The importance of counting beavers

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 22 - 2015Comments Off on The importance of counting beavers

KOLO steal

First a sorry follow up to the Sparks NV beaver story, I heard from Sherry of the Sierra Wildlife Coalition that 5 beavers were reportedly trapped over the weekend. And just for added insult the news station chose to STEAL Cheryl’s lovely photo of happy urban beaver to discuss why urban beavers couldn’t possibly be tolerated. Letters were written.

Speaking of the bumpy path of urban beavers, I was realizing that our chapter would have more weight if we could say something about how common this issue is in the country. There isn’t any data base that would possibly tell us that, but one special place that I happen to know of and have access to. I went through and did a spread sheet of all the beaver stories in or near cities I reported this year on the website. Now mind you, I don’t cover EVERY SINGLE story, but consider this a minimum. Cities all across the country, from Bakersfield CA to Ackron OH, San Marcos TX and Cumberland RI. There have been 107 so far in 38 states, with various complaints including flooding and chewing trees. The vast majority end in depredation, but it was heartening to see that a fair number ended this year in mitigation.

2015 map with wordsCalifornia and Massachusetts are apparently numbers 1 & 2 on the list, although assume some observer bias because one is the state I live in and one is the state Beaver solutions lives in. I’d love to have this data for the past 5 years, so we could spot trends and changes, but I don’t think I’m that patient. Even the states missing this year I know I’ve reported on in the past.

Well, except Hawaii.

This was a lot of work, so now a treat from the Cheyenne Zoo via LK. Heartening to see Ginger doing what she can do, regardless of the odds.

Fascine party!

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 21 - 2015Comments Off on Fascine party!

restoring the creekWorth A Dam got a grand lesson on urban creek stewardship yesterday, from the woman who literally wrote the book on the subject (New books coming out in January). Ann Riley of the SF Waterboard came out for a workshop and planting with some interns from the Watershed Steward Program of the California Conservation Core, and many friends who wanted to learn her techniques. Our eager city engineer showed up as well, and Worth A Dam was there with boots (er, sandals in Jon’s case) on the ground to make it all happen. Check out the grand photos by Ron Bruno.making fascines First off they took a field trip of the standing willow by the corp yard, then did many cuttings of the nearly dormant trees, then fastened the bundles into “FASCINES” that they planted into trenches around and above the beaver habitat. Meanwhile Jon got Cottonwood stakes from a friendly stand on pacheco and they pounded them into the moist soil. trenchThere were nearly 20 helpers in all, and the major work was done by midday, when Riley was headed to lunch with local Flood Control . Theoretically the bank should be stabilized and covered with new growth by March, because things will be dormant and rooting undergound as they should be for a while. It was a good feeling day, and everyone was cheerful and excited about the project. Here’s what it should look like when it grows. Wouldn’t that be tempting if you were a beaver?

In lots of places, school groups are used to fashion the fascines. How would this day be if you were a second grader in Quebec? Never mind the French, this is easy to understand.

Seems like old times…

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 20 - 2015Comments Off on Seems like old times…

There’s been a confusing amount of good news lately. A reader of this website could get the mistaken impression that things were all rosy for beavers and beaver understanding everywhere. You might think that everyone wants them in urban and rural settings to take care of amphibians, water storage, and salmonids. You might think that people had stopped blaming them for power blackouts and giardiasis outbreaks.

But you’d be wrong.

Beaver Blamed for Taking Down Utility Pole

A State Trooper spotted the tree down on the wires at Circle Drive in Roaring Brook Township early Tuesday morning. Crews on the scene tell Eyewitness News, a beaver living in a nearby pond gnawed on the tree, toppling it on the lines. It doesn’t appear anyone lost any power, and the tree will be removed.

Now that’s more like it….blaming a fallen pole on a beaver even though the power company is supposed to trim away anything that can fall on lines during a storm. Anything in the standard nuisance line? Maybe with a euphemism about ‘removing’ them instead of admitting the lethal truth?

Plans to Remove Nuisance Beavers in Sparks

SPARKS, Nev. – The City of Sparks has obtained a permit from the Nevada Department of Wildlife to remove nuisance beavers from a drainage ditch along Sparks Boulevard.

beaver4“It’s basically the North Truckee drain and it’s the end of that rather elaborate irrigation system that comes off the Truckee River and heads into Spanish Springs and then the water drains back towards the Truckee River,” said Chris Healy of the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

“When they build the dams they need material to do it and they start in on the trees. Some were wrapped and they still did damage to the point where we lost that tree,” Healy said. “That’s the real tragedy because what about the birds that utilize the area, use the trees to roost in and nest in. It’s a better area when we have trees surrounding waterways.”

“We do not allow beavers to be moved; you could be moving disease to a healthy beaver population,” Healy said. “Also, too many beavers in one place leads to trees being felled by those beavers. Anywhere there is appropriate habitat in the state of Nevada, beavers are there.”

Bonus points for getting NDOW to call it a drainage ditch, I’m sure that’s what you wrote on your permit, and they’re just reading it verbatim. Good work enlisting the services of Chris Healy to turn environmentalists against each other and spread the lie that you need to kill beavers to save birds. Near as I can tell Chris is the public [dis]information officer for NDOW, which has a swanky website promoting what a great place Nevada is for everyone that’s not a beaver.

And they TRIED working with residents to do this humanely, look how hard they tried! 2 and a half feet of chicken wire! If beavers had been chickens this would never have happened.


Sparks is just outside Reno, which puts it firmly in Sierra Wildlife Coalition territory. In fact the article features a slanted interview with a beaver defender who calls them ‘wonderful creatures’ and says that traps are inhumane. If I can get a hold of her I’ll advise her to call them out for calling a living stream a drainage ditch, and show them some data on how beavers help birds. My personal preference is always to try and be ‘less huggy, more sluggy’ – to coin a phrase.

The fact that the beavers will be killed doesn’t sit well with some residents. A small group gathered at the corner of Rock and Victorian Avenue Thursday night with signs they hoped would get their message across.

“Beavers are our friends, they are nature’s engineers,” said Connie DeAngelis. She’s heard that the traps are going to be placed underwater.

“A beaver can stay alive up to 15 minutes underwater so for them to put a beaver through this is tortuous treatment to kill it and eliminate it because it’s eating trees, because it’s doing the things it’s supposed to do, it’s just hideous,” DeAngelis said. “It’s sickening and there are other ways to relocate beavers, there has been a lot of studies done. The fact that they wouldn’t look for a more humane way to do this is very disappointing to me and to a lot of people that don’t know about this yet.”

I just friended Connie on Facebook. Lets see if we can sent a little beaver help her way. The thing I don’t understand is why the news knows about the permit. It’s not like every depredation permit is reported on the 5 oclock rundown. Even though it should be, since you’re taking the beavers away from everyone. The best possible explanation would be that some friend at NDOW let it leak. But I doubt that. I can’t imagine the city has to announce when they are getting a depredation permit. Martinez certainly didn’t.

So how is this public? Hmmm.

Tree planing today. Wish our heroic workers luck!

Beaver, Urban Settings & You (B.U.S.Y.)

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 19 - 2015Comments Off on Beaver, Urban Settings & You (B.U.S.Y.)

BUSYYesterday was the first official conference call for the urban beaver chapter of Pollock’s next restoration guide. While I was eagerly waiting for the call I made this very fun graphic and fielded dates for the followup meeting of the art committee of the PRMCC. Then I met my coauthors, Greg Lewallen and Kaegan Scully Engelmeyer. Greg is a Master’s of Environmental Management student at Portland college one of the four authors of the initial guidebook. Kaegen is the Urban Land steward for The Wetlands Conservation, which is partially funding the paper.

I should have known the conversation was going to be  weirdly ideal when it started out with an alarmed discussion of two beavers that were mysteriously killed on conservancy land, and how upsetting and confusing it was. It would be Kaegen’s job that day to go find out what he could, and we discussed bringing our kits for necropsy at UCDavis and whether there was an equivalent facility in Portland.

As the conversation proceeded, I found out what was expected of our 20 page segment and when the important deadlines were coming. We went over a rough timeline and I mentally marked those places where I would disagree or have something to add. I didn’t say them aloud of course because my coauthors were so new to me I wanted to get a read on them before I leaped into the fray. I always struggle with myself to sound science-y and not too beaver-huggy, even when I’m conferring with people I regard as friends. I needn’t have bothered. Every single contribution I offered was listened to and regarded as important.

I was regarded as important.

The work we had done in Martinez, all nine grueling years of it, was regarded as groundbreaking. All the ways we had focused public support and educated about beavers. I was an expert – THE expert – on urban beavers. If I had been anyone else I’m sure I would have been suffused with satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.

Instead I felt like this:

falling_grand_piano_cd_cover_by_kvirtanen[1] Jon had zero idea how to reassure me afterwards, because he was enormously excited and thought I should be. I tried to explain that I had cultivated my beaver acumen entirely in opposition. Raiding information stores and firing blasts of information at slow-moving establishment tanks like a rebel on the run. It’s a vast, vast understatement to say I’m unused to being a welcomed voice among brilliant beaver colleagues.

By the end of the two hour conversation, I had signed up for the introduction and lit review, the segment on outreach and education, and the segment on beaver challenges, and obviously any beaver photos that might be needed. We are supposed to have a rough version by the first of the year. We set up another call and they wondered what financial arrangement I would need to be willing to come to Portland next year to present our work in person because there would be so much interest in the work we had done.

So I guess it was a good day for urban beavers.


Beaver Mural in Martinez?

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 18 - 2015Comments Off on Beaver Mural in Martinez?

Last nights presentation at PRMCC was very cheerfully received and recommended for committee. The art review will make a recommendation then to City Council, and address any concerns or funding issues. I like all of these most responsible participants, and they were gracious and informed. One member asked if we knew anything more on the fate of the beavers.


Right at the end of the presentation Mario walked in the door complete with a mini mural for display, which he brought up to share with the committee  to oohs and ahhs. I love the brightness, the flow device, the children and the beavers. We’ll do some tweaking with the rest. But imagine how well this was received.

Tbeaver closehe very best part about last nights meeting was the coordinator clarifying the location and saying “oh I thought you meant the Martinez-Benicia bridge”

Hahahaha, I told her I planned to start smaller, but someday, someday.

workNo wait, I lied. The VERY best part of the meeting was when I saw this. I didn’t notice it until we were back at the house. In case you don’t recognize it this is the same kit Mario was forced to paint over originally. When I pointed this out, Mario beamed and said “He’s Back!”

littlemural 002

Beaver drama: highs and lows

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 17 - 20151 COMMENT

movieThis came from Oliver yesterday.
“We are having problems with our filming permits in California, which is the reason for our hold up in Martinez and Napa. Currently budgetary issues are delaying us from paying the short term fix the media board are claiming from us but we will continue on a longer time frame, hopefully making it more feasible in future.

Which is really too bad, but honestly a bit of a relief because things are insanely busy around here at the moment. Tonight I’m presenting to the PRMCC about the proposal for a beaver mural on the concrete bridge between the two dams and lots is happening with the urban beaver paper.Capture

Mario Alfaro, the muralist who did the main street bridges with the ‘unauthorized’ beaver that was forced to be covered up, would be doing the work, and I would like the city to pay for half. I want people to see every day how the beavers  helped the creek and impacted the city. We’ll see how step 1 goes of this process and I’ll keep you posted. I’m calling it ‘The bridge to nature’ and this is the mock up I sent to the city.

Bridge to Nature

I would be delighted if even a symbolic beaver dam was a permanent fixture across this creek, but we’ll see what happens. I want to make it virtually impossible for the city to kill them if they come back. If you want to read the the proposal its here:

Now there are two exciting news stories, one from Oregon where we’ll begin.

Leave it to beavers

Simpson said she and volunteer Jayne Goodwin captured four adults and one kit over a two-month span in August and September. Simpson said she believes the 56-pound male and 61-pound female captured are a mated pair, and that the 45-pound male, 47-pound female and 15-pound female kit are offspring from the pair.

Simpson noted that beavers mate for life, and relocating a family group together significantly increases each beaver’s chance of success.

Beavers are important watershed enhancement species because their dams raise the water table, which then increases streamflow in dry seasons and keeps soil saturated longer, Simpson pointed out.

“When they build a dam, they create this big beautiful pond; they are slowing down the runoff in the system at peak flow periods, allowing more water to saturate into the ground and to raise the water table,” Simpson said.

Much of Jack Creek is dry in late summer and KWP volunteers hope reintroducing beavers will extend the creek’s wet period. “Where there’s more water, there’s better fish habitat, better habitat for waterfowl and for pretty much everything associated with an aquatic system,” Simpson said.

I normally don’t have a huge appetite for charming stories about people who see beavers as a problem to MOVE somewhere else before they then appreciate their good work. But I’m starting to recognize that every single article like this will let folks read about beaver benefits and help saturate the dry places of our castor awareness. I’m especially fond of this article because it demonstrates beaver intelligence just 25 miles over the California border.

Surely some of that’s got to rub off, right? This lovely piece is from Ontario:

What would you put in a beaver management toolkit?

The Central Algoma Freshwater Coalition (CAFC) is seeking public consultation into the development of a Beaver Management Toolkit for the Central Algoma Region.
Phase one of the processes is to establish baseline conditions and determine current issues related to beaver management. Deadline for your input into phase one is December 18, 2015.

Once the local issues and practices have been determined the coalition will research best practices and legislation to create a toolkit that will serve as both a resource and guide into beaver management throughout the region.

Interested parties can learn more about the consultation and complete the online survey by visiting

How cool is THAT? Can you imagine Martinez asking residents to comment about what the beaver management plan should be for the city? No, you can not. In 2007 they tripled their police presence just to KEEP us from commenting! I already filled mine out, but you should too. I wish I got to advise the beaver management plan for every city in the hemisphere. But something tells me that’s grandiose.

Unfortunately, its the Algoma in Ontario, not in Wisconsin who really really needs our advice. But it’s a start, right?mural

Beaver tails in the city!

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 16 - 2015Comments Off on Beaver tails in the city!

I’ve been snooping around a bit on the subject of urban beavers, and came across this fun report from the city of Akron Ohio. True, the emphasis of the article is that you can hire us because beavers move into urban spaces and we’ll remove them – but the pictures are fun. And so familiar to us in Martinez that I thought you’d smile.

Beavers Adapt to Urban and Suburban Environments

Do you think beavers only inhabit pristine wilderness areas? If so, we offer these pictures and blog entry to shine some light on the very adaptable nature of beavers. All it really takes to have beavers move into your neighborhood is a waterway and some trees.

The following series of pictures documents a beaver colony living (and thriving) in an urban area of Akron, Ohio. Industrial sounds and smells…littered plastic bags and styrofoam cups…the rumble of freight trains…all just par for the course for this beaver colony.

Taking a walk toward the beavers’ hut, one of the urban beavers is spotted. With a water intake for a chemical processor on one side and an industrial complex on the other side, an adult beaver swims down the waterway to get a bite to eat.

Closer towards the hut, there happened to be a tree which took root precariously between two railroad trestle foundations. In spite of the graffiti (included for realism, not offense) and train traffic, the beavers apparently like to hang out under the bridge and get their gnaw on.

Yes, beavers have adapted to urban environments. What’s your point? So have foxes and crows and raccoons, to name a few. If they hadn’t all adapted they’d be in a mess of trouble. Because our environments are overwhelming urban in this day and age. 81% of humans live in these urban spaces. So I’m sure the stats for beavers are similarly high.

Just a little further up the canal and the main hut is visible. As you can see, this is a large and active hut. There is an ample feed bed (all the sticks in the water in front of the hut) as the beaver family has made preparations for ice cover. A smoke stack and large industrial site are close by in the background.

On the walk back to the car, the beaver that was out for a swim is found perched on a log having a meal of some underwater vegetation. This beaver was not very skittish of human presence: we were within twenty feet of it. It kept its eye on us, but we never got the tail slap we were expecting. To us it seemed as conditioned to human gawkers as it does to its gritty urban environment.

We get it. Beavers in urban settings with plastic cups and trains. Smoke stacks and pavement in the background. Understood. Did you know the beavers of Martinez once used a golf club in making their lodge? And because of our unique homeless population, we pulled not one but TWO prosthetic legs off the dam?  When a city lives along side beavers it benefits by having increased wildlife, better birds and cleaner water. Do you know any cities that wouldn’t like that?

And I hate to tell tales out of school, but that beaver in your photo is kind of ugly. Ours are much prettier next to their plastic cups.

building the dam

Beaver building urban dam, Photo Cheryl Reynolds

Another enjoyable urban find is this video  of someone who was surprised to see beavers in their city. Listen to the narration, her companion is positively terrified. She writes of the incident thusly: Just 5 blocks down the street on my way to Starbucks I noticed damage on the trees apparently from beaver activity… yes, I believed to be crazy at the time, but today, coming back from Starbucks with Patrick we found this one that you can see and a second one we couldn’t catch on camera, but it’s real, we have beavers! and I guess that is fantastic! regards.

Urban beavers from Aubrey Scully on Vimeo.