Archive for the ‘Friends of Martinez Beavers’ Category

Never send a city worker to do a beaver expert’s job…

Posted by heidi08 On August - 4 - 2015Comments Off


Northampton will install rocks to baffle beavers at Fitzgerald Lake

Hark back to 2013, when beavers dammed the area around the outlet pipe that sends water from the lake under the dam and into the Broad Brook. The lake rose about two feet that year, forcing the city to install a wire-mesh fence around the pipe, temporarily holding the beavers at bay.

 Ever industrious, the beavers eventually burrowed under the fence, clogging the system again and raising the level of the lake. Some of the trails along the shore were even submerged this year.

 Wow, Northampton MA is 20 minutes away from Mike Callahan. I can’t believe he installed a fence beavers burrowed under in 2 years, can you? Let’s use the search function on the website to see if it gives any clues. Here’s one from 2013:

“Once the new fence is in by the city’s contractor I’ll be installing a Flexible Pond Leveler through their fence.”

Ahhhh so it was a “I’ll-save-some-$$-by-doing-this-myself, how-hard-can-it-be” job.  Gosh and now you have to spend a grand lowering rocks into the lake to hold down the silly fence that you installed, because otherwise Mike’s excellent flow device will get plugged. Have you learned anything by this? Are you going to stick to the experts next time?

Mike said at the time that this lake was the site of the FIRST flex pipe he ever installed – in 1998. How’s that for a history lesson!

bob n janeOur dinner guests last night were Bob & Jane Kobres from Georgia. Here they are at the table with our awesome chef and FRO’s beautiful beaver watercolor in the background. He’s the retired librarian from UGA that always sends us beaver research and discretely points out egregious typos so that your reading experience will be slightly less marred. He and his wife made their first trip to California (first time ever) for the beaver festival. (No, really)

Every business they visited in Martinez they made a point of telling was stunned. And they just did a beaver presentation at the children’s program in their church. How awesome is that? At dinner we realized they are truly unique folks: Jane is the daughter of a white baptist deacon from Tennessee that voted for Obama twice.

(How small is that demographic?)

They had a great time watching Bob Rust put together the wattle beaver, and Bob filmed most of it so I hope we can get it on the website soon. They shared a similar knowledgeable quirkiness that I am starting to recognize in beaver lovers. (Myself included). It’s amazing that we have had three separate visits from Georgia in the past few years, and the Blue Heron Preserve in Atlanta is now talking about possibly doing a beaver festival. (Be still my heart!) They went to Muir Beach on their visit and boldly put their bare feet in the Pacific, as well strolling around Muir Woods and the John Muir house here in Martinez.

We’re just about finished with the final exchanges for the silent auction, meeting a lot of folk wednesday at the bridge, and everything is finally put away or tallied. I sent the followup receipts and paperwork for the grants yesterday, and am finally starting to feel done with everything. I got this fun photo from our bag piper yesterday, Dave Kwinter, who said he had a great time at the festival.

bvOf course I warned him to use caution when saying he enjoyed it, or else we will certainly ask him again!



The Sun Also Rises

Posted by heidi08 On July - 28 - 2015Comments Off

CaptureThis was what I had been anxiously waiting for. Turns out I was nervous for no reason at all. Thank you Sam Richards for writing something so kindly and thoughtful. I promise no money or beaver merchandise exchanged hands.  A beaver festival article will follow on Thursday. I’m posting the whole thing here and on my mother’s refrigerator, but please CLICK on the link so they know you read it okay?

‘Weekend project’ to help local beavers turns into labor of love for Martinez woman

By Sam Richards

MARTINEZ — Heidi Perryman had no idea her “weekend project” was going to last the better part of a decade — or have such wide impact.

But creating public awareness of the importance of beavers to the ecological health of the streams in which they live and championing the toothy rodents that have made Alhambra Creek an unlikely destination for environmentalists has become almost a second career for this 49-year-old child psychologist and lifelong Martinez resident.

 She takes pride in the degree to which she and those whom she has influenced have spread the message that beavers are good for the ecosystem. She also knows the work is far from done.

“It’s constantly surprising to me how successful we’ve been but also how much subtle backlash there continues to be,” said Perryman, who remains a driving force behind the local Beaver Festival, its eighth annual edition happening Saturday.

The festival has grown from a small gathering of 200 in 2008 (“We figured it would be bad to kill the beavers if we had just had a party for them!” Perryman said) to an event that drew more than 2,000 visitors last year to the small open parcel — called “Beaver Park” by some — adjacent to the creek, a stone’s throw from the Amtrak station.

My goodness, what a fantastic start to an article! Sam asked so many questions about me, the beavers and the community they inspired I didn’t know what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect this.  Honestly, this article is much nicer than I deserve. I was really just hoping it wouldn’t make people LESS likely to come to the festival.   (Although, I’ve heard a rumor that a certain Martinez cabal meets for breakfast every morning downtown to discuss city plans for the day. I would dearly love to be the fly on the wall when they see this in their morning paper.)

  Perryman said she was walking downtown in 2007 when she ran into a friend who told her beavers had recently migrated to Alhambra Creek. “I thought it was funny, and I came down to see them,” she said.

 Not so funny was learning the beavers were going to be killed, as downtown property owners feared flood damage caused or exacerbated by the rodents’ dams.

She then joined the Martinez City Council’s “beaver subcommittee,” diving into what had become an emotional, divisive debate.

“Heidi was less excitable than some of the people on the other side of that issue, which was a good thing,” said City Councilman Mark Ross, who favored researching the matter.

Perryman has been credited with leading the drive to research the impacts of urban beavers, both good and bad, on their surroundings.

Harriett Burt, a former Martinez councilwoman, initially wanted the beavers gone, fearing flood damage to nearby buildings. But she said the research done by Perryman and her fellow Worth a Dam beaver advocates turned up viable options for preserving the beavers when official sentiment was going the other direction.

“She was clear, competent, articulate, well-informed and thorough,” Burt said. “She did have to win me over, and she did.”

The Worth a Dam group, she added, forced the City Council to look at other solutions.

There are three things I’m proudest about in my work on the committee, keeping my temper (most of the time), convincing Igor Skaredoff and Mitch Avalon that beavers are good for creeks, and persuading Harriet Burt that Beavers could belong in Martinez. I’m so happy he talked to her and she was kind enough to give such a quote. Harriet was my vice principal in middle school and the mayor of Martinez when I got my last degree. She was the planning commission forever and welcomed us when we bought this old house downtown. This really means a lot coming from her.

While Perryman had to stand up to beaver opponents, she also had to get to know their advocates.

“She knows how to engage other people who are themselves involved with that issue and make them all part of the same coalition,” said Igor Skaredoff, who since 1990 has been a member of Friends of Alhambra Creek.

In an effort to coexist with the paddletail swimmers, the city employed a version of a flow device, called by its inventor Skip Lisle the “beaver deceiver.” It’s a plastic pipe that carries water under the beavers’ then-main dam between Escobar Street and Marina Vista. It ensures the water level behind the dam never rises too high and that the beavers can’t tell water is getting through, which could send them into a damming frenzy.

Perryman said that now, seven years after the “beaver deceiver” was installed, the beavers appear to have finally realized the deception. That’s probably the biggest reason their main dam is now several hundred feet farther downstream, adjacent to that small park near the train station.

“Seven years, I would say the ‘beaver deceiver’ was a success,” said Perryman.

There are no plans to move the pipe to the new dam, as any flooding there would only inundate an adjacent floodplain and not endanger buildings.

Oooh nice PS for the council, “don’t worry about the new dam, Everything will be fine”. Could there be a better fortune hidden inside this cookie?

Walking slowly one recent morning onto the footbridge, using a cane, Perryman looked out over a creek more alive than eight years ago, an ecosystem largely restored. More fish, plus muskrats, river otters and other species, come (and go) now almost certainly because of the beavers’ activity, Perryman said. They stir up the creek bed, exposing insects and other creatures, which attract the fish that eat them.

The fish, in turn, attract otters and mink, which also have been sighted. Even the largely vegetarian muskrats eat some of these critters. The beaver dams also help keep more water in the creek longer, lessening local effects of the drought on surrounding trees and plants.

But there’s more to do; on the Worth a Dam agenda is work to change California fish and game laws to allow relocation of beavers to where they would be a good ecological fit.

Perryman also wants to continue to be a resource to the other beaver advocacy groups; their numbers are growing, and such units from San Jose, Napa and Lake Tahoe are expected Saturday at the Martinez festival.

The festival and the beavers themselves have helped give Martinez a little publicity. There are bumper stickers and T-shirts touting “Mtz. Beavers,” and those who gather on that footbridge are a mix of locals and out-of-towners.

“It’s rare to find a beaver dam so close to a parking meter,” Ross said.

Hometown: Martinez
Claim to fame: Child psychologist who fought starting in 2008 to keep beavers in Alhambra Creek; lead organizer of Martinez’s annual Beaver Festival
Quote: “I thought I’d work a day, or a weekend, on helping the beavers. But it really sort of took off.”
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Marina Vista and Alhambra Avenue, downtown Martinez
Cost: Free

HeidiWhat a wonderful article, Sam Richards. I am totally grateful AND relieved. The child in me is pretty proud, so I’m including this photo of young Heidi showing off my crafting talents with a “little house on the prairie inspired” corncob doll while camping. 

One thing that didn’t make it in was the fact that I gave a TON of credit to the people of Martinez who marched to that meeting and demanded to live with beavers. And to the beavers themselves, who oddly decided to live in a very public area where people could see and care about them.  Maybe he thought I was just being humble, but they really deserve the credit. Honestly, save this article for my eulogy. I am way prouder of the beavers than my dissertation. (The article says so exactly what I secretly wished it would that I am weirdly worried that something terrible will happen now.)

What the heck. This poem-alteration seems totally fitting this morning. (Apologies to Leigh Hunt.)

I saved beavers in our creek
Kept them safe from traps and trials
Whatever else I couldn’t do
They were spared the city’s wiles
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad
Atheist among believers
Say I’m getting old but add
Add that I saved beavers

Photographs and Memories

Posted by heidi08 On July - 26 - 20151 COMMENT
Suzi at work

Suzi Eszterhas photographs Martinez Beavers

Last night more than 40 children and their parents showed up for a chance at having their picture taken by Suzi Eszterhas for possible inclusion in Ranger Rick magazine. I was in charge of registration at the footbridge and got parents to sign the model release. Jon shepherded groups across the street, and Suzi was at the old dam arranging children, persuading them to be patient, and taking photos.

The night had a strangely important feel. Almost everyone had seen the beavers before, and many knew about the kits, most had attended a beaver festival. One eager attendee showed me her three layered keystone charm necklaces from the previous years, and one boy was even wearing a lovely homemade t-shirt that said “Save the Martinez Beavers”!

(Jon got so excited about him that he told Suzi to get a photo, and when she was trying to walk around the edge of the pond she slipped in!  About three feet deep because of the swelling tide, but she instinctively held her camera over her head so everything important except her squishy boots was saved! Afterwards Jon was very sorry apologetic.)

nature clubThe kids and parents were very excited about her work and wanted to know as much as possible. Of course they asked which issue of Ranger Rick it will be in, and of course we have no idea. Hopefully sometime next year.  She was especially interested in the older kids because of the readership age of Ranger Rick, but  she made everyone feel important and part of something very special. Parents were totally unphased by the release which they happily signed and gave contact information. Afterwards Jon and I looked at each other and commented that this had felt like an unexpectedly important night.

I’m hoping this translates into lots of new sign ups for NWF at the festival and some great bidding on Suzi’s donations. Now today it’s time to buckle down with Deidre and get the items for the silent auction tagged and organized. Next week is full of last minute details and the Contra Costa Times is supposed to release its article about the festival (and profile of ….cough…me.) I’m just hoping it doesn’t mortify me too much.

A star is born from Heidi Perryman on Vimeo.

For Immediate Release

Posted by heidi08 On July - 13 - 2015Comments Off

CoverBeaver Festival VIII features free wildlife pins by Oakland artist

Keytone species project 2015Worth A Dam is pleased to announce that the first 150 children attending the Beaver Festival on August 1st, 2015 will be able to collect 19 wildlife pins designed by Oakland artist Mark Poulin and purchased with a grant from the CCC Wildlife Commission. The activity will highlight the new wildlife seen in Alhambra Creek since the beavers arrived, and emphasize their role as a Keystone Species. The artist was pleased with the project, saying

“I was so excited to find out that we had beavers in the Bay Area, and a group protecting them, celebrating them,and doing education outreach about them.”

The beloved annual festival will feature live music, beaver tours, children’s activities, and more than 40 ecological booths. Initially a response to the controversy regarding the beavers, the festival has become one of the largest and best attended wildlife events in the state.

This year in particular there’s a lot for beaver-fans to celebrate, as acclaimed wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas has been photographing the Martinez beavers for the past two months in preparation for a feature in NWF’s Ranger Rick. This award-winning children’s magazine promises to be perfect place to show case the famous Martinez Beavers.

bioCollageAlthough she has worked with Cheetahs in the Savanna, and Penguins in the Antarctic, Ms. Eszterhas had never seen anything quite like Martinez where she was forced to contend with trains, traffic, homeless, and, she says “one unexpected proposal of marriage.” Despite the urban hazards she was thrilled with her assignment and adds,

“Working with the Martinez beavers has given me a special, up-close view of a mysterious animal that is often shy and elusive. It has been privilege to watch the family live out their fascinating lives right in downtown Martinez! I applaud Worth A Dam and the city of Martinez for their work in being a model for coexistence.”

You can hear all about the visits, bid on her books and more at the silent auction, learn about wildlife or just find about more about the beavers by joining this year’s Annual Festival. Come learn how one city improved its creek by solving a problem humanely. It promises to be a ‘dam’ good time!


Beaver Festival VIII – Sponsored by Worth A Dam August 1st, 2015. 11-4
“Beaver Park” in down town Martinez.
Tours, wildlife, exhibits, and live music. Contact 925 283-4499

I released this yesterday to the media winds. So far only patch has picked it up. Fingers crossed it makes its way around the bay. The festival’s a lot of work whether people attend or not, so it’s more worth it when we’re PACKED.

Beavers Unlimited

Posted by heidi08 On July - 2 - 2015Comments Off

Just in case you’re not sure I’m telling the truth about four kits, here’s the proof. Junior comes from the left for size comparison. One of the kits is a little meanie. I’m waiting for mom or dad to straighten him out.

We didn’t have to wait long to see all four. Hoping they agree to stay upstream through the fourth.

Now, as promised we can finally return to the fantastic Beaver article from Ducks Unlimited. It’s definitely worth our time.

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

“We have mined the northland, not for wheat, not for gold—but for fur. Now the fur seed is gone.”

Those words were spoken in 1938 by Ducks Unlimited Canada’s first general manager, Tom Main. He was relating his ideas about how to resolve the challenges facing waterfowl as DU began its first year of operation. Main and many others believed that beaver ponds were an integral component of the original habitat that once produced sky-darkening flocks of waterfowl. By the time DU started its conservation work, however, nearly all the beavers and the millions of ponds they had created along the continent’s rivers and streams were gone.

 Research has verified that beaver ponds provide important habitat for waterfowl. In a large study conducted by DU in the Clay Belt region of Ontario, the most abundant breeding duck in beaver pond–rich forests was the mallard. Other common breeding ducks on beaver ponds include cavity-nesting wood ducks, hooded mergansers, buffleheads, and common goldeneyes. Beaver ponds also provide breeding habitat for American black ducks, blue- and green-winged teal, American wigeon, and ring-necked ducks.

 Beaver populations have now expanded across the United States. In many areas, especially in the West, beavers are increasingly viewed as key partners in the restoration of diverse plant and animal communities. Beaver ponds provide vital habitat for many species of fish, amphibians, and birds while also conserving threatened water supplies and moderating downstream flooding.

 But what effect do beavers have on continental waterfowl populations? DU and others have long chronicled and fought the loss of wetlands important to waterfowl. Despite all our efforts, the net loss of wetlands has continued and even accelerated on the continent’s most important waterfowl breeding, migration, and wintering areas.

 As natural wetlands have declined, man-made water bodies such as reservoirs, storm-water retention basins, borrow pits, and golf course ponds have increased on the landscape. Many man-made ponds and lakes are of limited value to waterfowl, although they do serve some wetland functions. DU and its conservation partners restore, enhance, and protect high-quality natural wetlands that provide crucial habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. As nature’s wetland engineers, beavers are in the same business, and they do all the work themselves.

Beavers truly are a partner in wetlands restoration and maintenance, just as Tom Main had hoped they would be over 75 years ago.

High praise from a powerful lobby. I’m sure a lot of us might have mixed feelings about DU. (They want lots and lots of ducks to grow up big and strong so they can go out and shoot them.) But DU has done literally more wetlands restoration than we can imagine. They put their money where their guns are, and as a result they have saved many of the very species they are interested in hunting. They really are conservationists. Not my kind maybe, but conservationists all the same.

And they love beavers because they help them do this work. And that’s a big deal.

Not to hog all the camera time, Rusty sent a wonderful photo this week of an otter truly enjoying all that Tulocay beaver pond has to offer.

close your mouth

Close your mouth when you chew – photo Rusty Cohn

One more film from last night. This was heart-meltingly beautiful. Love mom’s foot in this video. Reminds me of a Degas painting.


Just Desserts for beavers

Posted by heidi08 On July - 1 - 2015Comments Off

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