Archive for the ‘Friends of Martinez Beavers’ Category

Just Desserts for beavers

Posted by heidi08 On July - 1 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

There are not one but TWO awesome pieces of beaver news this morning. I’ll start with the pièce de résistance, a phrase which literally means the thing with staying power. Because that’s what this is. Really.

pollockMichael Pollock sent it to me yesterday on it’s glorious release.  He said getting out 1.0 was grueling and he was still seeing typos, but he asked me to give him thoughts about 2.o down the line.  Check out the title photograph for which it credits the Worth A Dam FOUNDATION.  We would have liked Cheryl’s name too but I’m happy we got the website. And this is exactly the kind of place we want our photos to be. Just read for yourself.

Beaver as a Partner in Restoration

More and more, restoration practitioners are using beaver to accomplish stream, wetland, and floodplain restoration. This is happening because, by constructing dams that impound water and retain sediment, beaver substantially alter the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the surrounding river ecosystem, providing benefits to plants, fish, and wildlife. The possible results are many, inclusive of : higher water tables; reconnected and expanded floodplains; more hyporheic exchange; higher summer base flows; expanded wetlands; improved water quality; greater habitat complexity; more diversity and richness in the populations of plants, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals; and overall increased complexity of the river ecosystem.

It starts with a review of the hydromorphic and geological effects of beaver dams, then talks about filtration, groundwater and biodiversity. Honestly. for the beaver nay-eayers on your list, this is a big dose of science from the heavy weights FWS, NOAA, and USFS. Even if you can read nothing else, take a look at the first chapter because it says literally everything you know to win the next five arguments you have about beavers.

Chapter 1—Effects of Beaver Dams on Physical and Biological Processes

Beaver impoundments change the spatial distribution of water (groundwater, pond, or stream), as well as the timing of its release and residence time in the watershed. Beaver dams impound water in ponds and pools, and these impoundments slow the flow of the stream; this holds the water within the stream reach for longer periods and can increase base flows (reviewed in Pollock et al. 2003). Indeed, some perennial streams transform into intermittent and/or ephemeral streams following the removal of beaver dams (Finley 1937, Wilen et al. 1975).

Conversely, reintroduced beaver have transformed some intermittent streams back to perennial streams (Dalke 1947, Pollock et al. 2003), and recolonizing beaver have transformed slightly losing streams to gaining streams ((Majerova et al. 2015).

Honestly every ecologist and politician needs to read this from cover to cover. It ends with first hand case studies of watersheds where beaver were introduced. And describes the successes they observed. I already told Michael it needs a section on restoration in URBAN streams and he says he lobbied for its inclusion but was denied.Thus far. Another something for version 2.0.

At the end is a list of resources for answering any burning beaver question that might arise. And guess what’s first?


That’s right.  Listed before the established forefathers of Beaver Solutions and BWW, the little upstart crows of beavers from martinez have first place in the queue. Along with the cover placement. We are the Alpha and the Omega of living with beavers. Could there be a better sign that we are doing the right thing? Not for me there couldn’t. (I mean another thousand readers couldn’t hurt, but I’d rather be the GO TO spot when folks have burning questions than anything else.)

Honestly the whole thing is such a useful, instructive, science-based labor of love that it will take me weeks to fully read. I did my best to splash its announcement around the four corners of the internet, but feel free to share with your unpersuaded friend(s) of choice. What a fine ending to June!

I think I’ll leave the DU article for tomorrow. But if you want a sneak peak here it is.

Understanding Waterfowl: Beaver Ponds and Breeding Ducks: Growing beaver populations have created an abundance of high-quality habitat for waterfowl

I sometimes get the feeling that we’re winning.


Did you know there’s a Martinez in Georgia?

Posted by heidi08 On June - 19 - 2015Comments Off

It’s true. My niece actually lived there for a while. I think they pronounce it differently.

Worth A Dam’s retired librarian friend BK from the University of Georgia has contributed to this website in countless ways over the years. He’s sent me scientific articles that show beaver value to wetlands, pointed out the ones that omit the necessary beaver but should include it,  and he’s helped me correct many a typo over the years. I introduced BK to our friends from the Heron Preserve in Atlanta and I believe they actually watched local beavers together.

Yesterday I heard from his wife, who said two awesome things. They had been asked by their church to give a children’s program on beaver as a Keystone Species. Did I have ideas for activities they might include. (Do I? What a great question!) AND they were planning a 5 day trip so they could attend the beaver festival this year! That’s right, 2618 miles across country specifically for our festival!

How exciting! I think I might implore them to send the mayor a note. :-) We would love to have BK and Mrs. K in person! I can’t wait for the future day that we see announcements  for the beaver festival they’re holding one day in Georgia!

To celebrate, here’s some cheer from the Australian News program “the Project”. Back story: the city of Beaver Dam WI just made a law that kangaroos can’t be comfort animals.

Carrie Bickmore’s embarrassing ‘beaver’ slip-up on The Project

Friends of San Pedro Valley are Friends of Mine.

Posted by heidi08 On June - 7 - 2015Comments Off

IMG_0295What a fun night! It was warmer in Pacifica than we expected because the fog had not yet spilled down into the city. The drive was merciful and the ocean majestic. We slipped easily into the jewel of a park, nestled among steep hills, green with thick with alder and buckeye. A parking pass was provided at the gate, but IMG_0297we weren’t quite sure we were in the right place until we say the visitor’s center was plastered with signs about the beaver talk. Someone obviously had fun promoting this. I could imagine the classic Don LaFontaine voice in the movie promos,In a world, where beavers don’t belong, and cities never want them,  this unlikely family found their home.

We met our host Carolyn Pankow and were taken inside where all the equipment was ready in the visitor’s center. Attendees trickled in at first, and then suddenly it was a packed room. Full of smart environmental folks, some of them who had seen the beaver in person or at least on TV. There was even a mother with two children at the back, so  I made sure to keep things as engaging as possible. They laughed and groaned in all the right places, and afterwards I realized that my last two talks (salmon and trout) had been such challenging crowds I had forgotten how much fun it could be to talk to people that were really eager for beavers. There were about 45 people in the packed space.

IMG_0299Afterwards there were questions and praise, an honorioum for the talk and we were taken to an excellent companionable dinner at the local beloved Chinese place by the board of Friends of San Pedro Valley. They were all fascinating individuals, docents at point lobos or otter spotters for Elkhorn Slough. The myriad varied plates and ecological conversation passed around, and we delighted in each. They were especially eager to hear stories of nearby beavers to figure out how soon they could get their own. Then it was time for a moon lit drive bacl over the hills, along the coast and through the city to get back to Martinez at ten that evening. We had the familiar, pleasant feeling that we truly had been beaver ambassadors and paved the way for success when the lucky colony finally comes to town.

That’s the last talk of the year. Now it’s on the Beaver Festival planning in earnest!


My mom called Saturday to say she had heard a clip about the beavers two times on KCBS radio. It was presented as a fun novella describing the soap opera story of dad’s remarry. Did you year it? A final note, I picked up this new photo from facebook where it was the winner of a Missouri wildlife photography competition for obvious reasons.

Now THIS is what we need in Martinez this year.

family patty bitterman

Photographer Patty Bitterman

Beavers Bitter and Sweet

Posted by heidi08 On May - 31 - 2015Comments Off

So what kind of person are you? The one who says give me the bad news first? Or the one who happily opens all his Christmas presents even though his nervous looking parents say they have something important to talk to you about? What kind of person should I assume you are? Like me, get the hard stuff out of the way so that the easy stuff is easier?

Here’s the hard stuff. It starts with a hard hitting article in this mornings SF Gate and features two familiar faces (but only one of the pretty): Wildlife Services and Camilla Fox.

Wildlife groups take aim at lethal control of predators

Brennan, a 55-year-old trapper for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, has killed coyotes, mountain lions, bears, skunks, raccoons, bobcats and, by his own estimate, 400 dogs.

 “He represents a kind of mind-set, a culture,” said Camilla Fox, the executive director of Project Coyote, a wildlife advocacy organization that is calling for government support and training in nonlethal methods and techniques for controlling natural predators, and for widespread adoption of programs like one that has succeeded in Marin County for 15 years.

Brennan and his fellow trappers are the target of a nationwide campaign by Project Coyote and other wildlife conservation organizations to stop what they characterize as indiscriminate killing of wildlife by a rogue agency that still lives by the outdated slogan “the only good predator is a dead predator.”

 The latest sortie occurred in February when five conservation groups sued the Department of Agriculture for the “wanton killing” of wildlife in Idaho. They want the agency to promote nonlethal methods of control, including guardian dogs, fencing, hazing techniques, night corrals and lambing sheds.

So Camilla Fox and the Coyote Project teamed up with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Animal Welfare Institute  to sue Mendocino County for renewing their contract with WS without the necessary environmental review. The team already managed to pressure Sonoma away from renewing its contract.

You better believe this kind of work is making an impression on both politicians and a certain population of hunters and trappers who are deeply devoted to making the scrutiny go away. Case in point? When the John Muir Association named Camilla as conservationist of the year, our board was peppered with complaints from a few very difficult men who objected vociferously over and over.

Should WS maintain contracts all over California? Or the country? You can guess my answer.  I went through the numbers yesterday and saw where we fall in comparison. California USDA  doesn’t kill the most beavers, by any means, but we’re definitely in the top 10.

STATE COMPARISON 2014Congratulations Camilla on a very sympathetic article. You are really good at your job, which is apparently three times harder than ours. (WS killed 60000 coyotes nationally, and 22000 beaver).


Now for the good news. Rusty and Robin at Tulocay creek last night were delighted to find TWO kits instead of one. Although they never posed together in the camera frame they were clearly witnessed, and the smaller one generously hung out with mom for a while providing what is possibly among the top five cutest beaver videos I have ever seen. Watch it all the way through. If this doesn’t melt your heart you should see your cardiologist immediately because there’s probably something wrong with it.

New beaver – New beaver management

Posted by heidi08 On May - 29 - 2015Comments Off


So much news today, I am fairly bursting at the seams. First the and most relevant is that Jakob Shockey of the Applegate Partnership and Watershed Council from Oregon is currently training with Mike Callahan learning flow device installation in MA. This all came about at the State of the Beaver Conference when folks really felt like they needed their own expert in the state. Well now they’re going to have one. They repaired a culvert fence and installed protections on a spill way.

By Mike Callahan

Jakob Building a Flexible Pond Leveler to install on a manmade dam spillway in western MA.. We also fixed a failed Trapezoidal Culvert Protective Fence that had worked perfectly for 5 years, looked great a month ago, and then suddenly the beavers dammed all around it. Very strange. I don’t know why it happened. Maybe related to our current drought. Nevertheless that same day we also built a Flexible Pond Leveler and installed the pipe through the failed fence to control the water level and keep a highway from flooding.  Jakob is very bright, a good worker and a pleasure to spend time with.

I just love when smart people working together make beavers safer! Oregon is going to be so proud! They have a lot to brag about at the moment because they just discovered a previously unknown beaver fossil in John Day. A missing beaver-link if you will.

Prehistoric beaver fossils unearthed — where else? — in Oregon


 A fossilized skull and teeth from a newly described species of beaver that lived 28 million years ago have been discovered in Eastern Oregon.

The fossils worked their way out of the soil within a mile of the visitor center at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, said the monument’s paleontologist, Joshua Samuels.

 The find is significant, he said, because unlike the other species of ancient beavers found at the monument, this one appears related to the modern beaver, a symbol of Oregon found on the state flag. The others all went extinct.

 The species is named Microtheriomys brevirhinus.

It was less than half the size of a modern beaver and related to beavers from Asia that crossed the Bering land bridge to North America about 7 million years ago, Samuels said.

This diminutive beaver roamed the earth during the Oligocene period after the dinosaurs but with neighbors like the three toed horse and sabertooths. While there are really only two types of beaver left today, fossils tell us there used to be hundreds, which is awfully fun to think about. I love the idea of a tiny beaver. Just imagine how small THOSE kits were!

Speaking of kits, Rusty snapped this last night of his famous new Napa family member. Doesn’t it look like a new species of lesser-known beaver-snake?


The lesser known beaver-snake. Photo by Rusty Cohn

Our own beavers have been hard at work and it looks like dad is getting ready for the new kit debut by making a training tree available they can munch on. Do you think he saved it for just this purpose?
tree down may 2015

Conservation Awareness

Posted by heidi08 On April - 17 - 2015Comments Off

What a great article from Troy Alabama. I won’t say of all places because Alabama is the site of the most important fine EVER for removing a beaver dam and destroying the habitat of the rare watercress darter. Looks like the city of Troy learned nothing from their northern cousin’s misfortune.

Dam destruction raises concern

The city of Troy tore down a beaver dam beside McKinley Drive near the walkway that connects the Edge apartment complex to campus.

Vaughn Daniels, environmental services director for the city of Troy, said the city worked with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to make sure the dam removal was environmentally safe.

 The beavers were not killed, Daniels said.  According to Daniels, the dam was a threat to the road.

 After the beaver dam was removed, the pond it created drained.

 Members of Troy University’s Environmental Club moved animals from the remains of the pond to the Lagoon.

 “In one day out there doing a visual survey, we saw 3-foot grass carp, sunfishes, red-winged blackbirds, belted kingfishers, musk turtles, pond sliders, gray and green tree frogs, Eastern garter snakes, as well as a huge female great horned owl,” said Tanner Stainbrook, a senior ecology and field biology major from Huntsville and a member of the Environmental Club, in an email. 

Members of the Environmental Club have voiced concern about the effects tearing down the dam will have on the area.  “The big thing is that this eliminated the major wetland ecosystem in the area,” Stainbrook said. “This mud hole, in two days, will be just that. There’ll be no water left.”

Group members said they were concerned that this may harm the great horned owl’s habitat, as the owl fed on the frogs in the pond.

A university, an environmental club, and a sympathetic reporter. Something tells me these beavers might be making a splash. I spent time yesterday tracking all the major players so I could make sure they new about solutions and consequences of dam removal. I haven’t heard anything back, but I’m hopeful. And it gave me a new idea for responding to these stories. Since we review every beaver report that’s written every year, we may as well give notice to the best and the worst beaver articles of each caagory. Gradually notify contenders that they’re in the running and pick the winners in January. I already got Robin excited about the idea and she’s going to help! I took the liberty of inspiring myself for the project with some graphics this morning. Hahaha! Aren’t they fun?

best beaver bylinebad beaver byline

A less pleasant article came out of Norway yesterday about one of the many hazards of beaver life. It’s nice to see it written about respectfully though  (except for the headline).

Timber! Beaver crushed by tree it was felling


The unlucky beaver trapped under a birch. Photo: Beate Strøm Johansen

A beaver in Norway has been crushed to death after misjudging which way the tree it was gnawing down was going to fall.

 Beate Strøm Johansen, a Zoologist at the Agder Natural History museum in Kristiansand on the southern tip of Norway, was called to the scene after a local logger stumbled upon the unfortunate animal.

 “This beaver has been extremely unlucky,” she told The Local. “I hope it’s not something that happens very often for the beavers’ sake.”

 Johansen said that beavers normally have an uncanny ability to predict when and where a tree is likely to fall.

 “When the tree is falling they have to jump aside so the tree doesn’t hit them. Instinctively, they should know where it is falling, but sometimes they don’t know which way to jump,” she explained.

I might be strange, but it seems almost kind of sweet to read this article. As if it mattered that a beaver was killed by a tree when we all know sooo many are killed on purpose. Yes trees are unpredictable, and I’m not sure beavers have any uncanny abilities to know where they’re falling except practice and luck. As the old saying goes, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Now it’s time to invite you to the birthday Earthday event at John Muir tomorrow. The event information is here for you to print. The guest speaker is going to be Beth Pratt for the wildlife federation, the winner of the conservationist of the year is going to be our friend Camilla Fox, and the non-profit of the year is going to be our friends at the River Otter Ecology Project. My congressman is getting a lifetime legacy award, which we hope he will be able to pick up in person. At the moment my office is literally surrounded with art supplies for our ‘build your own totem’ project. Rusty from Napa is coming to help with our booth and 57 other environmental exhibits will be on hand to celebrate the day. Plus Frank Helling as John Muir, which is sooo appealing. Whatever your planning tomorrow stop right now and plan to come. It will be an amazing day.

awards 2014My graphic for the award winners will be a big sign. The background is Muir’s letter to Enos Mills congratulating him on his conservation work and inviting him to the house. See for yourself.

Muir letter









Beaver Spring

Posted by heidi08 On April - 3 - 2015Comments Off

We need a real beaver update first off. The secondary dam (name to be changed soon) is HUGE. And one of our new stakes is already sprouting! Jon spied a mother with 12 baby ducks yesterday and we went down to beaver watch this morning. Our kit (almost yearling, birthday in May) was swimming back and forth in front of the hole where they live, and a parent swimming up from down stream after a night feeding. She had to CLIMB up over the monumental dam before heading to sleep for the day. A great beaver morning.

I’ve been waiting forever to share this great new research from Dr. Ellen Wohl. There is so much happening lately there’s never time to catch up. If you want to remind yourself who she is listen to this short clip. It remains the single most pithy description of beaver benefits I’ve ever heard. Photos courtesy of Worth A Dam, of course.

CaptureCaptureSee how she just slips in the good news about beavers along side the already largely accepted news about wood??? Her research has made a huge difference in the way folks look at beavers, and I’m sure there’s more where that came from. Go read the whole thing here:

Bring-the-Kids-to-Washington-DCs-Cherry-Blossom-Festival--f630c1399fd04849bbe91183f25cc6dfIt’s Cherry Blossom Festival time which reminded to share an old story. A while ago some patriotic beaver started chewing down the National trees, and the decision of whether to kill them or not caused a bit of a stir. Now the  trees have their own mascot to protect them. Paddles the beaver, which reminds visitors not to pick blossoms.

5741842234_5bbed33ed5CaptureThere’s a new resource for beaver restoration in the world, compiled by Rebecca Haddock of the Miistakis Institute of Alberta. She attended the state of the beaver conference and liked what she learned. This is what I would call a great start, although it is missing info on several key players like the Lands Council and/or Methow Project in Washington, The Beaver Advocacy Committee in Oregon, Sherri Tippie in Colorado, even more locally to them Cows and Fishes in Alberta! -)Not to mention you know who in California…) The full report is online at OAEC here.

And as our beavers get more visible, the ones in Napa do to. Here’s footage Rusty shot yesterday of Mom and Dad swimming together.

Lastly, I just got a request from Mountain Lake in NY to use Cheryl’s photo in a podcast they were releasing about beavers. They gave us a very nice plug, Go see for yourself.