The Beaver State Beckons

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 14 - 2014Comments Off

conference 2014The agenda is out for the State of the Beaver Conference 2015 and it looks amazing. Starting with the Keynote speaker Lixing Sun, the co-author of the most famous beaver book yet written. (Books really, because it’s so popular there’s a second edition.)

 Now maybe you’re thinking”why should I care” or “I hate Oregon in February” and “I don’t need to hear the latest beaver research”. But if you were thinking that you’d be thinking wrong. I’m going to assume that whoever you are you drink water, live on a rapidly heating planet, and are a citizen of a government with limited resources for fixing those things. The world needs beavers, and the only way it’s going to get them is if people like you stand up and teach people why they matter and how to live with them. This conference will make you better at that and you’ll hear from great minds like,

Instream Salmon habitat restoration and unintended benefits for west side beavers Robert Nichols, USDA Forest Service Fish Biologist

NWRC Beaver Research Update: From the Beaver State to the Heart of Dixie Ph.D. Jimmy Taylor,National Wildlife Research Center

Mathematical Ecologist, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center Ph.D. Chris Jordan

Flow Devices – Controlling Beaver Dam Flooding, and Facilitating Salmon Passage Michael Callahan, Beaver Solutions Inc

Beaver Restoration in Urban Creeks Ph.D. Heidi Perryman, Worth a Dam, Martinez Beavers

 Not to mention that it looks like this morning I just managed to get Derek Gow from Cornwall on the schedule. So you’ll be personally updated on the most famous beavers in the world. As well as a watershed-beaver introduction by this persuasive gentleman:


The conference is truly one-of-a-kind, inexpensive, and ecologically  invaluable. The hotel is nice and beaver friendly, the casino thinks beavers are good luck, and you will meet amazing people that will become amazing friends. Register here and I’ll see you in Canyonville!

2015 SponsorsNow there is lots more to say, including beavers being threatened in BWW’s home town, (if you can believe it) and moderately good news from DEFRA about the Devon beavers. but I wrote this post this morning at 7am, worked on the graphics for leonard and promptly  lost it the entire column in the ether so had to do EVERYTHING again.

This beaver reporter needs a break.

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Beaver, Nutria, Otter, what’s the big diff?

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 13 - 2014Comments Off

Our retired librarian from the University of Georgia beaver friend tracked down the entire video from that beaver clip yesterday. And the mistake wasn’t a bug, it was a feature. Apparently no distinction is made between beaver and nutria at all. Well, they’re both rodents I guess.


No wonder people can tell them apart. And when you realize the the word “Nutria” in Spanish actually means “Otter” it gets even more exciting. In fact, when the Spanish were settling in California they killed lots of what they were calling Nutria, that was probably beaver. The confusion just spreads in every direction.

IDTurtle Bay’s new beaver gets acquainted with aquarium

So the orphan of Torture Bay has now been stuffed into a tank for children to peer at through the glass. Apparently he’s so lonely he’s chasing fish. I particularly love her response when the children express concern that he has hit his head on the glass. She explains that beavers have very hard heads because trees fall on them all the time. Obviously, the whole thing is very educational.

And just in case you wondered, I hate this with the white-hot heat of a thousand suns.

How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.
I hate thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I hate thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I hate thee freely, as men strive for right.
I hate thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I hate thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I hate thee with a hate I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I hate thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but hate thee better after death.
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Mistaken for 75 years

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 12 - 2014Comments Off

This is a nice video about the value of beaver wetlands from England.  One of the best parts of the beaver dramas in Scotland, and now Devon, is that it allows really smart people to get time on the news explaining why beavers help us. This shows not only great habitat but a great explanation of ‘peaty soil’ soaking up the water. To make its case it inserts a news reel from 1939 about using beavers to build creeks in America. It shows beavers vigorously building dams, and then gives a closeup of one munching away. Guess what the closeup is of? Go ahead, guess.

CaptureThe stunning part is you can even see the TAIL of the second nutria. Obviously the filmmaker was on his way to lunch and the producer didn’t care.  It’s just a film reel.  Who would notice?

Just us.

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   Posted by heidi08 On November - 11 - 20142 COMMENTS

Beavers are busy preparing for winter

With the arrival of killing frosts, animals have gone into high gear preparing for the tough conditions soon to follow.

 Those who are feeding birds have observed their sunflower seed supply rapidly dwindle as Blue Jays repeatedly fill their crops only to fly off and cache their loads. Gray Squirrels are also busy, frantically seeking the last of the acorns to stash in the ground.

 And Beavers are busily harvesting trees as they build their winter stores.

The author of this article, Michael Runtz, is a friend to wildlife and to beavers in particular. We’ve connected in the past and corresponded about his work. He’s been photographing and watching beavers for 20 years, and his lovely photos were featured in the recent beaver documentary on PBS. The last I heard from him his book on beavers was due out any minute. But I guess while we wait for that we should savor this interesting fact.

Surely the presence of alders in food piles is sufficient evidence that Beaver’s prefer them in their diet?

 Actually, it is not. When food piles are examined, the surface portion often contains inedible items such as cedar and fir branches. And previously enjoyed (barkless) branches also adorn them.

 The most edible items are actually hidden deeper under the surface of the pile where they will not become locked in ice. That is where poplar and willow branches reside; these will be extracted from the pile all through the winter.

This is worth remembering. The good beer is always hidden in the back of the refrigerator.

waterboardsThis is the Elihu Harris building in downtown Oakland. It houses some of the most essential state government offices, like the Equalization board, the Alcohol and Tobacco board, The Unemployment board, and the Water Quality control board. That’s where Ann Riley works as a Watershed Stream Protection Advisor.

One portion of the Water Quality board is dedicated to what’s called the “Beneficial Use of the state’s waters”. Which covers areas like fish and water-dependent wildlife. Riley is a huge beaver supporter and invited me to be part of her panel at the Salmonid Federation last March. Now come December guess who just got invited to talk to them about a new potential partnership with beavers?

I can’t tell you what a big deal this sounds like in my head. I immediately thought of all the things that could go wrong: I could mess up, lose my voice, my computer could break, it could be cancelled, there will be no one there because it’s the holidays, I got invited because something bad is going to happen, etc. But it doesn’t matter. Beavers are coming to the water boards.

And it’s a big deal.

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No Beavers in Mars

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 10 - 2014Comments Off

I was very worried by this opening paragraph.

There can be fewer more-Canadian endeavours than sending a beaver to Mars, but a Canadian technology company with a Newfoundland connection plans to do just that.

I thought immediately of Laika, the stray dog captured by the Russian to stuff into Sputnik in 1957. They  said she died painlessly in orbit, but it was recently reported in the BBC that she died just a few hours after blast off of panic and overheating.

There was NO WAY I was going to let this be repeated with a beaver. Before I chained myself to a missile, I decided to read the next paragraph.

“Beaver” is actually the name of a micro-rover that Thoth Technologies Inc. wants to send to Mars in 2018. The company and Northern Light Canadian Mission to Mars, as it is called, is being led by St. John’s native Caroline Roberts and her husband, Ben Quine. Roberts is the daughter of former lieutenant governor Ed Roberts, whom she says named the rover.

Well, okay then.

Actually it makes perfect sense, since Popular Science already reported in 1930 that beavers had dug the canals on the surface of Mars. I know because Michael Pollock gave me the article framed at our first working beaver meeting in 2011 and it proudly  hangs in my dining room.

Now don’t you feel better?

Yesterday, I got an email out of the blue from Beaver friend and supporter Robert Rust. He said he had a bunch of old beaver books he’d like to give me and asked if he could drop them off. Just so you know who we’re talking about, Bob is the creative genius behind the mechanical tail-slapping beaver this year, AND the giant inflatable beaver a few years before that.

giant beaverBob taught science to lots of kids in Martinez, and kayaked the creeks for years cleaning out trash and tires. He is a complete indirecatable genius, smart enough to invent anything, connected to everything, but living entirely by his own rules. I expected him to drop off dog-eared copies from his youth or college days. Instead he bicycled up to my porch with three perfect first edition copies of beaver giants that left me speechless.

One was a copy of the 1937 Beaver Pioneers signed by both authors. One was the 1947 first edition of the several times reprinted “One Day at Teton Marsh” by Sally Carrighar (complete with gorgous woodcuts in every chapter) And the third was an original Grinnell’s fur-bearing  mammals of CA. No I’m not kidding. There was also a fun copy of “the Beaver is eating my Canoe” just to round out the day.


How excited am I? Back when this all started someone bought me a signed first edition by Grey Owl and I thought I was in heaven. Now I’m sure of it.

I’m a sucker for old books. One time when Jon and I were in Norwich, England we visited an used book store and asked about older books. The grey-haired owner smiled and took us across the street down these stone stairs into a trove of 15th century manuscripts and said we could explore at our leisure, locking the door behind him on his way back to the shop. I swear there was a hand copied Iliad. Now thank goodness we were so poor that we could only afford three slim volumes or I would now be the proud owner of an entire book store. One of the books we bought was a personal almanac from the 1600′s that told you when to plant crops and had personal pages for notes that some grandson had scribbled on in the 1800′s. One of the books was a volume on how to raise a good wife from the 1700′s. I could not resist when I read how girl children should be praised for being compliant and dull. And frowned upon for any signs of creativity. Ahhh.

But these treasures PALE in comparison to original works about beavers! Thank you SO MUCH BOB for your generous contribution to Worth A Dam and beavers over the years. Everything you’ve done for us has been surprising, and this is no exception. You can bet I’ll be sending over a care package this afternoon. Right after I’m done re-reading.

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Give me the Bad News First

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 9 - 20142 COMMENTS
Alpine County 4
Amador County 1
Butte County 7
Calaveras County 1
Colusa County 5
Contra Costa County 20
El Dorado County 9
Fresno County 3
Glenn County 3
Kings County 7
Lake County 2
Lassen County 5
Madera County 10
Merced County 24
Modoc County 6
Mono County 2
Napa County 2
Nevada County 7
Placer County 51
Plumas County 9
Sacramento County 32
San Joaquin County 8
San Luis Obispo County 2
Shasta County 20
Sierra County 3
Siskiyou County 3
Solano County 8
Sonoma County 3
Stanislaus County 9
Sutter County 16
Tehama County 5
Yolo County 18
Yuba County 6

Need I say more? A special thank you to Robin Ellison from Napa who  pursued the PRA request and processed the last 50 handwritten permits herself yesterday. Just, (as she said), when she was starting to get over her PTSD from last time. Thanks also to NCHEMS which allowed me to turn these stats into a handy map for free. The total number of beavers permitted for killing from 2013 to July 2014 was 1028 + 132x  (unlimited wildcards issued where any amount could be killed). That’s a lot of beavers. And a lot of water storage that drought-ridden California threw away,

straight flush


On an entirely different note, I need to take a moment to say that 29 years ago today I had no degree and Jon was without a country or a job. Who ever knew those crazy kids would make it work?


Jon & Heidi over the Aegean

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Visitors & Casualties

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 8 - 2014Comments Off

setupLast night’s visitors from San Francisco were 30 high school students with backpacks and notebooks who came to see the beavers.They were accompanied by their energetic and fearless teacher/handler Catherine Salvin. I gave a little talk on the footbridge about beavers as ecosystem engineers and described their physical adaptions to walclife in the water. Then Jon took them on a tour of the dam and up to ward street to look for the kit. On the way she made sure they sketched the dam, the flow device, and the chewed trees.

There were some great questions, some  appreciative listeners and a few who  predictably couldn’t have been more bored. They had read the New York Times article beforehand, and were fairly schooled in the basic story. (Someone couldn’t exactly remember the word and said they were ecosystem technicians, which I loved.) I’m happy to say that not one student thought beavers eat fish or live in the dam. That’s Catherine right front below.

Heidi WALCAfter their tour our smaller yearling made several appearances, swimming obligingly and foraging for them to watch. When it first emerged  30 noisy bodies trampled for a closer look and it dove immediately. I was surprised how quickly they learned to watch silently so they could see and sketch the beaver at leisure. A second beaver appeared later on and a great egret fished ostentatiously at the bridge during the quiet moments. everyone watching

All in all it was a good night, for beavers, for ecological education and for Martinez. Thanks WALC!

This morning I heard from Robin that the second wave of depredation permits for beavers (the not-computerized ones that had to be scanned by hand) had arrived. She wrote,

“Yes, we have Region 4 well represented with counties Kern, Fresno, San Luis Obispo, Madera. Also Region 6 with Mono county. Nothing in the Southern coastal region- Los Angeles to San Diego.”

What does this mean? 4 – Central Region  Serving Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne counties. Region 6 Serving Imperial, Inyo, Mono, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. That means permission to kill the water-savers in the driest regions of the state. Robin will generously donate her weekend to get the stats together. But she can’t possibly go fast enough for me.

I recently was talking to a reporter from the guardian about depredation in California, and she wanted to know if the numbers were going up or down. I realized we couldn’t know for sure, but might glean something from earlier records. I don’t have access to earlier depredation permits, but I do have the stats from a FOIA request by reporter Thomas Knudson on beavers killed by the USDA in 2010. Comparing the two is kind of like apples and oranges, because one is ‘permission given’  and the other is actual beavers killed, and just because a permit is issued the beavers could be killed by someone else and never wind up in the USDA stats. Think of it like “All mothers are women” but “not all women are mothers” grouping problem. Remember the column on the left is the actual number of beavers killed by USDA. And the column on the right is the number of depredation permits issued (which might valid for an unlimited number of beavers).

However you slice it, we still have our grim winner:

what a differenceSo Placer county is still the leading beaver killer in the entire state.  No surprise there. Even more interesting to me is second place. USDA killed 108 beavers in Colusa County in 2010. But in 2013 the entire county got only got 4 permits. What gives? Did they suddenly have a change of heart and think that killing beavers was wrong? No indeed. Those 4 permits were issued for the incredible number of 94 beavers PLUS one unlimited wildcard of dead beavers. And they were all awarded to USDA. Let’s assume that those US killers are good at their job and always get their beaver. 94 + X (make that at least least 10 probably a lot more) and that puts them right back in their number 2 spot.

Some things never change.

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