Archive for the ‘Friends of Martinez Beavers’ Category

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


“Gnawty or Nice?”

Posted by heidi08 On December - 13 - 2016Comments Off on “Gnawty or Nice?”

“We’ll have to figure out if this is the handiwork of an                                                   animal of interest or “primal” suspect.”

Oh Oh! I know! Call on me!

Beaver: Gnaw-ty or nice?

A sign posted to a tree in Broadhead Creek Park warns visitors “Use of property, streams and ponds at own risk.” That same tree now presents a hazard. With a section of a trunk gouged out, only a narrow piece of wood holds the tree upright.

“That tree may have to come down,” said Stroud Township Supervisor Daryl Eppley. “It looks pretty far gone, and we don’t want to put the public at risk.”

The damage was discovered by recent park visitor Bill Sine. Township officials have one suspect already – a beaver. Sherry Acevedo, executive director of Stroud Regional Open Space and Recreation Commission, said preliminary evidence shows signs of an animal preparing for winter.

“Beaver activity does occur naturally along the stream,” she said, “and they do typically chew on trees.”

Stroud Township could decide to remove the tree as early as Tuesday, said Eppley. A public works crew will investigate multiple factors, including the direction the tree might fall.

“Even if it falls into the stream,” he said, “it can cause a dam – something beavers are notorious for.”

Full credit to the author of the article for using an actually new pun. “Gnawty or Nice” amuses me. Stroud Township is in Monroe county in Pennsylvania. It is one of the counties stricken by drought, although they apparently don’t want any beaver dams saving their remaining water though. Beavers are rascals.  Any amusement leftover from the very rare new pun in this story is directed to the public works crew who will be “Investigating multiple factors”to determine which way the tree is going to fall. I can just see our DPW crew now out with their tape measures and plumb bobs using calculus to determine the trajectory.

michaelYesterday I showed you the trail cam video of Michael Forsberg which showed a beaver doggedly protecting his home from intruders. Turns out Michael’s a renowned wildlife photographer with extensive background in prairie wildlife. His glorious work has been featured in books and shown in National Geographic and PBS.

Lots of cranes, foxes and stunning night skies in his portfolio, and you should check out his website. But surprisingly few beaver. Obviously his resume has some beaver gaps that he is hoping to fill. We friended on facebook yesterday and I’ll do what I can to nudge him closer to beaver greatness.


Sadly, this is Mr. Forsberg’s only beaver photo featured on his website.

Don’t I always save the best for last? Yesterday I read about the first episode of Autumn Watch in Cornwall which stared the river otter beavers. So of course I went looking for it. I wrote my buddy Peter Smith of the Wildwood Trust in Kent and he directed me to this. You should really watch the whole thing. But first I’m going to tell you what made me very, very happy.

The interview with scientist/naturalist Derek Gow shows him wearing the Worth A Dam hat we gave him at the beaver conference a few years back. Martinez in Devon! Worth A Dam around the world! Isn’t that WONDERFUL?
derekhatI’ve cued up the segment so you really need to watch!

Umwelt und Bieber

Posted by heidi08 On December - 4 - 2016Comments Off on Umwelt und Bieber

captureThis is a really fun article written by grad student Kathleen Onorevole for UNC-CH Marine Sciences Graduate Student Blog. She writes very intelligently about a dissertation being dramatically changed by some stubborn beaver activity in Huntley Meadows in VA. (Where our good friend Ann Cameron Siegal has been photographing for years.)

What this author doesn’t suspect is that dissertations were also changed by beaver activity for Dr. Glynnis Hood (who was trying to research drought when beaver ponds kept ruining her data), Dr. Suzanne Fouty (who had a nice hydrology study arranged which beavers ruined),  Dr. Michael Pollock (whose salmon research was ‘falsely’ inflated by beavers and recently for Dr. Arthur Gold who was just trying to research Nitrogen when beavers kept moving in and messing up his study.

I’m not an grad student, so I don’t know the fancy German word for it. I just say: beavers change things. It’s what they do.

Maybe Kathleen thinks this has never happened before. We could show her many times where smart researchers either hop on the beaver train, or get off the tracks. Right? This is a fun article and I plan on quoting her heavily! You should go read the whole thing, though. It’s well worth it.

When Animals Take Over (Restoration Projects)

beaver face ann

Beaver at Huntley meadows: Ann Siegal

Most productivity gurus say that when you hit a wall, you should switch tasks.  This is how I ended up reading a paper about beavers who managed to hijack a wetland restoration for their benefit.  So congratulations!  You’re in the right place to learn some fancy philosophy terms and think about wetlands from a whooole new perspective.

The wetland in question is Huntley Meadows Park, a Fairfax County Park in Alexandria, VA, just south of DC.  The 1500-acre park is surrounded by a busy metropolitan area and bordered by I-95, but you wouldn’t know it from the photos.  .  In the early 1990s, restoration plans began, prompted by a decrease in rare bird sightings coupled with the realization that intervention was necessary to maintain a functional wetland.  This is where the beavers come in.

This was news to me, I knew something about the history of Huntley Meadows and have even met the former beaver director there, who’s now the director of Laguna de Santa Rosa. But I didn’t know that a dissertation was done on HM by Dr. Gwendolin McCrea. And I didn’t know this term, which fascinates me:

 The second idea is umwelt, an animal’s view of the external world.  Umwelt strikes me as the framework that makes stories like Watership Down possible: animals are assumed to have narratives of sort as they respond to and navigate the world on their own terms, unaware of human motivations.

Suffice it to say that the beaver umwelt vision of the park was different than the park planners with their charts and research. They wanted a path to go here and the wetlands here, and you know what beavers wanted.

beaver back ann

Beaver from the back: Ann Siegal

Maybe the solution is to kill all the beavers?  Nope, park visitors like them and would not be happy.  Huntley Meadows also couldn’t outsource them to other local wetlands, who already had their own beaver communities.    This brought up a catch-22: the beavers had been partially responsible for people’s attraction to the park, but the wetland couldn’t persist with the beavers present.  The solution, it turned out, was to “manage beaver behavior without managing the beavers themselves.”  A team from Clemson University developed a pipe system that dispersed water flow, lessening the environmental stimulus that would normally prompt beavers to create dams.  As McCrea explains, the pipes accounted for the beavers’ umwelt– and exploited it.  One problem solved!  The beavers could continue to live in Huntley Meadows, building fewer dams and therefore not damning the wetland.

Yes, so they installed a flow device. And it altered the beaver effect enough that the park could exist and the beavers exist. I guess in Virginia it is worth a dissertation, but sheesh, it happens all the time. It even happened in Martinez.  That’s no reason to start using German words to describe it.

So humans were the power brokers in that scenario, but the tables were about to turn.  When planners were designing observation trails, they identified a key value of the dispositif: visitors loved watching the beavers putter around, meaning that the beavers had to be visible for those people to continue visiting.  This led to restoration elements designed just for the beavers, including a dam [SHE MEANS LODGE]  that encroached on the boardwalk and a stand of trees that was fenced on a rotating basis.  In McCrea’s words, the accommodations “enroll[ed] the beavers themselves as an element of the governing dispositif directed toward the creation of environmental subjects.”  Translation: the beavers were calling the shots now.

I have to say I like the idea of protecting a stand of trees on a rotating basis so that the public can see the chewing but the park can keep some trees.  I like the idea that people’s interest in beavers shaped public planning, and ahem, can we think of where else that happened?

The author is not totally sold on the idea of not killing all the beavers but she thinks it’s interesting. She ends with a reference to the dissertation.  Do you think we’re in the reference section? Bob Kobres is their anyway you can find me a copy?

McCrea, Gwendolin. 2016. Castor canadensis and urban wetland governance- Fairfax County, VA case study. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening 19: 306-314.

Final thoughts? The stated point of Huntley Meadows was to promote biodiversity. And the planners were worried that the beavers were going to ruin that. Ahem.