Archive for the ‘Friends of Martinez Beavers’ Category

Moving and Counting

Posted by heidi08 On September - 29 - 2016Comments Off on Moving and Counting

Hey guess what? The Martinez beavers saved themselves and the city throws them a yearly beaver festival!

I freely admit I complain far too much. We know its true. I’d better go on vacation right now and improve my attitude.  Thank god Mendocino will get me just in time. I’m not happy when we’re NOT mentioned as a ‘beaver success story’ – but ahem, this isn’t really a lot better.

Nature: Sonoma County beavers are watershed heroes

One great example of this win-win approach comes from Martinez, a town that learned to embrace the beavers that moved into Alhambra Creek and threatened to flood an area of town and a major transportation hub. Citizens joined forces with the city to install a simple flow-control device that allows the water to be maintained at an acceptable level without destroying the beaver dams or removing the animals.

What might have been a liability has now been turned into an asset. The city now hosts the Martinez Beaver Festival and promotes these creatures as watchable wildlife, bringing thousands of visitors and supporting the local economy.

What a relief! I thought Worth A Dam hosted that event for the last nine years.  How silly I was spending literally months planning and worrying, days with supplies in my living room, and weeks on the phone arranging things, when the city was handling all the details by itself. Whew! Maybe I’ll take a seaside vacation next August and read about it in the Press Democrat since they have made it clear Worth A Dam services aren’t required at all.

Other than these  fairly irksome paragraphs its a nice article about the beaver blitz being organized by OAEC to count beaver populations in Sonoma county. I’ll share the good bits and you should think about helping out with their beaver count if you can.

Over the next several decades, conservationists began to recognize the benefits of beavers and began advocating for an end to over-trapping, even supporting efforts to reintroduce beavers to degraded stream channels. The science began trickling in to substantiate the claim that beaver dams conserve water because, as Brock Dolman explains, they “slow it, spread it and sink it.”

“It turns out that as water backs up behind small temporary dams, it flows out across the floodplain of a stream, giving it an opportunity to water riparian forests, trap sediment and slow the water so that it has time to sink into the gravel and replenish the groundwater,” said Dolman, Occidental Arts and Ecology Center WATER Institute director. And this is only the first of many benefits.

In an effort to promote beaver stewardship, Dolman and Kate Lundquist, also of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center WATER Institute, have been leading a statewide effort to promote beaver stewardship. They work with farmers, vineyard owners, municipalities and resource agencies across the state to share emerging techniques for receiving the watershed benefits that beavers provide while preventing property damage.

“Here in Sonoma County, we see Sonoma County Regional Parks as one of the beavers’ best hopes,” says Lundquist. “Most of the recent observations have been in or near county parks, with the most consistent cluster showing up between Maxwell Farms and Sonoma Valley Regional Parks.”

With that in mind, Lundquist is working with Regional Parks and the Sonoma Ecology Center to host a one day “blitz” of the county to look for beaver signs. On Oct. 8, observers will join teams throughout the county in the first ever “Beaver Blitz.” Register at

To learn more about beavers, visit

I’ve heard that our own Cheryl Reynolds will be joining the efforts, which is lucky for them because she is very experienced at tracking beaver sigh. It’s fun to think of what they might find. I’m not exactly sure what system they’ll use to ‘count’ beavers, since they’ll be looking for signs, dams, chews, tracks etc and that requires someones system to convert into population estimates but I wish them all the best.  Good luck Brock and Kate! I hope your count generates interest and raises awareness too.

There are a couple good beaver articles this morning. The other worth mentioning comes from Wildlife Defenders in Colorado.

Exploring with Beavers, Nature’s Ecosystem Engineers

Beavers don’t often go exploring. Perhaps only once a lifetime, when they disperse as juveniles and search for a new home and mate, do they really explore the boundaries of their world. But one beaver family recently went on quite the adventure. That family of nine beavers was captured earlier that week in the north part of Denver. Their final destination, and their new family home, was a crystal clear mountain stream about an hour south of Denver.

Beaver are nature’s ecosystem engineers, felling trees and building dams, and changing waterways for their own benefit. But they also benefit other species in the process, including humans as well as many species that are now in jeopardy at least in part due to the historic loss of beavers. Their dams help to control the quantity and quality of water downstream, which both humans and animals use. Their ponds and flooded areas create habitat for many plants and animals, such as fish, birds, insects, and amphibians. In fact, some species only live near beaver ponds. Beavers dramatically change their environment, and those changes can last for hundreds of years, even after the beaver have moved on.

This specific beaver family’s former home, a stream on the north of Denver, is slated for re-alignment this winter. The stream engineering will destroy the beaver’s home and habitat. But officials knew it would be a shame to lose the natural engineering benefits that these beavers can provide. So, Denver’s Department of Parks and Recreation contacted Wildlife2000, a local non-profit organization focused exclusively on beaver relocation, and Defenders to live-trap and relocate the beavers to a place where they would be safe and could help create important habitat for other species.

The family will probably move a little bit upstream or down, but eventually they will find the ideal spot. They will start to build a dam, creating a deeper pool for themselves where they can build a lodge, and creating habitat for other plants and animals as well. Within a year, the area around their home will be quite different; within five years, even more changed. New plants and animals will move in and take advantage of the beavers and all their hard work. Defenders will return regularly to monitor the results and learn lessons for future beaver restoration efforts. Relocating this family was a definitive win-win, for them and for all wildlife where they are making their new home.

I love this discussion of the valuable role beavers play in creeks and streams. But, as you know, I’m never entirely comfortable with the “yeah let’s move beavers and solve all our problems” article as a solution. I remarked accordingly in a comment that they decided not to print, but you know by now what it said anyway. Solve problems with flow devices and wrap trees and let the beavers stay were they are. Because the beaver population is going to keep rebounding and we’re going to run out of remote places to move them to eventually. Better to let them reintroduce themselves and use their own naturally territorial behaviors to keep others away.

Now that’s the beaver news and I am outta here!



Otterly Inspirational

Posted by heidi08 On September - 28 - 20161 COMMENT

So here’s the scoop on Ranger Rick. I heard yesterday from Brock Dolman of the OAEC and he said that they were contacted for a short piece about beavers and drought in California. I also heard from Suzi Eszterhas that our beaver article won’t be until next summer. So yes, beavers will be in RR next month, but only a little story and not our big 8-page story, which will still come next June or July.

Yesterday Rickipedia included me in an email discussion he is having with the authors of this book who are consulting him about how to research the historic prevalence of beaver in the Santa Cruz River.

Seems there aren’t many remains there either. And we’re surprised that beaver bones didn’t survive in waterways 170 years after being burned and discarded? How many fish bones did the archeologists find? Or otter bones?

Speaking of otters, there’s a really wonderful piece in the October issue of Bay Nature that features our friends at the River Otter Ecology Project and their work to document population dynamics.

After Decades Away, River Otters Make a Triumphant Return to the Bay Area

We’re peering down into a ravine carved out by Lagunitas Creek, looking for North American river otters. According to official California Department of Fish and Wildlife records, last updated in 1995, we are officially fools; there are no otters anywhere near here. They are “non-occurring,” wiped out from most of the Bay Area long ago by trapping, pollution, lack of prey, loss of habitat—any and all of the difficulties that wild animals contend with in urban areas.

But according to the data collected in the last four years by Megan Isadore and her corps of citizen otter spotters, these little fish-eating predators are all over the place, particularly here in Marin County. On the website of her small nonprofit River Otter Ecology Project, the reports of sightings pour in, from anglers and dog-walkers and nature lovers and amazed suburbanites: Hey, I just saw an otter! As of 2016, ROEP has catalogued more than 1,730 sightings and added to that tally close to 5,000 camera-trap videos and photos and roughly 1,300 samples of otter scat.

The fact that otters are back in the Bay Area of their own accord without any reintroduction program to help them looks like a reason to declare victory. It seems to be proof that cleaning up watersheds makes a difference, that restoration works, that species will bounce back if we only push hard enough. “Their recovery in the Bay Area is, I believe, the result of conservation and restoration activities: the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, all these things we

ROEP now counts otters in two ways. Anyone can report an otter sighting online by providing enough details to rule out mistakes. But that only tells you where otters are. In order to get other dimensions of information—what they’re doing, what their niche might be—the group also trains and sends out volunteers who visit specific field sites weekly throughout the summer and early fall, when mothers have brought their new pups out from their dens and most other otters tend to stay put in their territories. Using an app designed to capture otter data, volunteers record the locations of signs (latrines, paw prints, tail drag marks, slides, dens), maintain motion-activated camera traps, and review the footage to document family life and behavior. (The cameras have caught other creatures too: bobcats, a badger, a merlin, baby foxes, and once a woman skinny-dipping.)

Isadore sees otters as a way in to understanding relationships between other things—how otter prey like the endangered coho rise and fall, whether local improvements in water quality outweigh the new pressures of climate change for otters. meganAs an animal that relies on land and water, fish and fowl, it’s a species that can tie a lot together.

That’s how it works, Isadore says later: Efforts have ripples and consequences that you never anticipate. By showing a high-school student a video, you might awaken an interest in art and environment. By cleaning up a watershed, you just might find yourself surrounded by otters. “I want people to understand we have the ability to work for positive effects, as well as [have] the negative effects,” she says. “I want people to believe we have the ability to change things. That’s what I’m constantly trying to get across.”

Great work team Megan! We really didn’t realize otters were missing because we always saw them on our canoe trips (in Mendocino county) or at Jon’s work (On the Delta). This is really an outstanding and well-written article to promote your remarkable work and be inspirational to others who want to start citizen science of their own. We’re proud to say we knew you when. This is great promotion for ROEP and otters, and should help drive attention (and funding) your way. I personally am thrilled that otters can serve as the ambassadors to our creeks systems and get folks thinking of water health.

I may have ulterior motives.

(Mind you…the Martinez Beavers only merited a single page BN article after being missing from the entire bay area for 150 years and never got mentioned again even though we  did publish ground-breaking research on historic prevalence and start a festival that has 2000 attendees, and win the John Muir Conservation education award (a year after you), complete a mural and get added to the congressional record, but never mind.)

I’m not jealous.  Why do you ask?

Avoiding a beaverless state

Posted by heidi08 On September - 27 - 2016Comments Off on Avoiding a beaverless state

There are a few things to catch up on before they get away from me. First is that I was contacted by Enviormental writer Ben Goldfarb a few weeks ago who said he was writing a book about beavers for Chelsea Green Publishing and wanted to talk about the Martinez beaver story. If his name seems vaguely familiar it’s because he was the author of several important beaver articles in High Country News recently – the major one being “The Beaver Whisperer” about Kent Woodruff and the Methow project. Kent told him he should talk to me next, and we had a great chat about our story and the response we saw in the creek when the beavers moved in. He’s in the early stages of the book so we won’t get to enjoy it for ages, but I left him with a long list of people to talk to next and he was happy.

Meanwhile our eager Ranger Rick readers, waiting for their beaver story, saw an interesting clue at the end of their September issue. It started with a riddle about a beaver dam that they said would be answered next month and ended with this:captureoct-2016-adv-194x149


So does that mean we’ll see our beavers in the next issue? I don’t know. The last thing I heard from Suzi is that the issue would come next summer. But who knows? Maybe we’ll get a surprise or maybe we’ll get beavers TWICE in Ranger Rick!

And speaking of beavers fixing drought in California, here’s a result of not letting them that’s been on my mind lately. My parents lost 18 trees to the bark beetle but looking at this film I realize they are getting off lucky so far. The words Forest Succession echoing. I knew it was bad but I didn’t know it was this bad.

Here’s some of our damage:

Animal Attraction

Posted by heidi08 On September - 26 - 2016Comments Off on Animal Attraction

Another Monday has come with no kits yet to celebrate. I thought I’d share the video that raised my hopes. This was shot by Moses Silva the night of June 11 this year. The female emerges from a bank hole, is followed by the male and then they mate. I just noticed the vocalizations in this so turn your sound WAY UP if you want to be amazed with me. I think the female calls to him first, sounding almost like a whale, and when he follows you hear another grunting  (I think) male voice while they mate. It’s interesting to me because of that female invitation, which I don’t think has ever been written about. The sound occurs about 2 seconds in. I showed it to Bernie Krause when I heard it and he was interested, but said there was too much ‘ambient noise’ to really focus on.

Sheesh! It’s Martinez!

Well, what do you think? Is that a noise mom’s making at the beginning or not? And did that mating do its job or not? In all my years of filming and watching beavers I’ve never heard them blow bubbles until this film, and it seems like they both do. Maybe its a mating thing?

Beaver gestation is supposed to be around 107 days. So counting from the 12th of June her due date would be tonight, September 26. And here’s how weirdly synced am I, I didn’t know for sure her date until I just counted out the days with a calendar. That sure explains why she still looked huge in that last video. We don’t usually see the kits for the first three or four weeks, so when I get back from vacation they should be visible! Keep an eye out for me will you?

Assuming they exist.

Now, here’s something special just in case that sexy beaver footage got you in the mood.

D. S. & Durga HYLNDS Free Trapper (2016)

Brooklyn-based artisan perfumers D.S. & Durga released a new fragrance composition under their newer sub-label HYLNDS (pronounced « Highlands »). It is called Free Trapper, a throwback scent to the era of frontier people and the fur trade that was a magnet for adventurers in search of riches in the wilds…

« Beaver trappers were the cowboys of early America. Renegade mountaineers of the Jacksonian era who cut trails through the wild in search of beaver pelts – prized by hatters, doctors, & perfumers. »

The result is what looks on paper to be a dark, aromatic and animalic scent featuring notes of dark cedar, snake root, synthetic beaver castor, and wild bergamot.

That’s right. Now YOU TOO can smell like a beaver. Or a trapper. Take your pick. (I guess it depends on if you’re a top or a bottom.) All those years when I wrote about the barely-latent sexual admiration modern society has for trappers, you thought I was exaggerating. HA! Here’s the proof. A fairly expensive perfume that reminds the nose of the fur trade. Knowing how important the smell of castoreum was to the success of beaver trapping, makes this particularly horrible. I’m thinking this would be my reaction to the perfume:


Another work of Art

Posted by heidi08 On September - 21 - 2016Comments Off on Another work of Art

A while ago I was contacted by ‘Voices of Wildlife’ in New Hampshire. They were having some beaver issues and wanted help educating the public. I told them that a fantastic supporter lived right near by and introduced them to Art Wolinsky. They arranged an education event at the public library last night. And Art stepped up to the job boldly. Not only did the retired engineer prepare a wonderful multimedia presentation at a moments notice, he also arranged to film it so it could be shown in other venues around the state.  Oh, and my FB friend who was there tells me his last line was ‘Happy Birthday, Heidi”. Which is honestly beyond touching.



A multimedia presentation, by Art Wolinsky and Voices of Wildlife in NH, about how to derive the benefits of beaver created habitat while eliminating conflict and negative impact.

When beavers began threatening the culverts at Art’s condo in 2009 he reached out to the experts who helped him and the other residents create solutions to live peacefully with the beavers. They ended up with a win-win for all involved.

Learn how this was achieved by attending this free and open to the public event. Contact with any questions.

Art is also putting his film on youtube and I can’t wait for the chance to share it with you! Just another example of beautiful Art work!

Now as it was my birthday yesterday I tried to only do the things I wanted and allowed myself to play with a very silly tool on my iPad that I had never really used  before. How fun is this?

Planting for tomorrow

Posted by heidi08 On September - 18 - 2016Comments Off on Planting for tomorrow

Last Saturday was an awesome day to plant trees for beavers. Don’t believe me? Just check out the exccellent photos wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas sent me yesterday.


Isn’t that gorgeous? Apparently her editor at Ranger Rick loved them. And theoretically the beaver article will run either June or July of 2017. Obviously Martinez children don’t just know how to plant trees. They know how to tend them too.


ethanOur heroes were Ethan, Brittney, Alana and April. Didn’t they do a fantastic job? Etbrithan’s dad is a biologist and was very excited about how comfortable he looked with a shovel. Brittney’s mom said she had just helped all day in the garden so she was not afraid to get dirty. And Alanaalana just sent her application to be a junior docent at Lindsey Wildlife which I was honorapriled to write a recommendation for.  And you probably recognize April from her spirited career as a documentary critic.

They are truly the face of tomorrow’s watersheds.

Calling all Girls

Posted by heidi08 On September - 12 - 2016Comments Off on Calling all Girls

Granddaughters? Nieces? Cousins who love wildlife? Read this and get really excited.


I wanted to let all of you conservation superstars know about a FREE wildlife photography workshop I am offering for teen girls. If you know of any girls, age 13-18, in Northern/Central California (or farther, if their parents can get them here), that are interested in wildlife photography, please share the attached flyer with them. Of course, the girls don’t have to be local to attend. I already have a couple girls signed up that are lucky enough to have parents willing to fly them out for the weekend. 

It is my hope that this free workshop might spark a few young girls to make the dream of being a wildlife photographer into a reality. Making it in this field takes confidence and persistence, which teenage girls don’t always have. When I was a teen, my life took many crazy turns – boys, family instability, etc – and there were a few landmark moments with professional women in various fields that helped to keep me from becoming totally lost and stay the course. Plus, we need more female wildlife photographers out there!

A few details: The free workshop is on November 6th, 2016 in Moss Landing, CA. There are 15 spaces available. All girls must have their own transportation to Moss Landing, CA, and must bring their own camera (this can be an SLR, point and shoot, or even a tablet or phone), EXCEPT for 2 low income spaces (in which we have camera gear and transportation provided). Applications are due by Oct 15th. 

Suzi at work