Archive for the ‘Educational’ Category

Wisconsin’s handicapped fish

Posted by heidi08 On May - 26 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

disabled fish

Apparently the badger state is asking for more public input on its very draconian beaver management plan. I want to review it but can see I already wrote about it pretty scathingly in 2011. I’ll repost here, but the two added things I learned by watching the excruciating webinars was that WDNR believes their state is exceptional. Even though trout are helped by beaver dams in the west, it’s different in Wisconsin. Nobody can explain why exactly, but beaver dams and trout CANNOT coexist in the state. So obviously one has to go.

(And you know which one.)

They believe that the beaver population has gone UP since historic times. They actually do a helicopter flyover every three years in the northern part of the state and count beaver sign per square mile. This inflated method has given them an estimate of about 50,000 beavers in the state, or about 100 per square mile of water. Which they say is dreadfully more than it was historically but less than it was before they started killing them.

Oh, and just in case you wondered, history starts in 1900.

DNR seeks input on final beaver management guidelines

The Wisconsin DNR wants to know if it has the right plans for beavers in the state. The final public feedback period is open for the new beaver management plan.

 The document will guide decisions on beavers through 2025. The final draft touches on topics like population, habitat, and damage management. The current draft recommends keeping beaver populations mostly stable in the state.

Public input for the final beaver management plan is open through June 22. The DNR will also host a public meeting on June 16 from 6-8 p.m. at the DNR Service Center in Rhinelander to take comments.

 That’s right, there’s zero discussion of the native population and how many beaver were there before the fur trade came. Did you know the french were trapping Wisconsin as early as 1600? Gee I wonder how the natives lived off trout before then, with all those icky beavers ruining their creeks and no one to control them. Never mind. Since they’ve been killing beavers in the state the trout population has thrived. Of course it couldn’t be for any OTHER reason. Like water quality regulations for example…

Beaver Management Plan Update Webinar from UWEXNaturalResources on Vimeo.

Yesterday I was ranting at the computer watching the above and this, but today I’m just going to rerun what I wrote 4 years ago on the subject. They obviously learned nothing since then. If you want to give Wisconsin the benefit or your knowledge, your much needed wisdom  goes here:


“The Badger State” has decided to update its beaver policy. See in the 80′s they counted a beaver population of 200,000 and did some research that found that removing beaver dams from streams was the single best thing Wisconsin could do for its trout, so they’ve been doing so at such a great rate that there are only about 80,000 beavers left in the state. Is that too few, they wonder? Did we do TOO good a job? Mind you, they’re review of the policy isn’t prompted by any new reading of the research, or comprehension of the trickle down effect of fewer beavers on wetland ecology – but because (this is a quote, I’m not kidding)

“Certain user groups are concerned that the recreational opportunity provided by beaver is not what they’d like to see,”

“User Groups” as in TRAPPERS. There aren’t enough beaver to enjoyably kill. Maybe we should change our regulations to encourage a few more so that our sporty sportsmen have fewer empty snares. They are busily having meetings with the public to get input about attitudes towards beavers and soothe the ruffled feathers – er, scales – of the Trout Unlimited folk who are certain the beaver mean harm to trout.

Steve Avelallemant, of Rhinelander, is the fisheries supervisor for the DNR’s Northern Region, and he admitted that beaver dams can be a problem, especially on trout streams in northern Wisconsin.


“They (beaver and trout) just cannot exist together for a host of reasons,” said Avelallemant, who helped shape the state’s original beaver plan. “Out West, beavers are a good thing for trout streams. In Wisconsin, not so much.

Beaver and trout just can’t exist together!And since trout are non-negotiable, beavers must be limited! Never mind that up until they were eradicated before the 1800′s the state used to have millions more beaver. Interestingly, before we eliminated the local natives they had lived off plentiful trout streams for 2000 years and never complained of the shortage. Never mind history. Never mind about all that “fancy-pants” research that says beavers are good for trout. This is WISCONSIN. Our streams are different. Our trout are different. We have our OWN research. Just look.

Well, this looks interesting. Go get some coffee. That’s a pretty long study period. Let’s take a look at what it says, shall we?

Okay, no skimming allowed. you HAVE to read this. Beaver dams raise the water temperature, and ruin channels and bring in riff-raff fish that eat up all the insects AND attract wildlife that eat up all the trout. Wow. And most of the research cited is from the Eisenhower era. So we know it must be true.

The study goes on to review several different methods of stream restoration and to compare these methods by region around the state. Marinette county seems to be the segment designated as the no-beaver zone and USDA kindly removed all the dams (and beavers) in these areas. Then the measures were taken again after the streams had time to get used to their new no-beaverness. Guess what! The beaverless streams did better!

I know I’M excited! Don’t I look excited? I was so excited I wrote them a four page paper in response, which if you’re the kind of person that cares you can read here. In the meantime I will tell you that I got very interested in this particular “region” which was the only part of the study devoted to beaver killing and showing stellar results. Since I’ve read beaver research in the post-Eisenhower period, I was very curious about their findings. I hunted around the internet looking for possible confounding variables – and found that the nearby Menominee River was the proud home of the Ansul chemical company that made Sufur Dioxide and was sued for releasing Arsenic into the water for around 50 years. Around that time of this study the EPA busily was forcing them to clean up the ground water and build protective berms over the poisonous sediment. Hmm.

Could THAT have anything to do with trout health ya think?

So while I was busy smacking my forehead and reliving the plot of Silkwood, Rick went hunting for data on trout and beaver. He found this lovely restocking guide from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife conservation group. See Vermont’s worried about its native trout too, so they’re encouraging watershed groups to put in some baby ones (called fry) to keep the streams going. They have some GREAT advice about how to do it. Check it out.

So apparently if you live in opposite ends of the country in Washington or Vermont beaver dams are good for trout. But if you have the misfortune to live in Wisconsin they’re just AWFUL. So awful in fact that only scientific papers from 50 years ago are courageous enough to trumpet their disaster. DNR has a lovely little survey asking for public input on beavers, with searching, unbiased questions like to “how badly do beavers ruin your fishing season? very badly – not sure – or only slightly badly” And “on a scale of 1-5 how much do you dislike beavers when they viciously chew down your trees and flood your property”. Not a push-poll in any way, they are respected scientists! Perhaps a few readers of this website will give that survey the careful responses it deserves.

How does California feel about beaver dams and trout or salmon? Well Brock Dolman sent this picture yesterday of the fourth annual release of 170 adult Coho into Salmon Creek Watershed in Sonoma County which he made sure to photograph along side a beaver puppet to make his point.

Could Wisconsin possibly maintain its stubborn position in the face of all this data to the contrary? You know badgers are famous for not giving up even losing battles. Reportedly, their skeletons are sometime found with their jaws still locked together in combat. I guess they don’t call it the “Badger” state for nothing.

Oh and Happy Solstice, by the way! Since today’s another no burn day you can’t have a fire all night to keep up your spirits on the longest night of the year, but light a candle anyway and dream about new possibilities for beavers coming soon!

World Wildlife Federation promotes Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On May - 22 - 2015Comments Off

CaptureSara Moore is a Sonoma-based climate writer and blogs for the WWF climate report. Guess what she decided to talk about in this issue?

California: The Rebeavering

The California case for beaver reintroduction is picking up steam.

Specifically, the case is being made for the benefits of beaver dams and their ponds to California’s high Sierra, where a disappearing snowpack is threatening the state’s summer water supply—and overall economy.

California faces peculiar beaver-reintroduction barriers not faced by other western states where people are starting to think of beaver ponds as a landscape restoration and surface water retention tool, like Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. And drought-plagued California might gain particular benefit from a new surface water retention tool.

Sara goes on to do a fairly deft recap of the beaver nativity issue and the research we did to prove it, and then even makes room for one particular city that decided to live with beavers.

Although individual cases of conflict can be solved (as they did famously in Martinez, CA, now the home of an annual Beaver Festival), there is a lack of information in favor of beavers as a way to solve problems. 

Thanks for the mention, but I think you’re wrong about missing information. We have tons of research on beaver benefits to salmon and riparian and carbon. What we’re missing is broadcasting and persuasion. There was a time I thought that more information would change peoples thinking, but now I realize that when people say ‘more research is needed’ they’re usually just stalling or looking for funding. There are about 20 people in the entire state whose minds could be changed by research about beavers. The rest are going to learn by watching, seeing, or getting public pressure. Come to Martinez and see for yourself.

The article ends on a cheery note:

So, the CDFW is cautiously showing interest in what the beaver believers have to say. There appears to be momentum behind locating and evaluating populations for possible increased protection. Sierra mountain meadows and their far-downstream neighbors, thirsty ranches and farms, may eventually see the benefits.

Hurray for beavers! Hooray for Brock and hurray for WWF. We need folks all over to be seriously thinking about this issue, at this starts the conversation nicely. If people want to learn more Sara has a great list of references at the end for further information and this introduces folks to the issues  very well. When you beaver photo gets into the WWF calendar I’ll consider it a real victory!


Can I complain now?

(I spoke with Sara back in April and our conversation was kind of unsettling. Of course I referred her to all the sources named in the article, and gave her background about all the states that allowed relocation. To tell the truth though, I’m surprised Martinez made it in at all, because she really wasn’t interested in solving beaver problems. She was interested in Relocation and couldn’t understand why I didn’t think it was the best idea EVER. As you can see, Worth A Dam, or my actual name appear nowhere in the piece, even when she refers to the papers we wrote on which I was second author (grr) – I guess I should be happy to get a link, and several links to articles on this website, an information source apparently so useful it isn’t even mentioned.)

This is me shaking it off. (Video of grooming beaver from Rusty Cohn at Tulocay beaver pond in Napa.)


Martinez Beavers go to Pacifica

Posted by heidi08 On May - 18 - 2015Comments Off

June 6th is my final beaver talk for a while and will be at the San Pedro Valley Park visitor’s center in Pacifica, ending one of the busiest 6 months of beaver-speaking I’ve known. It started with the SF waterboard in Oakland, then the State of the Beaver in Oregon, then the salmonid federation in Santa Rosa, then Trout Unlimited in Coloma, then SARSAS in Auburn and Safari West in Santa Rosa. Now there’s just one left and then I can focus on the festival.

San Pedro Valley SPV is a county park in the peninsula hills described as A vast area embracing the middle and south forks of San Pedro Creek, which are Steelhead spawning grounds, this park is nestled amongst the Santa Cruz Mountain range and the foothills of Pacifica. “ They also happen to be interested in having beaver, and originally contacted me thinking relocation might be an option. I explained that the only way to get beaver in California right now is to let them come to you and they invited me to come talk about benefits and solutions. They did an awfully nice blurb on their newsletter. I especially like “repatriated”.nice bioThey might not have all that long to wait. We have a beaver sighting 5 miles east at the water treatment facility, and a beaver killed on the highway 5 miles south. Since several forks of the San Pedro Creek flow through the park, the odds are good beavers will find their way eventually. underwater adaptions Since it’s a new crowd I thought I’d work on some new graphics, which is always fun.  This should remind me not to leave anything out when I discuss their physical adaptions! And this could be a good prompt for discussing beaver chewing of trees and why not to panic.

chewedBut the last was the most fun to do.  And really will be the most powerful. Because, in the end, it isn’t science that saves beavers. Even though it should. People don’t change their minds because of data.  We all learned first hand in Martinez, it’s not brains that convince. It’s hearts.

kits get a lift

A silly thing and three special things

Posted by heidi08 On May - 17 - 20151 COMMENT

First the silly thing….

Beaver cuts tree down, starts grass fire south of Saskatoon

Capture SASKATOON – A beaver caused a large grass fire Saturday, according to the Saskatoon Fire Department. The blaze was located near Valley Road, south of the city near The Berry Barn.  The fire department says the animal chew ed down a poplar tree which fell on a power line.

Those beaver arsonists are the worst! Smoking in bed, starting fires with their appetizer course, with zero regard for personal property. They obviously don’t know how hard it is to put up those power lines in the first place.

Now, let’s share in the wondrous developments at the Napa beaver pond, where Rusty has been patiently waiting for a glimpse of the new kits. Of course while he’s waiting there’s lots to see. Check out this weekends bounty.

He even got video of two otters at the sight having a little tussle. Megan of ROEP thinks it mighthave something to do with mating. How exciting!

Now for this truly stunning photograph brought to my attention by someone I can’t yet bring to your attention. Isn’t this BEAUTIFUL?

kit ride

This is the kind of photo that every wildlife watcher dreams of getting. That perfect moment when opportunity crosses your path and everything goes right. He writes that it’s a mother carrying her kit, which is a fair assumption. But we in Martinez know it might not be true. The most stunning footage I ever got was dad carrying both kits. And we only know that because of mom’s beautiful tail clue.

This is the kind of photo that saves beavers, so I hope Jeff doesn’t mind too much if I share. You can see Jeff’s remarkable work on flickr here.

And finally the best for last. Now pull up a chair and gather close because this is really important. First, a little background. In the films about Grey Owl they describe him doing a special call to bring the beavers. The way a duck call brings ducks. Which I would have ignored as silly if I hadn’t also read in a book about someone who hand-reared kits in Canada who said that their brother was a trapper and he taught her to call beavers. She noted that it was so powerful she would never teach anyone else because she didn’t want trappers to use it. So I was curious.

And then there’s Bernie Krause’s amazing recording of the beaver after the dam and his family was blown up. It sounds very much like he is mourning. But I after I heard it I always wondered if he was calling to find them. (Which is what we would do if our homes were blown up and we weren’t sure if our family members were inside.) I discussed this idea with him, but he was fairly disinterested. But then yesterday – out of NOWHERE – I stumbled on this.

I know that readers of this site mostly don’t click on the videos. Life is busy and who has time? Believe me when I say you want to see this. (I was so scared it would end badly I practically watched it with my eyes closed the first time. But nothing bad happens, trust me.) And this is really, really worth your time.

(I trust if you know any trappers, you won’t show it to them.) And honestly, don’t practice this call on our beavers because they’ve been through enough. But isn’t that amazing? Do you realize what this means? It means parents call kits. And beavers call each other. I am sure this is a youngish beaver, looking for his family. What surprised me was not only that it existed, but how very different the sound is from a kit whining. Almost like loud nasal mooing. Also I could hear the similarity in the young beaver answers, and hear how similar it is to our kits whining. It made me think that beaver kits are imitating adult speech – just like children!

Honestly, this is a big deal. Such a big deal that I got an email last night from Bernie Krause himself.

Free, furry nitrate-removal kits.

Posted by heidi08 On May - 15 - 2015Comments Off

Wetlands continue to reduce nitrates

Wetlands created 20 years ago between tile-drained agricultural fields and the Embarras River were recently revisited for a new two-year University of Illinois research project. Results show an overall 62 percent nitrate removal rate and little emission of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas.

Slowing down the rate of flow of the water by intercepting it in the wetland is what helps to remove the nitrate,” says Mark David, a University of Illinois biogeochemist in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. “The vegetation that grows in the wetland doesn’t make much of a difference because the grasses don’t take up much nitrogen. It’s just about slowing the water down and allowing the microbes in the sediment to eliminate the nitrate. It goes back into the air as harmless nitrogen gas.”

I’m so glad Illinois is looking into this. We really need to understand the ways to fix our streams. The EPA says that nitrates are leftovers from all the fertilizers and rodenticides farmers use. And that if the get into wells or groundwater they can cause illness in children or cancer at higher levels.

Exposure to nitrates and nitrites at levels above health-based risk values has adverse health effects on infants and children. The health effect of most concern to the U.S. EPA for children is the “blue baby syndrome” (methemoglobinemia) seen most often in infants exposed to nitrate from drinking water used to make formula.

Exposure to higher levels of nitrates or nitrites has been associated with increased incidence of cancer in adults, and possible increased in cidence of brain tumors, leukemia, and nasopharyngeal (nose and throat)  

As a rule Americans are against turning our babies blue or giving ourselves cancer. So we really, really want to get rid of nitrates when we can. And it turns out that just slowing down the water by making wetlands is a better way to do that than just about anything else. Even better than plants. Even better than building expensive bioreactors.

“Farmers generally prefer to install bioreactors because they don’t take up much space,” Gentry says. “A wetland requires about 3 to 4 percent of the drainage area. So, for a 100-acre field, you’d need about 4 acres in wetland. Although bioreactors don’t use much land, they also don’t slow the water enough during high flows. Research on their performance is still underway. Because water tends to be in the wetlands for a much longer time period, they are more effective.”

Wow, wetlands work harder for longer and they are supremely effective at getting rid of nitrates. We really need them! The article doesn’t mention it but they also have all these added benefits as a buffer zone for huge storms, and a stopping place for migratory birds, or habitat for wildlife. We should be working hard to protect them since they do this important work. Maybe giving a tax credit to farmers  that allow them?

The article also doesn’t mention a certain rodent that actually makes and maintains these valuable wetlands for free. Its name escapes me now. What was it called again?

I think it started with a ‘B’?

Mudding the dam Cheryl Reynolds

Mudding the dam Cheryl Reynolds

Thanks to BK for sending this my way.

Getting ready for Beaver Mother’s Day

Posted by heidi08 On May - 4 - 2015Comments Off

What a headline!

5 pesky animals you might see this spring around Calgary

Spring is here, and BBQs and flowering gardens await. But just as we are waking up from our — albeit mild — winter slump, so is nature. So be prepared to see some furry, not-so-welcome visitors.

While it’s unlikely for someone to have a problem beaver in their backyard, the critters still can cause problems with their tendency to flood an area. To create their homes, beavers will build dams that block water flow, sometimes flooding pathways and other public infrastructure. There is also the issue of tree management, since their food of choice is bark and leaves. Calgary Parks management deals with this by wrapping wire around trees, to stop them from chomping on them. Also, since the flood in 2013, the beaver’s environment has changed, and can now be seen in places they weren’t before.

 When near a beaver dam, be sure to keep your distance if you see a beaver. These are territorial animals, and though they will leave you be if you extend the same courtesy, they have been known to attack dogs and humans and to hold up traffic.

SSTOP TRAFFICeriously? Keep your distance because beavers might bite or hold up traffic? You know I’m a busy woman, it’s Monday and I have to get ready for another presentation. But this is too good to resist. I literally can’t help myself.

There are more things to mock in the article, but this is most glaring. Now we have other things to talk about.  Greg Kerekes from the Urban Wildlife Research project in San Jose is coming to interviewme for a short film about urban wildlife this weekend. I mention it because he went to Lexington Reservoir this weekend and took this amazing photo of a beaver moving a kit:

moving jr

Beaver moving kit – photo Greg Kerekes

Look at that adorable face! When I first saw it it almost looked like a koala bear! Greg a great job of sitting patiently and even waited behind a blind to get this shot. In Martinez, our new mother has moved the kits every year but we’ve never gotten lucky enough to film it.


Saturday we’re off to Safari West where I’ll be presenting after dinner to the families staying there. Then we get to stay overnight in the luxury tents and tour in the morning. Since Sunday’s mother’s day I’m going to talk about beaver mothers and the way that beavers act as “Fairy Godmothers” to the creeks. I had a lot of fun making this, and any excuse to download new fonts makes me happy!

Fariy Godmother

Beavers to the left of us, beavers to the right of us,

Posted by heidi08 On May - 3 - 2015Comments Off

Last night we saw at least five family members, two coming from up above the marina vista bridge and two or three coming from above the footbridge. It was one of those days when beavers appeared from so many places at once they were hard to keep track of. I told Lory it reminded me of this cartoon:
pinocchioWe were craning our necks at every turn struggling to catch a glimpse of teats that would assure of us a new generation – no luck on that front yet. Their impressive dam reassures us that new family members are being protected. But I personally can’t understand why the 2 year olds haven’t dispersed yet if there are new kits in the mix. We will just have to be patient, and give the beavers time to show us the answer at the leisure.


Entering the water – Photo Cheryl Reynolds

Speaking of things I hate to do, here is another doozey. Not talking about something really, really exciting. I mean even if there’s a perfectly good reason not to talk about it. And you promised people you respect very much. I remember being a child and going christmas shopping for my mom with my older sisters. They would sternly warn me as to the pact of secrecy and I would promise over and over again not to tell what we got her and explain that I was older now are reassure them I understood. And off we would go shopping to Cost Plus or Penny’s and pick out whatever pretty trinket I could afford.

But as soon as we came back I would burst open like a confetti balloon and explain how wonderful the earrings or vase that we had picked out were going to be. Even before they were wrapped I had to tell her. It was just too exciting. The thought of having my mother’s undiluted attention for the entire twenty seconds it would take to deliver the message was just too much for my little brain to resist. My sisters would be furious. And swear I was never going with them next time. I would feel horrible and immature. But the next year the whole thing would happen all over again.

Now that was a long time ago. Why bring up this old story?

Oh, no particular reason.