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

The Martinez Beavers

Category: Urban beavers

Sometimes in life, you find friends where you’d never expect it. Like when the designer that was helping us replace our couch found out we save beavers and donated a huge bag of leather upholstery scraps for our tail projects. Or when I was in the hospital and the night nurse recognized me from the news and said she was so happy we had saved the beavers in Martinez.

You learn that friends come in all kind of packages and you appreciate them however they’re wrapped. Which brings us to South Carolina.

Hungry beavers in Charleston suburb chow down where they shouldn’t be

Tricia Crumbley couldn’t believe it — the limbs of all four of her prized Japanese maples that canopied her ornamental waterfall pond lay on the ground around the gnawed stumps.

Chewed maple sticks were left underwater at the foot of the falls. The culprit couldn’t be more clear: beavers.

Except she lives in West Ashley’s Crescent subdivision, just off the saltwater Wappoo Cut, near brackish retention ponds fed by tides. In her 10 years there, she’s seen squirrels, opossum, raccoons and a fox. But the freshwater-loving beaver shouldn’t have been anywhere nearby.

“I just stood there with my mouth open,” she said. “I have no idea where they came from.”


So here’s a well-off looking woman in South Carolina with an ornamental fountain on a garden so large she needed to be told by the groundskeeper that something was eating her trees. I admit. I assumed the worst those for beavers and thought they’d not be long for this world.

“It is possible the sound of the running water (in the Crumbley’s waterfall) kicked-in a desire to dam up whatever was flowing and then once they discovered it was an ornamental pond, they turned their attention to the maples,” Butfiloski said.

Tricia Crumbley knows the beavers were doing what they are supposed to do.

“Just not here,” she preferred.

The couple didn’t try to trap their invaders. Instead, they put wire fencing around what’s left of their maples, turned off the waterfall and haven’t seen any more gnawing.

My goodness! I didn’t see that coming. To be honest, I never expected anyone in South Carolina to wrap trees, certainly not a wealthy home owner. I am so sorry misjudged you, Tricia. You are a thoughtful woman who solves problems thoughtfully.

Just in case you don’t want to see all that wire near your pond, you can also paint the threatened trees with sand paint which is less visually disruptive. I will see if I can let her know,

But as for the rumor that beavers were driven to chop down your trees because of the sound of running water- No.

Beavers were driven to chop down your trees because they were hungry.


I’m suddenly feeling like an old retired ballerina watching my protege take the stage. I have to be honest, it does feel a little wistful – that used to be my life kinda thing – but man-o-man it mostly feels WONDERFUL!

Beavers an education for residents, city

A new beaver management plan could yet turn Port Moody into a paradise for the resourceful rodents.

But it will have to respect the science about the animals’ habits and lifestyle while finding a balance within urban environments where they’re settling.

Judy Taylor-Atkinson and Jim Atkinson look out over the beaver pond on Pigeon Creek that was created by a family of industrious beavers that moved into the area in 2016.

That’s the best-case scenario, according to a pair of local advocates for fur-bearing animals, Judy Taylor-Atkinson and husband Jim Atkinson.

They were observers when a beaver pair made Pigeon Creek, in their Klahanie neighbourhood, home in 2016 and then became a family of four last summer. And they shared the community’s anguish when one of the young kits drowned in December as city crews attempted to trap and evict it from a den the beavers had constructed in a storm pipe that drains rainwater and prevents flooding.

Ahh how glorious! I’m beside myself with glee. And should our mayor be too to think that Judy and Jim are driving from B.C. to Martinez to attend our beaver festival! I’m told they already made their reservations;

Taylor-Atkinson has been studying the science of beavers and their management for years while her husband helps install flow regulators into dams to diminish the chances of damaging floods. Both are on the board of the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals (The Fur-Bearers).

Beavers are notoriously nocturnal, Taylor-Atkinson said, but once they settled into their new home in the stream that runs amidst low-rise condo buildings, they grew accustomed to the human hustle and bustle around them. A curiosity quickly became a real life neighbourhood nature show.

While nearby trees that had been planted by the developer were wrapped to protect them from the beavers’ toothy toil, the natural habitat along the creek’s banks was left alone and the beavers’ activities respected. One neighbour even attached a log book in a plastic sleeve on the bridge railing so visitors could note their observations.

Taylor-Atkinson said the transformation of the creek to a beaver ecosystem was remarkable. The still water attracted bugs like dragonflies to alight, which attracted birds and bats and salamanders to eat them. The cool, sheltered eddies created by fallen limbs and branches in the water were perfect resting places for salmon fingerlings, which attracted ducks and even a juvenile heron to make the occasional visit for a snack. The dam filtered sediment, clearing the water and pushing it into the creek’s banks, encouraging new growth like bullrushes to take root.

“They were repairing the habitat,” Taylor-Atkinson said, adding beavers are considered a “keystone species” around which an entire ecosystem revolves — a marked contrast to old-school thinking that beavers and their industrious ways are a nuisance, especially in urban environments.

Those two paragraphs! SNIFF! I’m sooooooo proud. To think of how many people will be inspired by this story and think maybe they can maybe do something just a little bit different in their own city when the time comes! Ahhhh, Go read the whole thing and send it to your cousins. I’m going to bask in the thought that Martinez own hard fought story made this just a little easier to happen. And their story will make it that much easier for the next one.

“When this creek was built, nobody knew they were creating an ideal beaver habitat.”

Keeping it that way will be a matter of education and good science, she said — and a legacy for the young beaver that perished.

“We didn’t lose that kit for nothing.”

No you did not. That unfortunate kit played a crucial role in his entire families story. And his cousins. And extended family. And in ours. Thank you so much, Judy and Jim.

Just one question. Do you think they make everyone wear jackets that match the sign all the time? Or just for photo shoots?

There are plenty of folks whounderstand the importance of beavers at both ends of the United States. And not nearly enough in the middle.  Flyover country, as its called, doesn’t take kindly to beavers. So you can imagine how pleased I am about these two entries. The first is from Ohio and the second from just across the great lakes in Milwakee.

Ohio beavers

When I was a young fella and still living in Maine, one of the greatest things you could run across in the wild was a beaver dam. Most of the streams and brooks in my area held populations of wild brook trout. A beaver dam on a trout brook meant one thing to me. Bigger trout!

The dam usually backed up enough water to form at least a small pond, or in some cases, a very large pond or backwater. After a couple of years, these ponds let the brook trout population grow to larger sizes than in the shallow, narrower brooks. Their still waters let large populations of insects flourish and provide the trout with more than an adequate diet.

I have seen ancient beaver dams that were over a quarter of a mile in length and higher than 10 feet in places. However, a beaver dam of any size on a trout brook was a welcome sight. Normally, in most Maine trout brooks, the trout average about seven or eight inches in length with occasional ones over 10 inches.

Brook trout have to be one of the tastiest fish ever to have swum in an icy cold brook regardless of its size. In fact, after attaining a length of a foot or more, they don’t seem to taste as good. Don’t get me wrong — they are still at the top of my list of food fish no matter their length. There are no wild brook trout out here in Ohio, at least, not to my knowledge. If there were, I guarantee that Ohio’s attitude toward the beaver and its dams would change in a hurry!

My experience out here with beavers is limited. All I know is that there is a population of them at Lake Logan. However, from what I have been able to ascertain with my own eyes, any laws and regulations pertaining to beaver here in the hills are totally ignored and/or not enforced. Every time I have seen a beaver dam in this area, in very short order, it disappears. I have seen, and photographed, several beavers that had been shot and killed at the lake.

Foxholes make strange bedfellows. There are precious few folks in Ohio that care about beavers. So I’m going to be happy about this columnist who appreciates them because the trout get bigger in their ponds. (And everything else, too, by the way). Of course he doesn’t realize that beavers don’t dam large rivers because they don’t need to. And since there’s no dam there’s nothing to draw attention to their presence and get them killed.

They aren’t different beavers. They are the beavers that happen to survive.

Obviously the distinction between beavers that build dams and beavers that don’t build dams is a mysterious one for lots of people. The truth is there isn’t much mystery at all. Beavers build dams when they need to create deep water to protect their offspring. If there is ALREADY deep water there is no need to  do it.  That is all. Researchers have plucked beavers from deep streams (where they maintained zero dams) and swooped them upstream to little streams where dams were necessary. Then sat back to observe them BUILDING DAMS 0stemsibly for the first time.

It’s instinct, baby.

(Although instinct that is honed with practice I’ll say. Because we saw our beavers get better at building over time, and we saw that there were skilled beavers and stupid beavers in our 10 years of field research here in Martinez. Dad and Reed were the best dam builders of all 30 beavers. But everyone tried.) Even beavers in rehab ‘try’, With newspapers or towels or whatever they have on hand – er tooth;<You will see this confusion pops up in this nice film from Milwakee as well, when the woman from the urban ecology center remarks that ‘they don’t have the dam-building beavers’ there. They’re the same dam beavers!  We will cut her slack. It’s a nice film and an easy mistake when you’ve haven’t had local beavers in 120 years.

I’m also very fond of the landowner whose so happy to have them back on his property.

This nice image comes from the Getty museum. I love everything about it but I can’t figure out why it’s shown cut in cubes. Can you?

I feel it’s time to read another article that’s really about our beavers without realizing it. Maybe this time from Yale. Are you ready?

Habitat on the Edges: Making Room for Wildlife in an Urbanized World

Efforts to protect biodiversity are now focusing less on preserving pristine areas and more on finding room for wildlife on the margins of human development. As urban areas keep expanding, it is increasingly the only way to allow species to survive.

For conservationists, protecting biodiversity has in recent years become much less about securing new protected areas in pristine habitat and more about making room for wildlife on the margins of our own urbanized existence. Conservation now often means modifying human landscapes to do double-duty as wildlife habitat — or, more accurately, to continue functioning for wildlife even as humans colonize them for their homes, highways, and farms. There is simply no place else for animals to live.

Corridor protection on the grand scale has achieved remarkable results, notably with the 2,000-mile long Yellowstone-to-Yukon Conservation Initiative. It aims to connect protected areas and to ensure safe passage for elk, grizzly bears, and other wildlife across 500,000 square miles of largely shared habitat, both public and privately owned. At the same time, research by Nick Haddad, a conservation biologist at the University of Michigan’s W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, has demonstrated substantial improvements in biodiversity from corridors as little as 25 yards in width, well within the range, he says, of “what’s reasonable in urban landscapes.”  Indeed, a new study from northern Botswana has found that elephants traveling from Chobe National Park to the nearby Chobe River will use corridors as small as 10 feet wide to traverse newly urbanized areas.

Even in the absence of new parks and other habitat, city residents have rallied to their wildlife, sometimes in extraordinary fashion. In Mumbai, development-oriented politicians continue to encourage the destruction of natural habitat, particularly in the Aarey Milk Colony neighborhood abutting the city’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park.  But local conservationists, together with the park itself, have launched a pioneering campaign to help densely populated neighborhoods around the park cope with more than 30 free-ranging leopards in their midst. Likewise, Los Angeles has turned its mountain lions into urban folk heroes. (The Facebook bio of the lion known as P22 begins: “Hi! I’m LA’s loneliest bachelor. I like to hang out under the Hollywood sign to try and pick up cougars. Likes: Deer, catnip, Los Feliz weekends. Dislikes: Traffic, coyotes, P-45.”)

But caution about the potential of our cities and suburbs as wildlife habitat is probably still a good idea. One danger is that these landscapes may become “ecological sinks” — that is, places where excess individuals from undisturbed habitat can survive, but not ultimately increase. Having straw-headed bulbuls in central Singapore does not, for instance, ensure survival of the species. Success with some more visible species may also blind us to broader but less obvious declines in other species. European rewilding, for instance, has not been rewilding for its insect population.

Hmm, isn’t that a GREAT article about our beavers that never mentions them once? I told you so. Again, I’m no scientist but if I was looking for one single species to tolerate on the urban landscape that gave the most bang for your buck – you know, biodiversity, focal species, social cohesion – I’d pick beaver. Their little urban dams would   take that urban corridor you call a creek and elevate it to the next level with birds, fish and otters. Doesn’t that seem like a great investment for any city to make?

Oh no! A small Richmond neighborhood in Staten Island New York has just discovered it has those rare re-building beavers! How unfortunate, who knew that aberant strain was so very common?

Oh, dam! Busy beavers close dam overnight in Richmond

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Residents of a low-lying section of Richmond are concerned about their new neighbors — a group of beavers.

The animals, possibly numbering four, have built a lodge near Richmond Creek, and a dam over the water. The blockage has caused flooding to an area that already had drainage problems.

“It was never a lake before,” said resident Joe Palladino, who noted that Oct. 29 was the first time he saw the area “flood out extensively.”He’s counted at least 100 trees that have been felled by the animals as well. “Neighbors and I are all concerned about the number of beavers and the damage they are creating,” Palladino explained. 

Never mind that those little trees could be easily wrapped with wire or painted with sand by a bunch of boyscouts…and never mind that the little dam can easily be managed with a flow device….and never mind that living where you do at the edge of Richmond near the water you’re going to get more beavers for the foreseeable future even if they trap out these ones – Mr Palladno is worried, and he’s talked to his neighbors!

Residents say they’ve reported their concerns to the city Department of Environmental Protection and employees have come to clear the dams. On a recent weekday, the DEP cleared a 2-foot hole. By 6:30 a.m. the next morning, the opening was completely closed with not a trickle of water flowing.

“These beavers are really good architects,” said Dr. Franklin Caldera, who lives on nearby St. Andrews Road and walks the trails in the woods frequently.

You mean to tell me you ripped out a section of the dam and the beavers repaired it that night? That almost never always happens! Whatever can you do?

Thank goodness you have answers at your doorstep. Beavers: Wetlands and Wildlife is about 4 hours upstate from you. Beaver Solutions in Massachusetts is about 3 hours to your east. And the Unexpected Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey is an hour and a half south. All of these folks can tell you exactly how to protect your trees, your streets and your community. And they will also tell you why beavers are the best neighbors you could ever hope to have.

You’re lucky. We had to bring an expert 3000 miles to help us. You just have to go nextdoor.

Plus if you take steps to let the beavers stay, they will use their naturally territorial behaviors to keep others away and turn your little neighborhood wood into a wildlife park, with new species of otter, mink and woodduck.

Count yourself lucky that you already got a great beaver habitat photo shoot from Staten Island Advance photographer Jan Somma-Hammel. I don’t know if she even realizes how lucky she was to capture this:

Rare glimpse of actual top teeth:Jan Somma-Hammel

As you know, we almost never see top teeth in a live beaver. Look close and you will see her displaying his or her pearly whites – er- tangerine oranges doing what they do best.

I will see if I can reach anyone at Richmond beaver central and try get good answers their way. Some of those tree wrapping jobs are ridiculous. Today is a great day for Richmond to learn about beavers.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to end the post with Billie. It’s irresistible.