Archive for the ‘Friends of Martinez Beavers’ Category

A day of rest

Posted by heidi08 On April - 9 - 2017Comments Off on A day of rest

Yesterday was BUSY as a you know what. It truly felt like beaver central around here. I heard from the author of the Salt Lake Tribune story that Joe Wheaton had testified before his trip to Europe already. He wanted information about flow devices and who installed ours. I spent the afternoon writing a letter to the court for the Draper wetland and ended the day with a phone call from Kelly McAdams himself.

We talked about how crazy busy things were right now for him (ahh memories!), how the media is beating down his door, and how to use that momentum for it’s advantage. They mayor was originally in his camp but recently waffled into opposition. In fact most of the officials privately offer their support but won’t disagree publicly with Flood Control. Sierra Club won’t return his calls.  The McAdams are planning a field trip to show the public the wetlands and let them see how special it is. I suggested adding some children’s groups and having them draw the wildlife they saw. (Because we all know how effective that is). Maybe a ‘library night’ to teach about beavers and the wetlands they maintain. I also suggested making friends with the local Audubon and Ducks Unlimited and making sure they understood how important beaver habitat was to their interests. Mitch the famed attorney who represented the friends of Lake Skinner case sent some ideas about arguing Inverse Condemnation

since the debris allegedly constituting the violation is naturally occurring and has produced a beneficial effect for the property, removal would be detrimental and reduce the value of the property.

which I made sure Kelly knew about so his probono attorney could connect with Mitch if he wanted to. There are no new stories this morning, so I’m sure the couple is having a well-deserved  restful day.

And me too.

Right after I finish a short interview with San Francisco State student Sarahbeth Maney who is doing her third year photojournalism project on Martinez residents with a passionate interest (ha!) and contacted me after the times article.

l_9781585369942_fcI heard from author Susan Wood this week with answers about her Skydiving Beaver book, so I thought today was a perfect time to share them.

How did you hear about this story and what got you interested in it?

One day my tween daughter casually mentioned that after World War II, leftover parachutes were used to airdrop beavers into the wilderness, that she’d seen it on TV. I didn’t think that could possibly be true, that maybe she’d misunderstood what she’d seen. But she insisted that it really happened. So I Googled it—and was totally blown away (no pun intended). Skydiving beavers was really a thing! More research ensued, and when I learned about Geronimo, the beaver used to test prototypes of the self-opening parachute box—that he seemed to actually enjoy the skydives—I just knew this would make a great children’s book. Fortunately, Sleeping Bear Press, which publishes many nature-related children’s titles, thought so too. Beavers are such amazing animals, and I’m excited to help make people more aware of them!

 Your book does a nice job of introducing us to Elmo Heter, did you get to meet him? Is he still living?

CaptureUnfortunately, Elmo Heter, the Idaho Fish and Game warden who dreamed up this unusual wildlife-relocation idea in 1948, died in 1967. But the book’s illustrator, Gisbert “Nick” van Frankenhuyzen, was in touch with Elmo’s son, and also with Idaho Fish and Game’s historian, to get all the details he could. Elmo was only with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for a few years; in 1952 he moved to Alaska, where he taught arctic survival skills at Ladd Air Force Base.

 I was surprised to see Martinez in the author’s notes section. How did you hear about our story?

As I was researching Elmo’s tale, I discovered he’d actually penned an article about it in a 1950 issue of The Journal of Wildlife Management. For a nonfiction writer, a primary source like that is gold! I Googled around looking for the article, and there it was, on your website. Then I read about the Martinez beavers and thought it was great information to include in the book, how people have now learned to work with beaver populations—for the benefit of the wildlife, the environment, and the community. No more airdrops, as inventive as the idea was at the time. You kindly allowed me to share on some of your links for educators’ resources, and I’m most grateful. There are articles, activities, and recently discovered film footage of the 1948 beaver airdrop at the book’s site, as well.

 I appreciated the illustrations. Had you worked with the illustrator before?

No, I wasn’t familiar with Nick’s work. But when the editor at Sleeping Bear sent me one of the other (of so many!) books he’s illustrated, The Legend of the Beaver’s Tail, it was obvious he was perfect for this project with his prior beaver-painting experience! Nick is known for his wildlife artwork. And he walks the walk—he and his wife took forty acres of Michigan farmland and turned it into a wildlife habitat. You can check it out at Nick’s also a naturalist with an active school-visit program, teaching kids about wildlife and conservation. He traveled to most of the locations in The Skydiving Beavers—his paintings of the Idaho landscape and animals are just gorgeous. 



Beaver Heroes

Posted by heidi08 On April - 4 - 2017Comments Off on Beaver Heroes

Lots more headlines this morning about the Wisconsin Beaver-trapping bruhaha. One of them titled “Beaver-drowning traps removed” which is the greatest indication I know that someone from PETA is pushing the story forward. I am a very picky advocate, so I want to demand  “so if the beavers were instantly crushed and not drowned, that would be okay?” But I guess there are a lot of right ways to be a beaver advocate. And not wanting animals to suffer is certainly one of them. I of course want them to live, right where they are, and do good things for our waterways and wildlife.

Meanwhile, I was pleasantly surprised this morning to see this headline from the Times-Telegraph in Herkimer, NY.

Local Beaver experts present at Oregon conference

CaptureDOLGEVILLE, N.Y. — Owen Brown, president of Beavers: Wetlands & Wildlife, and Sharon Brown, BWW biologist, presented “Forty Years Working for Beavers” at the State of the Beaver 2017 conference in Canyonville, Oregon, in February.

They represented Beavers: Wetlands & Wildlife, an educational non-profit based in Dolgeville, that was inspired by Beaver Woman Dorothy Richards, who studied the species for 50 years.

This, the fifth State of the Beaver conference, attracted 200 participants from many states as well as from Canada, Germany, Wales, England and Scotland. It was sponsored by the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe, and held at their Seven Feathers Casino.

“It was a special place,” said Owen Brown, “and a special gathering of people who are interested in the animal that can help solve our most serious environmental problems.”

By building dams, beavers restore wetlands that increase biodiversity, decrease damage from flash floods and greatly reduce water pollution.

Beavers: Wetlands & Wildlife solves conflicts between people and beavers so that the beavers and their beneficial wetlands are saved.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Beaver — Agent of Regeneration.” After the event, the Browns accompanied Mike Callahan, of Massachusetts-based Beaver Solutions, and Vanessa Petro, an Oregon State University biologist, to see a beaver flow device at a forested wetland near Corvallis, Oregon.

Whooohoo! Great job Sharon and Owen! If only every presenter at the conference showed up in their local paper after coming back from the conference.  There would be such a glut of good beaver news I wouldn’t know where to start first! I’m sorry I missed their presentation and am lucky I was able to get the meticulous notes Sherry Guzzi took there and hear all about it. I went looking for the summary of their presentation this morning and found that the website had already been updated for the 2019 conference.  Way to plan ahead guys. Reserve your spot today!


Yesterday I got to have one of my favorite conversations of the year, when I talked with Amelia Hunter about the beaver brochure for this year’s festival. I usually have a few ideas that I ping off her like a cheerful artistic cell tower. This time I was interested in showing beaver work, water, and some background. In fact I thought the MIT class ring was a perfect place to start.

Tg7T6AkWe got talking about the skyline in the background and Amelia suggested wouldn’t it be cool to replace it with Martinez landmarks instead? Since it was our tenth bea-versary. What an awesome idea! I suggested the John Muir House and the arch/rainbow bridge down at the wharf. She was intrigued and said she’d start playing. We are so lucky that she still wants to help us after SO many years.

I can’t wait to see how this turns out!

No Retirement for Beavers

Posted by heidi08 On March - 31 - 2017Comments Off on No Retirement for Beavers

I know it’s not Sunday but there’s plenty of good beaver news to go around. Starting with this article from Muskoka in Ontario, Canada. It is nicely written by Andrew Hind, who obviously has come to appreciate our flat-tailed friend.

Muskoka beavers build a healthier environment

Despite being a Canadian icon and a symbol of industriousness, many people view the beaver as a nuisance animal, blaming them for flooding and for damaging property through the felling of trees. Any derision towards the beaver, which generally is misplaced and based more upon myth than reality, masks the absolutely vital role beavers plays in creating a healthy environment – especially in areas with lots of wilderness and wildlife, like Muskoka. 

Beavers spend much of their life building and maintaining dams that hold back the water and create the ponds in which they live. What most people fail to realize is that the beaver is not the only one to benefit from the habitat it creates.  

The contributions made by beavers, perhaps nature’s most industrious animals, are more profound than most people realize. They are not the nuisance they are so often made out to be, but rather our partners in preserving the health of our planet Earth.BEAVER_chews-b2-Robin_Tapley___Gallery

“The beaver is the largest rodent in North America and it has been commonly known as ‘nature’s-engineers’ because of what they do for the environment,” explains Muskoka naturalist Robin Tapley. “A beaver is the only other mammal besides man that alters its environment to suit its living requirements. However, in the case of the beaver, its contribution has a positive impact on the local flora and fauna and this greatly increases the biodiversity in an ever-shrinking natural world. Science has demonstrated that the result of a single dam has increased the number of birds, reptiles, mammals as large as deer and bears, and plant life in areas modified by beavers.”  

Are you smiling yet? This is a ‘second cup of coffee’ kind of read and a great way to start the weekend.   What I love about an article like this is the fact that you can tell right away it’s going to be good. And you are just curious how good?

Dave McLachlin, a biologist for Ducks Unlimited, enthusiastically agrees. “Beavers are what we call a ‘keystone species. Without them we would witness a collapse of the ecosystem. The wetlands that beavers help create are the most productive environment we have in Canada.”

Beaver ponds not only create biodiversity, but also help with local flood control, reduction of water turbidity, the filtration of herbicides and pesticides, and – eventually – the creation of fertile bottomland.

To understand the importance of the beaver pond to the local system we need to understand more about the life cycle of these ponds. 

Some people view the appearance of a dam in a stream almost as a sign of rodent infestation, a nuisance that needs to be removed. Many even believe that the dam and the pond it creates will eventually lead to destructive flooding downstream. Tapley bristles at the notion that the appearance of a beaver dam is a blight on the environment.

“A beaver dam is a complex structure designed specifically to slow the flow of water in a stream that results in creating a pond or wetland. Unfortunately, in the eyes of humans, flooded lands and fallen trees (specifically aspens, which is the tree of choice for beavers) appear to be an attack on the land. However, this is far from reality. The stumps grow new shoots which are a favoured food of moose and white tail deer, snags or dead standing trees become prime nesting locations for cavity nesters, including woodpeckers, wood ducks and mergansers, and the resulting wetlands offer increased habitat for insects, amphibians and reptiles, osprey, blue herons, mind and more – in fact, 85 per cent of all North American fauna rely on wetlands,” he explains.

Beaver dams, he explains, do not cause flooding – just the opposite. They help control the flow of water in the surrounding area, facilitating flood control in times of high water and also help maintain a stable water table, making streams, ponds and marshes less vulnerable to drought.

Give it up for Dave from Ducks Unlimited! He clearly understand beaver benefits and the good they do. The article goes on to take a little detour from accuracy describing how the “male beavers disperse for long distances looking to start their own family”. (Which of course would never be possible for heterosexual beavers unless the females did it too.) But never mind that Dietland Muller Swarze wrote that beavers were very unusual in that the female disperers went farther than the males. (The only other animal where girls go farther is porcupines, which is just the kind of odd fact that stays in my brain.) Dave gets the important bits right on the money.

The sediment and debris captured within the pond settle to the bottom, making for better turbidity and allowing for a huge variety of protozoan and insect life. Turtles, fish, and bullfrogs and fish love these deeper waters. Larger snakes begin to arrive, taking advantage of the abundance of frogs. The grassy areas around the edges of the pond, meanwhile, make for ideal nesting habitat for waterfowl, such as ducks and Canada Geese. These same grassy areas are attractive to small rodents, which are in turn prey for marsh hawks and foxes. In just a short period of time an amazing diversity of wildlife calls the beaver pond home.

The heightened wildlife activity centred on the beaver pond confirms its importance in biodiversity and maintenance of wetlands. In fact, Ducks Unlimited, which has a mandate to protect duck populations, recognizes the value of working with beavers to restore wetlands and the symbiotic relationship between healthy duck and beaver populations. 

“The habitat resulting from beaver activity is tremendous. Not only do so many species depend on it for food, shelter and breeding grounds but research has shown that bacteria attracted to a mature beaver pond helps remove nutrients (phosphates and nitrates) contained in the runoff from nearby farms, making for cleaner water. Herbicides and pesticides are also removed in a similar way,” notes McLachlin. 

Beaver ponds are cyclical, however, and come and go. “Eventually the beavers move on and the dam breaks down, draining the water and leaving behind an extremely lush meadow and the cycle begins all over again,” explains Tapley. 

And yet the one-time pond continues to pay rich dividends for the environment. The meadow – its soil consisting of muck that sat submerged on the pond’s bottom – is rich in nutrients and provides fertile ground for seed blown upon the winds. As a result, it doesn’t take long before there is enough lush vegetation for deer to begin grazing. Tree seedlings soon take hold. In about 15 more years a beaver meadow has formed. If left undisturbed, the area is likely to once again play host to beavers once trees have matured to about 10 centimetres in diameter. 

Early Muskoka farmers appreciated the value of these rich bottomlands and cultivated them for raising crops. They reaped the bounty of more than a decade of labour by a colony of beavers. 

So not only do beavers benefit all that wildlife when they’re actually in residence, when the pond  silts up and is abandoned, the soil they leave behind is the rich loam farmers love best. And in between making ideal grow conditions and removing nitrogen beaver dams also prevent flooding. Are you sold yet? It’s wonderful to see an article like this appear out of nowhere. I usually hear something in the pipeline along the way, but this was a completely un-looked-for blessing. Go read the whole thing so Mr. Hind is reminded that folks care about beavers.

And late breaking I was just sent this by writer Ben Goldfarb who will  be meeting with doctoral student Dan Kotter in Yellowstone to discuss his research. Here’s what the trail cam picked up recently, and check out Mr. Wolf at .41. Those beavers do not even trouble their pretty little (dry!) heads about him.

Plenty to do! And they’re just the critter to do it!