Archive for the ‘Educational’ Category

Best Onion Ever

Posted by heidi08 On September - 17 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

the onion

A few folks yesterday sent me this column from the Onion in 2006. It made me smile, but I honestly am so DEEP in the story I hardly get the humor. Of course beavers plan their work and some of them overthink. Remember Reed who only built with tule? Even though Dad wanted him to use branches? He had definitely had a firm artistic style all his own.

HUNTSVILLE, ONTARIO—Local beaver Dennis Messner is spending an inordinate amount of time and effort in the planning and construction phases of building his dam, according to neighbors close to the project.

 In the past four months, Messner, 4, has visited hundreds of other dams and drawn up detailed and extensive blueprints. He has researched topics ranging from advanced dome acoustics to the near-extinction of the North American beaver in the early 20th century, and plans to incorporate much of his research into his design.

Dennis Messner

 “There are two primary schools of thought on dam building: the instinctive school and the adaptive school,” Messner said, studying the river’s current. “I’m more of an integration-minded postmodernist. I don’t believe that form should follow function, like most of my colleagues do. On the other hand, a dam is a celebration of beaver culture, and that is what it should reflect.”

Never mind that the column features a photo of a groundhog. It’s still a smart bit of writing and makes such perfect sense to me I almost couldn’t laugh.

It reminded me of years ago I showed the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip on the “Duplicator self” to a young patient because they were operating with several personalities at the time and they were getting into all kinds of trouble. I had thought it would help us talk about duality – what happens when, for instance, one self is doing class work and another is scrawling the principals name with a word that rhymes with ‘duck’ in the yard in black marker.

The thoughtful child just read it soberly without the faintest trace of humor, but deep, deep understanding. They weren’t even surprised to read something that so described their life  so clearly, but rather, confused why I would be showing them something that in their mind was so obvious. I realized then that like every child in the world they thought everyone lived that way and had absolutely no idea why the comic was funny.

Obviously I felt the same way reading this column. Why is it humorous  to imagine beavers thinking about their impact on the ecosystem?

Messner rejected the criticism. “Not everyone in this area cares or is even aware of how dam building alters an ecosystem,” Messner said. “But I am, and, yes, I do wonder what kind of impact my dam will have on the environment. How can I make this the most positive experience possible, while still minimizing adverse impact on the wetlands? What kind of beaver would I be if I didn’t take erosion science into consideration?” To that end, Messner has reached out to the local otter, fish, and waterfowl communities, and has incorporated their input into his design.

Go read the whole thing. It’s definitely worth it. Oh and how did you do on the quiz below? 10/10?

Another difference between Iowa and Washington

Posted by heidi08 On September - 11 - 2014Comments Off

News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Neighbors Want Solution For Beaver Dam Flooding

Just up the creek from where the water is backing up is a beaver dam, possibly more than one. It’s just north of Interstate 80 near the Davenport Municipal Airport. A resident who lives nearby and is dealing with water on her family’s land took some pictures. The problem is that the dams aren’t on her property and it’s been a struggle to get something done.

 ”It’s been going on since April. We’ve had water up to our knees almost,” said Lindsay Andrews. She says last year there was barely any water in the creek at all. Now there seems to be a bit of a beaver problem.

 ”We’ve seen a couple of beavers. My mother in law seen one. We watched one swim upstream not too long ago,” said Andrews.

 Their dams are leaving stagnant water and a muddy mess in area her family mostly uses for recreation but on a regular basis.

 ”We used to do cookouts, can’t do that. Kids used to ride the trails, can’t do that,” she said, “the bugs are a big concern… Safety is a big concern with the kids.”

My god the horror. Our kids haven’t been outside in 5 months because we’re terrified of the westnile-virus mosquitoes or some such nonsense those rotten beavers have brought into our bright green fertilizer-ruined stream. I have only written about beavers in Iowa once before in 8 years of coverage so that means they aren’t even enough of an issue to hit the news cycle.  I’m honestly not hopeful for these beavers, but I dutifully posted my comment just in case some landowner wants to be in touch about options.

The only other comment is about how dynamite will fix things, so I ain’t hopeful.


A better use of our time is the youtube account of Ben Dittbrenner, who’s dissertation on beavers and climate change was mentioned a couple days ago in the news. He wrote back after my comment and said that he is thoroughly enjoying this part of his work, and his close contact with the beavers. He’s particularly struck by what a mollifying effect their adorable presence has on even the most hardened maintenance crew.

Of course Worth A Dam knows all about that. Remember the crane company that put in the sheetpile?

cooper craneYou should subscribe to Ben’s youtube account right away so you see the cool stuff he encounters during his project. I just wish data collection on MY dissertation looked like this!

Published on Sep 2, 2014

 This video is from our animal husbandry facility. Beavers are temporarily housed as part of the Skykomish Beaver Project. The goal of this research is to relocate nuisance beavers, which would otherwise be killed, into headwaters of the Skykomish River Basin to stimulate habitat improvement and climate change

Beavers at Sulpher Creek Nature Center

Posted by heidi08 On September - 10 - 2014Comments Off

From the SF Gate, May 4 2011

Tucked in a woodsy canyon in the Hayward hills, the Sulphur Creek Nature Center treats as many as 900 injured and orphaned wild animals every year. A wildlife education and resource center, it also serves as a permanent refuge for several nonreleasable birds and mammals.

 1. Sulphur Creek Nature Center

 Operated by the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District, this center offers classes, a year-round school science program for teachers and their students (preschool through sixth grade), an Animal Lending Library teaching the responsibilities of caring for a pet, and more. (510) 881-6747.

Think Lindsay Museum in Hayward and you’re close. And come this saturday think this:


Beavers are “nature’s engineers” in providing habitat for a diverse eco-system. Learn about this “Keystone Species” from Heidi Perryman, founder of “Worth a Dam” and discover how beavers are “key” to a rich environment.

 28273 18yr+ $18

This all came about because one of the folks who used to regularly watch beavers with us is a volunteer there and after years of persuasion they agreed to finally host a program on beavers. I’m kinda surprised it’s so pricey and ADULT ONLY but I’ll try to be worth it, with lots of after hours adult only information!

(I only have on explicit beaver picture, but I’ll eek it out.)

Figure 27. Copulation in water, replicated from Ruth Pollitts’ illustration (in Kitchener 2001).

Figure 27. Copulation in water, replicated from Ruth Pollitts’ illustration (in Kitchener 2001).

Ooh there’s a new video from the wild beaver folks on the Tay, although I hope the date is wrong. Beavers mating in September means babies in late December? Ohhh just got an email clarifying that the date this was taken was Feb 2. Much better!

This headline could be from the book of Genesis

Posted by heidi08 On September - 8 - 2014Comments Off

Hydrologist Andy Bryden (left) and wildlife biologists Molly Alves and Jason Schilling release two captive beavers into a lodge they built earlier on Forest Service land near Skykomish on Wednesday. A team with the Tulalip Tribes worked with state Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service to relocate six beavers found near Duvall.

Beavers brought here as part of an effort to improve ecosystems

SKYKOMISH — On a rainy Wednesday, a small team hiked into the woods near Skykomish hauling three heavy cages.Their destination: a creekside pile of cut branches and sticks. Their cargo: a family of six beavers.

The first cage was lined up with an opening in the pile of wood, which is actually a lodge built by the team the previous Friday. The cage was opened and the matriarch of the family, weighing 50 pounds, was gently encouraged into the lodge.

Once she waddled in, one of the team called out, “Mama went in,” and a small cheer went up.Mama beaver was followed by one of her young, then the cage was removed and the lodge entrance blocked to prevent the beavers from leaving while the next cage was lined up.Within 10 minutes, the entire family — mother, father, three subadults about one year old and one kit — was in the lodge, the entrance blocked with a log.

Beavers play an important role in maintaining stream health. Their dams help maintain a consistent base flow of water in streams so that it doesn’t all flow downhill in one springtime deluge, an important consideration in eastern Washington where many streams run dry in the summer.Beaver dams also retain sediment and help to reduce water temperatures in streams, making them healthier for salmon and other fish

Another beaver triumph for Washington state which is the beaver Mecca from which all wisdom flows. I am really happy to see our friend Ben Dittbrenner right at the center of it. He’s one of two folk who replaced Jake Jacobsen as watershed steward in Snohomish county. Jake was my very first beaver advisor, and Ben had lots of chances to learn from the master. He and Jake are both working with Mike Callahan on the adapted flow devices for fish passage. We first met Ben at the 2013 State of the Beaver conference when he joined us for a quick lunch before our talks.

Ben Dittbrenner is a Ph.D. candidate in forest ecology at the University of Washington working with the Tulalips on this project. Dittbrenner said this work will also help prove a theory in his dissertation.

“What we’re hoping to show is that the beavers can be used to reduce the effects of climate change,” Dittbrenner said.One of the major impacts expected from climate change in the Pacific Northwest is warmer water at higher elevations. That will lead to less snowpack, and therefore less water from snowmelt in streams in the summer, presenting risks to salmon and fish habitat.

Beaver activity resaturates the land, however. Stored water migrates downstream more slowly, and often through the water table, which keeps the temperature down.Beaver activity has also been shown to correlate with more stream meanders, more shady spots, and overall more diverse ecosystems, Dittbrenner said. In other studies, juvenile coho salmon were seen in higher numbers in streams with beavers.

“Beavers and coho go hand in hand, or foot and tail,” he said.

 Great work Ben and colleagues, and I can’t wait for the day when the work beavers do in smart cities that learn to live with them gets such a glowing article! And that, ladies and gentlemen is why Washington is the beaver beacon for the world.


California, on the other hand, has a LONG way to go. I got back some preliminary data from our statistical analysis of the spread sheets we did on the 254 depredation permits issued in the past 20 months. Apparently we have an “OUTLIER”.

Ya think?


Safari Success

Posted by heidi08 On September - 7 - 2014Comments Off

Desktop2Last night’s beaver safari was a well-attended, feel-good event, with wildlife-savvy,amiable folk from all over the bay area.  Attendees included a wildlife biologist from USGS, my first ever boss (The former director of the Martinez Early Childhood Center), several wildlife-loving older couples from the east bay, a mother from Vallejo with a thoughtful, attentive son, some Martinez regulars who had come to the festival for years, and as a total surprise someone from Jon’s work at the powerplant in Pittsburg showed up unexpectedly! One family from San Francisco ‘dropped in’ because they had made the trek to Martinez that night specifical to look for the famous beavers and knew nothing about any event.

The stars of the evening did not disappoint, (even though Jon, Cheryl and I were thinking sightings were pretty slow and far between in comparison), it was clearly more beavers and closer sightings of beavers than anyone there had ever seen or expected. “They’re so big!” Was the usual first response. “And so close!” There was rapt attention, thoughtful questions, discussion of beavers being important to fish, wildlife, birds, and drought with happy beaver banter well into the night when the group broke up, some of whom went off to dinner on main street. All told we counted about 30 people, 3 beavers and 75.oo in donations offered in the tip jar!

Jon and I drove home reminded of how many truly  humane humans there were in the world, which is always a nice way to end an evening. We also thought that there should be a couple more beaver safaris during the year, maybe in the summer months leading up to the festival?


And as an extra special reward, this article was released yesterday in Alberta, which is easily becoming the beaver IQ capital of the country.

How to live in harmony with beavers

A local biologist hopes city and county residents will come to a free talk this fall on how to live with beavers.

 The Sturgeon River Research Project is hosting a free workshop on beavers this September in partnership with Sturgeon County.

 Laurie Hunt, a biologist with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and researcher with the project, says she runs into a lot of landowners frustrated by beavers as her team works to restore riparian zones along the Sturgeon.

“Beavers can be an asset to us, particularly in this time of climate change adaptation,” says Fitch, riparian specialist with Cows and Fish.

Beaver dams can add about 10 per cent more surface water to a watershed and a huge amount of groundwater, helping to maintain flows during dry periods, Fitch says.

“In flood times, think of beaver dams as speed-bumps,” he continues. Beaver dams spread water out over an area about 12 times as wide as the channel they cover, slowing flows and reducing erosion.

Honestly, this is like putting on a favorite jacket you haven’t worn or a while and finding 20 dollars in the pocket. What an unexpected treat! Again it seems we have Cows and Fishes to thank for some really smart work.  The ever cautionary Mike Callahan wasn’t thrilled about the mention of ‘perforated pipes’ to lower dam height, noting they are easily plugged by even the laziest beaver. But we can tweak their methods over time. In my experience learning HOW to live with beavers is fairly easy. The hard part is learning WHY to live with beavers, and they already have that elusive motivation in spades.


Oh and Beaver Festival VII made the John Muir Association fall newsletter.



Posted by heidi08 On September - 6 - 2014Comments Off

backyard beaver safari
Tonight’s the final night of the week long celebration of the Wilderness Act and ends with the Beaver Safari right here in Martinez. I got worried yesterday that participants would park at Amtrak and get ticketed so I called everyone to make sure. We will bring some displays, handouts, a photographer (Cheryl) and the beavers will bring THEM SELVES which will be perfect.

Would a fleeting otter or blue heron visit be too much to ask?

There’s an interesting (and surpringly well-researched) article in the Press Democrat about water flow since the earthquake and the really funny part is that I heard about this a week ago from our beaver friends in Napa. The little beaver pond they were watching has been overflowing since the big shake, and they wondered why? I told them to talk with flood control just in case a pipe had been dislodged. It turns out that when the tectonic plates shift, there is often more water squeezed out of the aquifer, and its been observed for centuries.

Napa quake jumpstarts stream flows, though probably only temporarily

Three creeks in Sonoma Valley and two more in Napa and Solano counties have dramatically increased water flows since the Aug. 24 earthquake in Napa County, a phenomenon familiar to scientists for more than a century and well established in Santa Rosa history.

 Carriger Creek, a steelhead spawning stream on the city of Sonoma’s west flank, was bone dry — save for shallow, isolated pools of water — before the magnitude-6.0 temblor went off 12 days ago from an epicenter about 9 miles to the east.

As far back as 1865, a local newspaper described rising streams in the Santa Cruz Mountains following a magnitude-6.5 quake on the San Andreas fault, and a federal government study found the magnitude-6.9 Loma Prieta quake in 1989 squeezed about 23 billion gallons of groundwater from the same mountains.

Neither scientists nor Sonoma County historians were surprised by the watery aftermath to the Napa temblor.

 “Seismic events have long been known to cause changes in the level of oceans, streams, lakes and the water table,” said a 66-page USGS study of hydrological disturbances from the Loma Prieta quake, including a tsunami in Monterey Bay and increased stream flows in the Santa Cruz Mountains and as far as 55 miles from the epicenter.

stickerYou could say that this is the silver lining to us all foolishly living on a serious of faults, but of course we need the water IN the sponge as well. Whether we use it up above ground or underground, it’s still used up – and a good time to remember that we need MORE BEAVERS to keep it around longer.

But of course the press is too busy having fun with the beaver attack story from Nova Scotia to talk about any of this. Here’s the latest from the National Post in Canada. I offer this without comment or pointed I told you so.

Vicious beaver attacks Halifax snorkeler off Nova Scotia’s coast


Beavers win Badger-Spirit Award

Posted by heidi08 On September - 1 - 2014Comments Off

2014 Badger Spirit awards are presented to:

Occidental Arts and Ecology Center and WATER Institute in Occidental, CA, for their work in conserving natural resources, sustainable agriculture, respect for the environment, and the WATER Institute’s national outreach to “Bring Back the Beaver” and restoring Coho Salmon to watersheds programs. More info:, and

Worth a Dam,, based in Martinez, CA, for conservation, outreach and educational programs on behalf of Beavers in the United States and stewardship and protection of the Martinez Beavers in Martinez, CA. More info:, an innovative and contemporary internet resource, for San Francisco Bay Area information about wildlife, places, activities and resources. More info:

Many thanks to Susan and the Paula Lane Action Network for recognizing beavers with this years awards.  We even got mention in the local Press Democrat.

 Award for Bring Back the Beaver program

The group Worth a Dam which also works to educate the public about the value of beavers in restoration and conservation of natural resources was also recognized. The group holds an annual Beaver Festival in Martinez where beavers have become a tourist attraction as well as providing a habitat for other wildlife..

 The much maligned animal has proved its worth in preserving valuable salmon runs, and in water conservation. Bring Back the Beaver and Worth a Dam are working to educate the public and change state policies about the beaver which date back to 1942 and are founded on inaccurate data.

susanA beaver-maniac like me is thrilled to accept the honor. I first wrote Susan close to 8 years ago when she was a writer for Sonoma Press Blog and had written about our beavers. When I learned about her badger affinity I told her that through a weird series of coincidences my earliest fiercely loved toy had been an actual stuffed badger the neighbor had thrown over the fence. I had loved its soft fur and sharp claws, and imagined that its badger spirit had shaped my adult life, making me unwilling to give up on much of anything including the Martinez beavers.

Thank you PLAN for recognizing the badger spirit in us! And we look forward to badgering people about beavers for years to come!