Archive for the ‘Educational’ Category

Celebrate Beaver Day

Posted by heidi08 On July - 30 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

Is this what it looks like when you dominate the news cycle?

 Nature photographer chronicles Martinez’s urban beavers

Suzi at workMARTINEZ — The city’s renowned downtown family of beavers has caught the rapt eye of a nationally acclaimed wildlife photographer, who has been capturing their comings and goings for several weeks.

 Suzi Eszterhas, who has followed elephants in the African wild and penguins in Antarctica, has turned her lens to the lodge the beavers have built in Alhambra Creek — her first time photographing wild animals in an urban setting.

Capturing the Martinez colony’s quirky behaviors, distinct personalities and ingenuity has been a creative cornerstone for Eszterhas.

 ”It’s a lot easier to photograph lions in Kenya,” she said, referring to the beavers’ inherent illusiveness and shyness.

Yet they performing their nocturnal activities next to a busy bar and eatery, with motorcycles vrooming by, and the public viewing them from several bridges over the creek.

“These beavers are coming back to their home and tolerating us being here,” said Eszterhas, a Petaluma resident. “We have this unique window to see into the lives of these creatures … There’s this oasis of peace in the midst of chaos. Not all species can do that.”

 Eszterhas, whose images of the Martinez beavers will be published in an upcoming issue of Ranger Rick, a children’s nature magazine, has donated one of her wildlife photographs to this year’s silent auction at the eighth annual New festivalWorth a Dam Beaver Festival on Saturday, Aug. 1.

The annual festival — started as a way to “throw a party for (local beavers) to make it harder to kill them,” says Worth a Dam’s executive director Heidi Perryman — has become a nexus for wildlife advocates and artists to congregate and network.

Thanks Jennifer Shaw! The article shied away from using these excellent photos, but did talk to artist Mark Poulin and promote the festival nicely. All in all we can’t complain about media coverage this year. I’m hoping that will translate into abundant attendance potential. And that folks will think of beavers differently for a while.

Here’s a wonderful story about a smart man whose mind doesn’t NEED changing one bit.

Beaver tales: Alberta homeowner enlists local wildlife to engineer a dam

Pierre Bolduc’s background as an aeronautical engineer and Hercules C-130 pilot wasn’t enough of a resume to prepare him for the task of constructing a pond next to his Alberta property.

He’d made a few attempts to build a dam over several years, but after a downpour washed out his latest earthen structure he turned to nature’s expert dam builders, a family of local beavers, to do the job right.

 ”There were beavers living further down the valley that had been building dams at a culvert running underneath a dirt road,” says Bolduc, who lives on an expansive property near Bragg Creek, about 50 kilometres southwest of Calgary.

Bolduc reckoned that the gentle lilt of running water played from an outdoor sound system placed above the intended site would attract the animals to the location where he wanted to build the dam. His neighbour, a sound engineer, offered to mix a CD featuring an appropriate aquatic aria.

“I don’t know what the sound of rushing water does to the psyche of a beaver, but based on the results I witnessed, I think it could inspire them to build a dam right in the middle of a sandbox,” he says.

“They went straight to work.”

How much do we love this story! And Pierre for that matter? I’m not as convinced that the sound brought beavers (otherwise every waterfall would be cluttered with failed dams) so much as his own failed dam gave them a good base to work from. But, never mind, I am crazy about this way of thinking and it provides a nice way to show what beavers are good for.

Since labour was being provided at no cost, Bolduc provided them with plenty of free food and construction material. He cleared poplars located on his property that might eventually grow to interfere with power lines. He then placed the cut logs to float in the rising water around the dam construction site.

 ”I gave them so much wood that they soon developed a 20-beaver condo,” he says. “They built an absolutely huge mansion and a powerful dam.”

The dam was completed in the summer of 2014 and Bolduc’s pond slowly expanded to a body of water measuring about 175 metres by 200 metres. The pond has since become home to numerous trout and the water has attracted muskrats, nesting loons and moose to the property.

This article makes me insanely happy. I already heard from several beaver folk that are deeply jealous they can’t let beavers build a pond where they live. Let’s hope Pierre starts a fad among land-owning engineers. He might,  just look at his next goals:

While he’s satisfied with the pond, Bolduc is breaking out his rushing water CD and outdoor speakers for another construction project, courtesy of Castor Canadensis (the North American beaver).

“There are new neighbours along the valley and when I want to visit them, I pretty much have to drive the distance to their place,” he says. “If I place those speakers just right, by next year I should be able to canoe to the neighbour’s house.”


And then there were two

Posted by heidi08 On July - 24 - 2015Comments Off

Footage of second Scots beaver kit revealed

 Footage of a second beaver kit in the Knapdale Forest in Argyll has been released by the Scottish Beaver Trial.  It comes a week after a first young beaver was spotted at the trial site.  Scottish Beaver Trial (SBT) said it suspected further breeding had occurred, but had now managed to capture evidence on camera.

The trial is the first licensed reintroduction of a mammal to the UK and has brought the beaver back to Scotland after a 400-year absence.

Roisin Campbell Palmer, field operations manager for the Scottish Beaver Trial, said: “We had suspected further breeding had occurred at the site but had not managed to capture it on camera.

 ”We can now confirm two kits present at this lodge.

 ”These kits are around three months old. Having spent the first couple of months within the lodge, they are now starting to leaving the lodge and explore their surroundings.”

Further breeding?

I would blame the crazy framing on the reporter but this quote came from field manager Roisin Palmer  in the flesh. ‘More kits obviously means further breeding’, right? No, honestly. This kit is from the same lodge and the same parents. It was the same breeding that did the trick. It took place about 107 days before the kits were born and won’t take place again until next year. See beavers are like dogs and cats and have what’s known as a “litter”. It just takes a while to see them all because they don’t all mature at the same rate. Keep watching. There might be three in the camera next time!

Still Same Breeding. (Wow, you really haven’t had beavers for 400 years have you?)

I’m totally loving that little hippity hop hop at the end. It starts at 35 seconds. You can tell it looks unusual because mom reacts with surprise. What is that child of mine doing NOW? It immediately reminded me of rabbits, which oddly made me think of a Pablo Neruda poem.

EL pie del niño aún no sabe que es pie,
y quiere ser mariposa o manzana.

Which basically translates to “The foot of a child, doesn’t yet know it’s a foot, and wants to be a butterfly or an apple.” Which is perdy. Now because it’s Neruda it goes on to talk about the worker’s boot that a capitalist society will force that little foot into eventually, but the first two lines are the most famous.

After seeing that video, I’m sure the castor version goes something like “the foot of the beaver doesn’t yet know it’s kit, and wants to be a rabbit or a bird.”

foot underwaterstony footprints1

Reminiscing beavers

Posted by heidi08 On July - 23 - 20152 COMMENTS

I had fun with the new toy yesterday. Apparently 62 percent of voters never miss a beaver festival! There is NO beaver news in the world today, and I am too cluttered with details to have anything interesting to say. A couple readers wrote brilliant letters about the Alyth stupidity, and that of course makes me very happy.

Let’s try this again shall we?

Here’s a history lesson  with music. I made and uploaded this video May 2007, more than eight years ago. Before the flow device, before Worth A Dam, before the festival. Before Jon even started watching. You can tell it is such a long time ago I made it even BEFORE I was friends with Cheryl. (Because I use no beautiful photographs of hers.)

One part I especially like is the very blurry photo of an otter actually sitting on top of the old beaver lodge. I snapped that soooooo long ago. It was so early and I was just barely awake. I wasn’t even sure what it was! I remember a youngish beaver came and tail slap alarmed him away. I counted and he slapped 19 times. Of which I managed to film the very last one.

Honestly, I was such a newbie I included a stolen nutria photo by mistake, can you spot it? I was just starting to get intrigued by this new species in my midst. And having fun using iMovie.  If I had taken the poll back then I would have answered number two.

We were all new to this once.

Dam Builders: A review

Posted by heidi08 On July - 19 - 2015Comments Off

51imI+jikBL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_It took longer to arrive than I had hoped. The publication was delayed several times and is still expected to be another 6 weeks for American readers. But this weighty record showing 30 years of beaver watching is definitely worth the wait.

I received my courtesy copy from the publisher Fitzhenry & Whiteside Ltd. last week, and have been engrossed ever since. Everything about this book is impressive: its stunning photographs, gripping account of little known beaver details, and its truly classy lay out, right down to the beaver silhouetted page number in the corner. (I had a good friend who was a copy editor at Random House and I know how much work pulling these details together can be.) I had prepared myself to be impressed, and was not disappointed.

What I hadn’t prepared for was to be surprised.

After nearly 10 years in the beaver biz, reading and writing about them daily, and viewing them regularly at very close quarters, I pretty much thought I had heard and seen it all. Michael Runtz michael-runtzbook was still filled with gloriously unexpected treasures. From the amazing photograph of a beaver floating on its back (yes you read that right, not a sea otter, I swear, he speculates he might be picking a splinter from its teeth with its rear toe) to the exciting collection of facts about their lives, (did you know that when beavers breathe they replaces a whopping 75% of the oxygen in their lungs? Compared to the paltry human rate of 15%!) or that beaver tails in colder climates actually look different in the fall than the spring, depending on how much fat content they’ve lost from it over the winter? Something we’ll never see here in Martinez.

If some of the photos seem vaguely familiar they should, Runtz supplied his stills to Jari Osborne’s Beaver Documentary (Beaver Whisperer in Canada, and Nature’s “Leave it to Beaver” in America). My favorite chapters were those documenting beaver effects. First a lovely one showing the biodiversity that blooms in beaver ponds, with beautiful macro photography of gnats, insects,  dragonflies, to featherlight photos of birds and water fowl, to richly-textured images of otter and moose you can practically feel.  Then a beautifully solemn one about what happens to the trees beavers kill by flooding. (Showing excellent homes for a variety of woodpeckers, wood duck and blue heron). And finally a chapter on the pond’s “afterlife”, what happens when the pond silts up and beavers move on, as the flora take over and the fauna shift accordingly with the flourishing nutrient exchange. Honestly, I was almost in tears through these sections, feeling that they showed better than I ever could hope to explain how powerfully beavers impact biodiversity.

(I wanted to sit every contractor,  public works crew, and politician down at the table and force them to look at every page. But that’s just me.)

190318-57321_ContentUnlike this website, Runtz doesn’t “preach” the beaver gospel. He simply shows it and waits for readers to get the message. There is a short section covering beaver baffles,  which is the Canadian flow device that has had good success. He doesn’t talk about the beaver deceiver or its offspring, but I was happy to see him acknowledge problems and explain their solution. A memorable passage describes the anticipation of sitting at a beaver pond before dawn and listening as it comes to life, comparing it to hearing a truly impressive symphony warm up in the darkness before a performance.

With over 200 pages containing stunning photos from one end to the other, this is a book you will look at again and again. I anticipated and missed a forward from some smart researcher like Glynnis Hood or Dietland Muller-Swarze, talking about why his photos are invaluable, but maybe this book isn’t trying to prove that beavers have value. It just shows you that they’re ‘worth a dam’ without ever saying it.

I was especially struck by the final paragraph, when he comments on how children’s minds would be enlivened by a beaver pond, if they could just put down their electronics long enough to get there. It made me think of these 100+ year-old words from my hero Enos Mills in his last chapter of “In Beaver World” where he calls beaver “the original conservationist”.

The works of the beaver have ever interested, the human mind. Beaver work may do for children what schools, sermons, companions and even home sometimes fail to do, – develop the power to think. No boy or girl can become intimately acquainted with the ways and works of these primitive folk without having the eyes of observation opened, and acquiring a permanent interest in the wide world in which we live.

The American version of this unforgettable book won’t be available until (hopefully) mid-september. If you can’t wait, there will be two copies available in the silent auction at our beaver festival. As far as I know they will be the only two copies on American soil in the entire country. I’m guessing that they will be very popular items, so get ready for the bidding war.

Remember beavers in Urban Planning?

Posted by heidi08 On July - 16 - 2015Comments Off

What a great day yesterday! It started out by picking up a fantastic gift bag donation from Trader Joe’s (Thanks TJ), organizing the amazing donations from Folkmanis puppets (Thanks Elaine), getting two copies of the unbelievably exciting book DAM BUILDERS from the publisher(Thanks Natasha), sending the finished festival brochure to the printers, (thanks Amelia!) and finishing a spread sheet for a stunning 134 auction items! Here’s a little taste.

Then retired librarian friend BK from Georgia sent this my way, and it made everything even brighter. This is such a beautiful review from I’m going to print it all. And if they want to come get me I’ll take the consequences.Capture

Wildlife in built-up areas an undervalued part of our urban ecosystems

Urban wildlife such as deer, foxes and badgers should be cherished for the ecological benefits they bring to towns and cities, rather than feared as potentially harmful pests, scientists argue in a new report.

The review, published in the scientific journal Wildlife Research, states that in order for humans and animals to live successfully side-by-side in built-up areas, a cultural shift is required for the public to fully appreciate the integral role that wildlife performs in urban ecosystems.

 Much of the public dialogue about larger urban wildlife currently focuses on the risk of disease, pollution and threat to property or pets, rather than the positive contribution these animals can make.

Lead author Dr Carl Soulsbury, a conservation biologist based in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, UK, said: “While promoting education about urban wildlife and its risks is important, the benefit wildlife brings to urban areas is often poorly communicated. It includes benefits such as regulating and supporting the ecosystem, through to improving human health and wellbeing.

“We need to identify ways to maximize the benefits, in particular increasing the accessibility of natural green spaces and promoting interactions with wildlife as a form of nature-based therapy. It is only through such an integrative approach that we can advance our understanding of how to live successfully alongside wildlife in an increasingly urbanised world.”

How beautiful is THAT for a beginning?  Wildlife in our cities is a treasure NOT a nuisance, and the problem is that people complain too loudly about the problems and don’t talk about the benefits. I have already written to Dr Soulsbury, because we obviously need to be friends.

 The researchers detail how urban wildlife can provide a range of benefits to human health and quality of life which are often undervalued or overlooked. For instance, there is a growing body of evidence that indicates the presence and viewing of urban wildlife is beneficial for human mental health and psychological wellbeing.

Urban animals also regulate and support the ecosystems of towns and cities. Many creatures serve as important predators of pest species – for example, songbirds help to control insect populations and predatory birds help rodent control.

 But as urban human populations continue to grow, so too does the chance of ‘human-wildlife’ conflict, the researchers warn.

These conflicts occur when the activities of wildlife, whether through aggression, nuisance behaviour such as bin emptying or the spread of parasites or infectious diseases, have a negative effect on humans. Most such problems are minor, but can be distressing to individuals and tend to shape attitudes of the public and authorities.

 Dr Soulsbury added: “The main problem is that many of the benefits of living alongside urban wildlife are difficult to quantify. However, we do know that the presence of wildlife gives people an opportunity to connect directly with nature at a local level. This is becoming particularly important in our increasingly urban society where humans are becoming more remote from the natural environment.

 ”More work is needed to better understand the role of urban wildlife and urban biodiversity in general, in the promotion of mental health and its greater role as a recreational and cultural ecosystem service. To do so wildlife biologists will need to work with other research disciplines including economics, public health, sociology, ethics, psychology and planning.”

 I agree! Hmm can we think of any psychologists we might know interested in co-authoring a research paper on this topic? Maybe one with a yearly access to a sample size of 2000?

I’m in love with this article and think I need the paper to which it refers. None of my usual sources can access it yet, so it might not be available. Here’s the link for the abstract if you’re feeling scientific. All I can say is that maybe Dr. Soulsbury needs to come to Martinez for some field research. I’m thinking August would be the perfect time.

Human–wildlife interactions in urban areas: a review of conflicts, benefits and opportunities CaptureCase in point…


Not Fascinated Yet

Posted by heidi08 On July - 15 - 2015Comments Off

I had a 6 year old patient once who was with me when a bird (despite the ribbons and warnings) hit the window of my office. We watched to see if it recovered from the accident, and I assured her that if it didn’t look okay I would bring it to Lindsay. “I just went there!” she exclaimed having taken a field trip with her class the week before. She paused for a second and her face looked serious.

“Is that where they get those bones?”

You see this little girl, and countless others we never hear about, hadn’t really SEEN the blind eagle or the three footed foxes that were living there, or understood that the hospital helps injured animals. Her horrified attention had been completely consumed by the skeletons on display in the front room. Apparently, she was now wondering if they harvested those bones from people like me bringing sick birds to the hospital.

How surprised would Lindsay be to hear that! Now I’m sure the intention was to educate and show how a raccoon was different than an hawk etc, and to teach kids about the nature that goes through their own backyards when they’re asleep every night, but this little girl so gripped by the bones and taxidermy that’s all she saw.

I often think it’s  strange how we use caution about showing human skeletons to children (have you ever seen one in a pediatricians office or a library?) but never hesitate to show them an animal one. As adults I think we see them as such different categories we would never make that mistake (significant vs insignificant). Most children haven’t learned to think like that yet. They can stare with morbid fascination at a squished bee, or have a solemn ceremony for a dead bird. For them seeing a dead animal is one way of seeing death, which we generally protect them from seeing. And which they’re already beginning to suspect might apply to themselves and their loved ones some day.  It is mortifying to me how MANY naturalists use taxidermy or animal skins and think children are learning about the animal. And I don’t say that because I’m a vegan bunny-lover who thinks animals should never be killed. I say that because I don’t happen to think children learn about nature by seeing its remains.

Which brings us to this article, and its priceless picture.

Nature is hot and cool at day camp


Garrett Brenden teaches kids about the different parts of a beaver during Nature Camp at the Arboretum in Yakima, Wash. on July 2, 2015. (KAITLYN BERNAUER/Yakima Herald-Republic)

Four years ago, Jheri Ketcham and Colleen Adams-Schuppe, arboretum co-executive directors, created the day camp to offer children an understanding of local ecology by blending art, science and recreation. The idea was “to get kids outside,” Ketcham says. “We felt a real need to get kids exploring outdoors and learning things about nature.”

Reiter’s goal is to make the outdoors, well, second nature. “We want kids to think it’s fun to be outside and that nature isn’t scary,” she says.  She also emphasizes respect for the natural world. “You can’t protect something unless you’ve learned to care for it,” she points out.

Ahh, this is exactly what I mean. He’s showing them a taxidermied beaver, and there is a skull on the ground to explain. Now, obviously children (and parents) need day camp. And we like to hear that they’re spending some time outdoors and away from their x-box. I’m sure at first glance this looks like  a sweet photo. Children gathered around learning about nature. Well, until you look closely at their faces. Then I think you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.

not fascinatedI would say those faces range from mildly deeply disturbed.  I love the girl on the left especially. Why are you showing us this? 


To be fair, there is one child who is clearly fascinated. The young man who has stooped closer for a better look. I’m sure he would love to be closer still. I suppose this child might someday be a future wildlife rescue worker, but I’m thinking that this budding little ‘Dexter’ has a slightly more macabre interest. I think he’s trying to figure out exactly how to do his own at home with the family cat.

For comparison, this is what a child’s face looks like at a beaver festival.

beaver festival 4

Help Wanted: Only Beavers Need Apply

Posted by heidi08 On July - 14 - 2015Comments Off

Yellowstone is in trouble unless we can bring back the beavers

 16700074426_a7acaed7cf_bPeople say that wolf reintroduction saved Yellowstone.

 When biologists reintroduced wolves to the park in 1995, the initial effect was promising. Although elk populations did not decline as much as expected, the plants they ate started to regrow. Ecologists theorized that elk altered their behavior when wolves were around and consequently spent less time grazing.

 The wolves quickly became the poster child for trophic cascades, how bringing back top predators can restore out-of-whack ecosystems. In recent years, however, ecologists have realized that bringing back wolves hasn’t been enough to restore plant communities in Yellowstone.

 ”Predators can be important,” Oswald Schmitz, an ecologist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, told Nature, “but they aren’t a panacea.”

Ohhh sure, wolves are all sexy and wild with their howling in the night and dramatic silhouettes. People like George Monblott make  viral videos proclaiming their splendor. But guess what has a lumpy silhouette and doesn’t get big fancy supporters? I’ll give you a hint. It starts with a ‘B’.

10984979774_c4a7b0bdf0_bThus ecologists have started looking closer at the role beavers play in the ecosystem.

 Beavers, too, suffered from the initial decline of wolves and rise of elk, as elk out-competed beavers for food — particularly willow and aspen trees — leading to the near-elimination of beavers and their dams from the park.

 As beaver dams disappeared, so did the wetlands and streams they supported — and these are the areas that suffer most today.

 ”It’s problematic because the willows and beavers have a mutualistic relationship: Beavers eat and cut them down to build their dams, and the dams raise the water tables and bring water up so it’s more available for plants,”

 ”Without beaver dams creating willow-friendly environments,” Emma Marris, author of the book “Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World,” told Popular Science, “the willows can’t recover.”

 Not only will the willows not recover, but the marshy habitats around them won’t recover either. That includes not only the trees and plants but also the birds, amphibians, and any other creature that needs wetland to survive.

Now it occurs to you that beavers might matter? After we’ve been talking about it for a decade?  Well, isn’t that mighty white of you, as they say.  I’m sure Dr.’s Hood, Muller-Swarze, Westbrook, Haley and Fouty will be very pleased.  More importantly, I’m hoping you take from this that one single answer won’t create a solution. It’s a complicated interweaving of systems, and when you remove one they all suffer. It’s all connected, you know.

(But beavers are STILL more connected than most.)

the missing piece