Because the beaver isn't just an animal; it's an ecosystem!

The Martinez Beavers

Category: Friends of Martinez Beavers

beaversaryTen years ago today there was no Worth A Dam, no website, and no beaver community. There were only a bunch of citizens who thought it was a bad idea for their city to kill their beavers and showed up at a meeting to tell them so. This short clip of the UK documentary Beavers Las Vegas, produced by the independent film company Middle Child Productions, shows only the barest HINT of how many passionate and persuasive comments occurred. The clip I put together isn’t very long, but you should definitely watch all the way to the end to understand why it was so successful in changing the city council’s plan.

That Dam Meeting! from Heidi Perryman on Vimeo.

A handful of very passionate folks gathered at my home right before the meeting to discuss strategy. Former city council member Bill Wainwright brought port from the local city vineyard to share for courage, and gave us lots of advice about how to pitch our message persuasively. I spent the week handing out these stamped opinion cards and I’m sure hope the city got several.


That night, having never spoken at a public meeting before, and after barely being brave enough to call Sherri Tippie and ask for advice about relocation, I delivered the following comments:

I’m a lifelong resident of Martinez and a downtown homeowner.  While I would much rather have the beavers relocated than killed, I feel the city has failed to capitalize on a remarkable opportunity and let us all down.  In this case the DFG made some unique concessions and creative solutions, the Lindsay museum agreed to go above and beyond its calling, but the city of Martinez did neither. 

Although it has been widely reported that the city “Tried to think of another way to manage flood risk” the evidence for this is not strong.  The city Manager’s report does not even mention water-flow or leveling devices.  In fact these techniques have been used successfully for years and are well researched and understood.  Reports show a 93-100% satisfaction with them.  There is other evidence of neglect: the hydrology report does not mention tides and describes the dam as a “concrete weir” which of course it is not.  Finally, no report has looked at the likely environmental impact of removing the dam and the possible effect on new and returning species that depend on its waters: such as the famous baby otter, or the less famous but still endangered California pond turtle which has been in evidence.

If the city is determined to remove the beavers, they should be aware that successful relocation is not uncomplicated or well understood.  Since the state of California does not routinely allow relocation, there are few trappers trained in its use.  Hancock traps must be employed, and when misused can still result in harm or death.  Snare traps can cause invisible internal injuries.  Beavers have no internal temperature regulation and are there for highly vulnerable to hypothermia.  Families must be caught and released together.  I have spoken extensively with the nationally renowned expert in this area, Sherri Tippie, and have outlined her suggestions as well.  I submit them along with reports on flow control for their review.

 Many cities face these crises with technology, creativity and compassion. I wish Martinez was among them.

In the end it didn’t matter what I said. What mattered is what 50 people got up and said, and what 200 people applauded and cheered. The council sat frozen like four [Janet was in China, thank goodness] deer in headlights and we could tell we had all their attention. We knew the meeting was special while it was happening, getting more remarkable with every comment and cheer of solidarity. No one left early. And no one got tired. Nearly four hours sped by. To me it felt like a huge electrical charging station that filled me with unexpected energy for the road ahead. Remember, there was an offer on the table to ‘relocate’ the beavers, and I truly thought I might be the ONLY person to show up and disagree with that.

People sometimes assume that I somehow organized or ‘made’ that meeting. But they couldn’t be more wrong.

That meeting made me.


Yesterday was a strangely successful day that turned out well for beavers. After writing about the Mystic lake madness I wrote the acting director of the Custer Gallatan Forest Service and some city folks protesting the decision to sit on this problem for three months and then expose the beavers to slow death. I was written back fairly promptly by that acting director saying the army corps of engineers had told them there was a risk of a 500-year flood event for the town below if the dam washed out. He assured me they knew about flow devices and would talk about this for the future, but had to do this now. The beavers would be trapped, not left to starve, which was something.

I was grimly comforted by this news, and mollified that he wrote back at all which I did not expect. He also said that he was back at his regular job now in Vermont and another ranger was in charge – whom he cc’d on the message so we could be in touch. I still thought the beavers were done for, but I was glad that my letter had been responded to.

45 minutes later I received this:

Update on Mystic Lake project.  Engineers are currently working on a mitigation device to keep water to tolerable level after lowering and keeping the beavers in the system.  Long term solutions will be discussed at a later date.  Thanks.

Chad Benson
Deputy Forest                                                                                                                                                                                  Custer Gallatin National Forest


There must have been a lot of other public outcry besides mine. Maybe we’ll  never know. I will say I am capable of writing a fairly decent letter, but am downright talented at finding the right email address to target even when folks work hard to hide it. Still, I can count on one hand the number of times something like this happens. Maybe it has something to do with Amy’s recent presentation on the topic and my reminding the ranger of her skills and the fact that she was trained by the man who solved our beaver problem a decade ago? Maybe someone chained themselves to a bulldozer or threatened to stop dating the mayor’s niece. Who knows how these things work?

I’m just happy it did!

Dispersal: Elizabeth Saunders

To celebrate I started thinking about a festival design that would promote our new location and vaguely remembered a charming illustration by Elizabeth Saunders the artist who works with Cows and Fish. It was about beaver dispersal, but I thought it could easily be re-purposed to inspire Amelia on our brochure this year. Even as a starting place, I’m liking this a lot.


Today is full of blessings in every way! Louise Ramsay posted this on FB a very nice beaver program from radio 4. There are some irritating parts but stay patient because it gets very good. I especially find it kind of wonderful to hear how happily the reporter describes their return. Enjoy!


CaptureNot too long ago Rachel Hofman of the NWF magazine in Vermont contacted me about an event they were co-sponsoring with the Clark Fork Coalition in Montana about the benefits of beavers. She was working on a flyer to promote the event and wanted to use a few of Cheryl’s great photos to do so. The talk would be given on October 25th by Amy Chadwick, who is also a friend of ours.

It sounded like a fine cause, and it reminded me I hadn’t seen that particular photo in a while, so Cheryl gave consent and then we pretty much forgot about it because not long after our exchange the entire napa-sonoma valley erupted in flames and that held our attention for a while. Yesterday I was reminded of it by reader Rob Rich who sent me some great information they put out on beavers. It reminded me that I had forgotten to share it, so enjoy!

Beavers – Nuisances or Watershed Heroes?

For CFC’s inaugural Beaver Month we chatted with Andrew Jakes, Regional Wildlife Biologist for National Wildlife Federation about the unsung bucktooth heroes of the watershed – the beaver.

Why are beavers considered ecosystem engineers?

Beavers aren’t just considered ecosystem engineers…beavers are THE quintessential ecosystem engineer! They change a landscape like no other species in the world, besides humans. They change the landscape to suit their needs, and when they do that, it turns out that they change a lot of other things too.

OK, so what else changes in the landscape when beavers are present and building dams?

So much! When beavers show up, a lot starts to change. Studies have shown that beaver dams change everything in the system; from soil to vegetation to water quality to wildlife. It’s hard to sum up in only a few sentences, but I’ll do my best to give you a summary…

First of all, beaver dams slow the flow of water. This means water is on the landscape for longer. This can cause the floodplain to expand, soil structure to change, and the water table to rise. All of this also means that riparian vegetation can thrive. This means extra foraging opportunities for beavers and other creatures, so more wildlife starts to frequent the area. It’s no secret that wetlands are beneficial to the ecosystem, and beavers are little wetland creators.

The bottom line of all this is that when a beaver dam shows up, we see an increase in biodiversity, which thereby means the ecosystem becomes more resilient.

Mother and kit enjoying fennel: Cheryl Reynolds

You can read the rest of it the fine story here.  The entire ‘beaver appreciation month’ concluded with the talk by Amy Chadwick at a local pub in Missoula on Thursday evening. Obviously convincing the land owners of Montana to coexist with beavers takes the best and the brightest, and Amy (who worked with Skip Lisle) is well up to the task.

Walk and Talk: Busting Beaver Myths

During the month of October, the Clark Fork Coalition is putting a spotlight on the hard-working, fur-ball hero of the watershed – the beaver.  Join the Clark Fork Coalition and Ecologist Amy Chadwick for an evening of natural history and cutting-edge restoration featuring beavers and beaver mimicry. Chadwick is an Ecologist at Great West Engineering and the chair of the Montana Beaver Workgroup. Amy has been working in stream and wetland ecosystem assessment and restoration in Montana for 20 years, but in recent years her work has focused primarily on beaver habitat restoration and improving natural water storage.

Amy will share facts of about beaver ecology, review how beaver act as ‘ecosystem engineers’ in western watersheds, and share the implications lost beaver habitats on our water budget.  Chadwick will be joined by Andrew Jakes, Wildlife Biologist with the National Wildlife Federation for a discussion of beaver habitat recovery work underway in the Upper Clark Fork and a Q & A session.

Don’t you wish you were there listening to Amy’s talk? I met her at the Beaver Conference in 2013 and we have kept in touch over the years when beaver issues arose over the years. She worked with Skip installing flow devices in the area for a while and now carries on the work bravely on her own. It’s wonderful to see folks like Amy and the Clark Fork Coalition working in their own backyard to make way for beavers and teaching others about their benefit to the environment. I hope the beaver night was a resounding success and I hope NWF thinks of us first when they have a beaver event to promote in the future!

Whew, I was relieved to hear that Mike Callahan (whose WIFE is a trapper) had never heard about using a cross-bow either to shoot unwanted beavers either. So that means this is just a one-off until we hear otherwise. (A horrible one-off but better than  a common occurrence.)

Meanwhile, I received a note from author Ben Goldfarb yesterday that his writing retreat is going well and that he will have the first draft of his beaver book in November! How exciting! And I heard from Tom Rusert that their home didn’t burn down, their beloved bulldog Daisy is recovering from smoke inhalation, and things are moving forward.  There was an excellent article in the East Bay Times and Fire Rescue about our good friend Luigi feeding the first responders last week, which surprises me not at all. That man has been incredibly community-oriented since before he even had a community.

Calif. deli owner feeds first responders in Calif. wildfires Capture

MARTINEZ, Calif. —Luigi Daberdaku has been making sandwiches at his downtown deli for years, but never this many all at once.

Since Thursday, there’s been an assembly line set up in his shop, right near the shelves with the specialty sodas. “Cutting the meat, cheese, lettuce, onions, cucumbers, I need volunteers… plus I need more meat; we ran out of meat today after 275 sandwiches,” Daberdaku said Monday.

By that afternoon, as he prepared to make his fifth delivery trip, he and his assembled teams had made almost 1,500 sandwiches. It started Thursday, Oct. 12, when he and volunteers made 150 sandwiches by midday. He took them to Fairfield that first day for further distribution; since then, he has gone straight to the hard-hit areas, mostly in Napa, himself.

Dear, sweet Luigi, you deserve all the credit you get. I recall he had barely set up shop downtown at the November 2007 beaver meeting ten years ago, when he stood up with his very thick Albanian accent and said “When I first come to Martinez there was no one downtown. It was like a ghost town! And now that the beavers have come there are many, many people every day!” He has been our friend since the beginning, and his wonderful daughter Louisa planted trees, worked the festival and brought us sandwiches every year.  Helping first responders is just the kind of thing he’d do.

(Let’s hope that sweet steady rain we got last night helped them too.)

Yesterday the National Geographic Blog called Cool Green Science decided that beavers deserve a little credit also. Of course they couldn’t resist reminiscing on Idaho throwing them from planes – but this is a pretty nice summary. Watch the video all the way through.

Restoring Beavers by Plane and Automobile

“Beavers are really nature’s engineers and they do a really good job at what they do,” says James Brower, Idaho Department of Fish and Game volunteer services coordinator. “We love beaver and we love what beaver do.”

“We really want them to set up shop and transform that habitat and make it a little better for everything,” Brower says. “Beaver create habitat for not only fish but also for deer, elk, moose and bear. Pretty much everything needs water and places to drink. There’s no doubt in my mind this benefits everybody.”

I like what Mr. Brower has to say. I think I will try and make contact. But I’m never a fan of the beaver-flinging story – as I’m sure you all know by now.

Today is the day I’m letting you know that it’s time to sign up for your Compassionate Conservation webinars with Fur-Bearer Defenders. They’re free, easily attended from your computer and packed full of useful information. It is truly remarkable that FBD makes these webinars available world wide. They cover truly relevant topics like predators, presenter language and avoiding compassion fatigue, And oh, will you look at that! One of them will be about beavers and taught by yours truly!

Pragmatic Compassion: Teaching Martinez that Beavers were ‘Worth A Dam’

In 2007, Martinez California USA was surprised to find beavers living in the city creek. Officials were worried their dam would cause flooding and recommended trapping. Heidi Perryman worked to convince the city to install a flow device instead and started the beaver advocacy group Worth A Dam. Now she teaches other cities how and why to co-exist with the important ecosystem engineer.

Heidi is a child psychologist who became an accidental beaver advocate when a family of beavers moved into the creek near her home. Now she lectures about beavers nationwide and maintains the website which provides resources to make this work easier for others to do.

Click Here To Register

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit it’s not exactly a catchy title, but I really wanted to work the word “PRAGMATIC” into all that compassion, so it’s what we ended up with. Even though I’ve talked about our beavers a thousand times before this is different because a) I can’t use video and b) I want to emphasize the advocate’s role in saving wildlife. So it’s been an interesting challenge putting it together and re-including all the behind the scene things I usually leave out of my talk.

It would be SO nice to see familiar faces there, so sign up if you can, (assuming the formidable technology involved works and it actually happens) next tuesday at 1 pm!

More surprises? It turns out an Oregon Fish and Wildlife refuge is eagerly awaiting beavers too!

Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge marks 25 with fanfare

Skeins of Canada geese overhead may be a common autumn sight at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, but it felt nothing less than extraordinary on Saturday, Oct. 14, as the community gathered to celebrate the refuge’s 25-year anniversary.

In the Riparian Room of the refuge’s visitor center, refuge staff, volunteers, Friends of the Refuge members and visitors gathered to share the story of the refuge’s beginnings and its goals for the future.

As part of the anniversary celebration, visitors were invited to meander through the wetland along the site of the refuge’s next big project. Starting next summer and finishing in 2019, the refuge will restore Chicken Creek, which currently flows in a straight path to the Tualatin River through an agricultural ditch, to its historic channel through the floodplain. By replanting trees and shrubs along the bank, the refuge hopes to attract American beaver, an animal architect that will in turn enrich the area for many other species.

What do you know? Planting trees to encourage beavers at a refuge, while here in Northern California at the Malhleur refuge in the delta we know they’re actively killing them. Sheesh. Baby steps, right? Let’s all appreciate wisdom when we see it. Thanks Oregon!