Archive for the ‘Friends of Martinez Beavers’ Category

Wagons Ho-Ho-Ho!

Posted by heidi08 On February - 19 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

It’s the last time you’ll be hearing from me for a while  and lord knows that must be a kind of Sunday comfort.  Tomorrow is Bob’s grand debut so don’t forget to give him plenty of positive feedback.

conference Our new rule is only good news on Sunday, so I have a few fun things to share before I go. Paul and Louise are coming to dinner Tuesday night and maybe Leonard and Lois too, so we have lots to look forward to. But don’t feel left out,  you get treats as well. The first is a lovely discussion of ecological engineers from our old friend Mary Willson in Juneau.

On the trails: Ecological engineers

We use the word “engineer” in a confusing variety of ways and contexts, but here I mean to refer to organisms that create physical structures or changes in the environment — physical changes that affect other kinds of organisms. The concept is still very broad — one could say (and some researchers do so) that a forest of trees or large kelp, or a tallgrass prairie or an eelgrass bed, produces an environment in which temperature, humidity, air or water currents, precipitation patterns, or soils may be altered, thus affecting many other organisms by providing habitat or access to resources.

However, here I want to consider other “engineers” — those that deliberately, intentionally make or modify physical structures for their own purposes, with collateral consequences for other organisms.

The most well-known ecological engineers in the natural world are beavers. By building dams, they impound water, raising the water table, creating ponds, sometimes preventing floods, but also flooding low-lying areas. Although they may instinctively respond to the sound and feel of running water by trying to build a dam, they make deliberate choices about the size and shape of a dam and its component parts; they also maintain their structures continually. Beaver ponds provide good habitat for fish, especially juveniles, aquatic insects, various birds, and certain plants, although they obviously destroy portions of the adjacent area by flooding it. Some dams are hundreds of yards long and some are many feet high, depending on the terrain. A well-constructed, well-maintained beaver dam can last for many years, and its effects on the landscape may persist long after the beavers have moved on: the pond gradually fills with sediment and dead vegetation and eventually turns into a meadow.

We’re number ONE. Beavers make it happen! Mary goes on to describe other engineers but of course we’re spec-ist around her and we only care about the first one. If you would like to be smart and entertained, go read the others and learn about the wanna be-avers. I’m just going to bask in the recognition that beavers are the job-creators of an entire community.

The second wonderful thing is a photo I came across and having been saving for the right moment to share. It’s titled “Beaver playing the flute” for obvious reasons. All I know about this photo is on the caption below. But isn’t that fun?

Beaver, Playing the Flute? (by Alexander Koenders)

The third thing I want to share is the AMAZING donation we received from artist Sara Aycock. She’s a very clever woman in Boise Idaho with a book coming out next fall. I fell in love with her “Victorian Animals” series and she was crazy generous sendng 5 beautifully framed giclee prints that will completely knock your socks off. Each print comes with a framed character description as well. I’m partial of course to Mr. Beaverton. You need to go right now to her etsy store and support this kind of generosity and talent, because something tells me there will be a line waiting to bid on these delightful items at the auction.



Team Beaver and Friends

Posted by heidi08 On February - 4 - 2017Comments Off on Team Beaver and Friends

Our beaver gang is teaming up with the Watershed Steward interns, Friends of Alhambra Creek, the SF waterboard and the assistant city engineer this morning to plant willow cuttings along the creek under the guidance of creek wizardess Ann Riley. We’re hoping the rain waits kindly until they’re done. Cheryl will be there capturing it all on film and my contribution is making wrap sandwiches to feed the troops when they’re finished. I’m not mentioning this to the city but of course I’m hoping that the juicy delectable new shoots that grow encourage our beavers to show their furry faces again soon. Fingers crossed!

The saplings form our last guerilla planting are doing very well!

tree-plantingYesterday I was contacted by children’s author Susan Wood who was publishing a book on the parachuting beavers which she said would  include a link to our website for information about the animals. The book was coming out in April and a website was being launched to promote it. She wondered if the education resources section on the site might include links to our teacher’s activities as well?

First, we are always flattered and pleased that our site is useful to anyone. And of course beaver education is near and dear to our hearts. But another book on this particular subject? I guess folks just LOVE the idea of throwing beaver out of planes.

I told the author that I appreciated the contact and the mentions and she was welcome to link to our site.Capture I also asked for a signed copy for the silent action. Here we are on their educational resource page. I’ve been doing this so long that I didn’t even remember designing the “beaver catcher” until I checked the site. Sometimes my enthusiasm surprises even me.

This is the second children’s book covering the topic. The first was was published last year by our beaver friend Jennifer Lovett and called “Beavers Away!” I guess we should brace ourselves for a beaver-flinging story every year! Maybe they’ll be a whole library shelf dedicated to them. I’ve politely told both authors it is NOT our favorite topic and have been assured the books make it clear that throwing animals from the air is not encouraged.

Hrmph. I also made sure both authors saw this:

Afancod for all!

Posted by heidi08 On January - 17 - 2017Comments Off on Afancod for all!


Wales is on the beaver Warpath, and  something tells me they aren’t giving up on their quest to reintroduce beavers any time soon. When Scotland gave the all clear they were immediately lining up to be next. They will be presenting at the beaver conference next month in Oregon. It’s pretty generous them to all do this separately, so we get to prolong the discussion of beaver benefits as long as possible. After they succumb, we still get all of England to do the promoting! Then what?

Proposals to reintroduce beavers to parts of Wales

A SPECIAL talk is to be held next week over proposals to reintroduce beavers to parts of Wales.

Welsh beaver project officer Alicia Leow-Dyke will be opening up the elusive world of beavers at a free event at the Centre for Alternative Technology on 24 January.

Alicia, of the Radnorshire Wildlife Trust, will talk about beaver ecology, the history and future of beavers in Wales and the impacts that beavers have on ecosystems, looking at how this can benefit many species, including humans.

In a report by the WBAI they said: “Beavers are often considered a ‘keystone’ species in aquatic environments, with an ability to modify riverine and wetland habitats to the benefit of many other species, with few negative effects.”

That sentence makes me excited and nervous in exactly equal measures. Yes, beavers modify rivers and benefit species but oh they bring a few negative effects for humans. Or at lets call them ‘challenges’. Truly solvable and worth doing but unfortunately not all people are up for a challenge. I’ll let them know when I get to meet them (assuming the sled dogs can get us both there). Here they are listed on the agenda for the State of the beaver conference:

5:00 pm – 5:45 pm

The Long Road: Returning Beavers to Wales.”

 Adrian Lloyd Jones, Wildlife Trusts Wales. Alicia Leow-Dyke, Wildlife Trusts Wales

Nice photo published this morning from Jestephotography I thought deserved sharing. His description says:

While out at Elk Island National Park this fall I stopped to set up on a family of 5 beavers , mom n pop with 3 offspring doing what beavers do.  Most of the time they where at a mid distance but this fellow decided the log right in front of me needed a good chewing.  I was belly down in the mud with my lens poking out between the cat tails for this one.


Posted by heidi08 On January - 5 - 2017Comments Off on Stewardship

For some reason, (for many reasons), we are lucky that special people take things on and protect them. Martinez protected beavers, Megan Isadore protects otters, Corky Quirk protects bats, and Steve Holmes protects the urban creeks of Los Gatos and the south bay.

Steve Holmes: San Jose needs to step up to protect creeks

For the past two years, Friends of Los Gatos Creek, an affiliate of South Bay Clean Creeks Coalition, has been conducting cleanups along creeks in Santa Clara County. We have tallied an astounding 76 cleanups. On our most recent event, June 4, we had 55 volunteers from Google, Santa Clara County Parks and the Friends team leaders converge on Los Gatos Creek in downtown San Jose.

With very little fanfare, our small grass-roots effort has surpassed a milestone: 100 tons of trash removed from the Los Gatos Creek — with over 85 percent of it linked to encampment activity.

Sometimes Steve uses the removed trash in artistic sculptures, (because man does not live by bread alone). A recent clean up struck such a fancy he had to send it my way. I met Steve at the creeks coalition conference in 2010 and we have swapped emails ever since. Isn’t this beautiful? The fur is cigarette butts, the tail is an old tire, and the ‘creek’ is an rusted box spring. I told him he should really come to the beaver festival and share his work and his message.


Steve Holes: South bay clean creeks coalition.

There might be very exciting news soon, but I won’t jinx anything by sharing it. For now we can delight appreciation of this inspiring article in the LA Times about an elementary’s school appreciation of the appearance of a burrowing owl. Because urban wildlife matters.

In a paved, urban world, nature makes a rare appearance — delighting kids near MacArthur Park

Principal Brad Rumble took a photo of the burrowing owl that has been spotted on the grounds of Esperanza Elementary. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)

Nathan, 9, had no idea how the bird found its way to the courtyard of his school, Esperanza Elementary, near MacArthur Park in the middle of the city.

“This is a big deal,” he thought.

Nathan told a teacher, who then told Brad Rumble, the school’s principal and a man who takes bird matters very seriously.

Rumble pulled a few students out of class to observe the visitor, identified as a burrowing owl. In a neighborhood of asphalt, street vendors and crowded apartment buildings, this was their closest encounter yet with nature.

Decades ago, before buildings and cars covered Los Angeles, burrowing owls were a common sight, said Kimball Garrett, an ornithologist who manages bird collections at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.  Now, sightings are rare. The last one spotted near downtown Los Angeles was six years ago, near the museum.  

Rumble thinks he knows what attracted the bird. In mid-November, he teamed up with the Los Angeles Audubon Society to transform more than 4,000 square feet of asphalt on campus into a native habitat.

High school students helped Esperanza families lay down a bark path and plant California golden poppies, an oak tree and a sycamore.

“It’s not natural around here for kids to come down from their apartments and walk down to the creek and play,” the principal said. “But if the neighborhood is lacking, at least the school campus can serve as a living laboratory.”

He created something similar once before — with remarkable results.  A few years ago, at Leo Politi Elementary in Pico-Union, he had 5,000 square feet of concrete ripped out and replaced with native flora. 

The plants attracted insects, which attracted birds, fascinating students. They learned so much, their test scores in science rose sixfold, “from the basement to the penthouse,” Rumble told The Times in 2012.

Since the owl showed up on campus, peculiar things have happened: Students have skipped recess to stay in the library, poring over books about falcons, swallows and hummingbirds. Some have pulled their parents out of their cars after school to hunt down the owl’s droppings. Teachers watched in shock one day when two crows tried to attack the school’s honored guest.

Rumble encourages students to use an observation board he set up outside the main office to document each owl sighting. There have been more than a dozen so far — on drainpipes, rooftops, PA speakers, even a library rolling cart. For more than a week, the owl frequented a jacaranda tree located next to the lunch tables, amusing the 200 kids who munched on pizza and sandwiches below.

The bird has caused such a stir, the student council is considering changing the school’s mascot from a dragon to an owl. 

On a recent morning, teacher Elizabeth Williams talked with her third-graders about the bird’s diet, markings and nesting habits. She introduced new vocabulary: perch, burrowing, conservation, habitat. 

  • “It likes to burrow in nests underground,” said Emily Guzman.
  • “It bobs its head up and down to protect itself,” said Yonathan Trujillo. 
  • “It makes sounds like a snake,” said another student. 

Some students are getting quite savvy about birds. They see them soar overhead, dark specks in a blue sky, and know them by name: a yellow-rumped warbler, a red-tailed hawk, a common raven.

When he asked Jose what he thought of the bird, the boy’s eyes glowed and he smiled. 

“It’s made me very happy,” Jose said.  

The arrival of a simple burrowing owl delights and energizes an entire public school.  Are we surprised? And the principal is smart enough to know how special this is. If you doubt its value go to Martinez California and read how some children responded to beavers. Urban Wildlife reminds us that there are things alive and precious besides roads and freeways. Children are reminded that there are wonderful things the adults don’t control. And adults are reminded that not everything has been formed in concrete and shaped by convenience.

I think it reassures us of that special place inside each one of us that isn’t molded by expectation and responsibility. Something wild and free even amidst the most tangled constraints.



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.


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


Santa comes early for beavers

Posted by heidi08 On December - 21 - 2016Comments Off on Santa comes early for beavers

Around this time of the Holidays everything starts to seem like “too much”. There are too many presents to wrap or cookies to frost or ravioli’s to make and there is barely enough time to squeeze them all in. Add to this that there is now a SURFEIT of beaver news to share. But I take my job seriously so I’m going to start with this, even though I’m saving the selfishly best for last.

How’s this for a headline? You gotta love Scotland.

Tree felling by beavers may save millions in flood repairs

CONSERVATION experts predict the controversial felling of trees by beavers will help save millions of pounds spent on flood damage and defences after the animals were spotted for the first time on National Trust for Scotland property.

The creatures are often blamed for causing flooding on farmland by building dams. But conservationists said their habit of gnawing down trees also encouraged multiple new younger stems to grow, which could help to prevent flooding by reducing erosion.

The nation’s largest conservation charity believes the beavers will play a key role in cutting its multi-million pound bill due to floods as they continue to spread across the country following the Government’s decision last month to grant them protected status as a returned native species.

That’s right, the country’s largest charity is excited that beavers are cutting down its trees because the coppicing will help prevent erosion.  (And no, I didn’t just make this up in a basement with my beaver fantasy 500.) Follow the link and see for yourself. It’s for real. Never mind that in our silly country the Nature Conservancy is paying to kill beavers to save trees because they’re stupid. Imagine if our largest conservancy was excited about beavers!


Speaking of EXCITED (yes, I know I’m shouting), I heard from photographer Suzi Eszterhas that juniorher beaver photo shoot is officially approved and can be shared by us. The Ranger Rick article will come out in the fall and in the meantime she generously arranged for allowing me to use her amazing photos in presentations and the website. There are 274 and at the moment I’m just like a happily confused child sitting in the middle of the candy store wondering which to enjoy first, but I thought I’d share a few beavers-adapt-to-flow-devicesbeauties today.

Seeing these images is of course, bittersweet because it was that year that our kits died and our beaver family disbanded. There were no answers and few comforts. But every time you start to feel misty-eyed, I promise you will be cheered by the crazy curved tails of the Nfamilyapa beaver kits. So you have to keep looking.

Most of the photos are of our Martinez beavers, including some wonderful images of our human children helping out, some are Napa images or rehab in Washington and Lindsay Museum (not ours).  It is enormously special to have this record and I am so grateful for her remarkable work. If you want to browse the entire collection you can check out her website here.

There’s never enough time, I know.topandbottometeeth-copy-copy