgia!

The article concludes by saying Whit teaches at the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. I can’t think of a more useful place to start a conversation. Our retired UGA librarian friend needs to have coffee with him and nudge some useful information his way. Hey, maybe you could take this image into your classroom?



Another glimpse of beaver life in Nebraska from wildlife photographer Michael Forsberg. Enjoy.

Martinez has 140 years to go (reprise)

Posted by heidi08 On December - 14 - 2016Comments Off on Martinez has 140 years to go (reprise)

It was funny to read this headline, since the story broke about a year and a half ago, but I like where they went with this article which pushed the issue further than before. It’s from TVN which apparently stands for True Viral News.

Beaver dams can last centuries, 1868 map shows

Beavers aren’t just busy – they’re swamped. But while building and maintaining a marsh can take time, it’s apparently worth the investment. The rodents’ ecosystem-shaping homes have long been known for their durability, and a recent study offers unique evidence that individual beaver dams can persist for centuries.

That evidence comes via an 1868 map (see below) commissioned by Lewis H. Morgan, a prominent American anthropologist who also worked as a railroad director. While overseeing a rail project through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the 1860s, Morgan came across something that amazed him: “a beaver district, more remarkable, perhaps, than any other of equal extent to be found in any part of North America.”

Morgan went on to study these beavers for years, resulting in his 396-page tome ” The American Beaver and His Works.” Published in 1868, it included a map of 64 beaver dams and ponds spread across roughly 125 square kilometers (48 square miles) near the city of Ishpeming, Michigan. And now, almost 150 years later, a fresh look at Morgan’s map has revealed that most of the beaver dams are still there.

“We haven’t known much about the long-term resilience of beaver populations, but this map allowed us to look back in time in a pretty unique way,” study author and South Dakota State ecologist Carol Johnston tells Science Magazine’s David Malakoff.

“This remarkable consistency in beaver pond placement over the last 150 years is evidence of the beaver’s resilience,” she writes in the journal Wetlands.

This is fun to read again, but I was ESPECIALLY shocked by what came next.

Other research has hinted at even longer resilience. A 2012 study, for example, found that some beaver dams in California date back more than 1,000 years. One of those dams was first built around 580 AD, making it older than China’s Tang Dynasty or the earliest-known English poetry. Later evidence shows the same dam was in use around 1730, when beavers apparently made repairs to it. It was finally abandoned after suffering a breach in 1850 – some 1,200 years after its initial construction.

HEY THAT’S US! Or rather the paper that Rick and Chuck published separately in order for our mutual review to follow. I didn’t think the science article mentioned us before, so I don’t know where they got this reference. But nicely done!

Still, it’s encouraging that so many beaver homes survived the 19th and 20th centuries, a particularly turbulent time for wildlife across North America. Any averted extinction is good news, but beavers are keystone species whose DIY wetlands boost all kinds of biodiversity, so their comeback is especially welcome.

Beavers only live for 10 to 20 years, and since they’re often parents by age 3, dozens of generations could have inhabited Morgan’s ponds since he mapped them. The aforementioned California dam could have even spanned 400 generations, about the number humans have had since our ancestors began farming. Yet despite all our species’ success, we have a knack for destroying ecosystems in the process. Beavers, on the other hand, use local resources to enrich themselves and their habitats.

That doesn’t mean beavers have all the answers. But the industrious rodents are a useful reminder that we’re all defined by what we leave for our descendants, whether it’s an unpolluted atmosphere, a biodiverse bog or just a dammed place to live.

I feel like I read most of this article three or four times already. But I really love where this article ends and how it lays down the values of beaver resilience. It wasn’t an accident that they were the first animals back after Mt. St Helens errupted or after the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl. I only disagree with one part, of course.

Beavers do, in fact, have all the answers.

Rolig bäver skämt!

Posted by heidi08 On December - 6 - 2016Comments Off on Rolig bäver skämt!

Apologies in advance for using google translate but my Swedish is -er- rusty. Yesterday I received an email for the owner of an ecotour company in Sweden asking me what the best beaver tours were in the west. Could I recommend some for his itinerary through the western states? I politely explained that I had friends dotted around that could show him local colonies but as far as I knew there were NO professional tours in the US. He was surprised and said that there were at least 20 in Sweden!

calvin-and-hobbes-laughIt took a while to catch our breaths again after the hearty chuckle to think that of the day when California (about the same size as Sweden) sported 20 professional  beaver tours. (That would be like four in the bay area alone!) I, of course, went to check out his website.

captureThe1 tour runs 5 hours and costs around 150 dollars per person. It is lead by strapping young wildlife guides who know what to look for and are wonderfully fluent.   The tour includes an outdoor meal by the lake and advice on how to get thcapturee best photographs. Their website says that beavers are seen most nights and often feed near the boat.

Just like a visit to the footbridge in Martinez except fewer homeless and 150 dollars a head.

Marcus thought it odd that there were no tour programs and suggested he might be able to help us start one? Just our luck because we’re such fools in Martinez we’ve been giving free tours to 500 people a year at the festival and on call when we could have been making top dollar! (500 x 150 x 10) adds up to nearly  a million dollars!

calvin-and-hobbes-laughCertainly we know in Martinez that folks are interested in Beavers and appreciate the chance to see them or see evidence of them. Jon could tell you how eagerly folks listen to his many tours and crowd for a chance to see a chewed tree or dam. Maybe there is a future for us in beaver tourism? Ahh Marcus, you have made us dream of the possible and reach for the stars! Thanks for that!

Speaking of glimpses of rare wildlife I was particularly moved by this short celebration of reintroducing fishers on Mt. Rainier tribal land this Saturday. Fishers were all trapped out like beavers for their rich fur and hadn’t been seen in hundreds of years. We know from our beaver mileage that sometimes the easiest way to get around the feds and bring back a species is to just do it on sovereign land where federal rules have no jurisdiction. Then wait for the successful animals to reintroduce themselves over the borders.