Friends in High Country News Places

   Posted by heidi08 On January - 15 - 2017Comments Off on Friends in High Country News Places

Well I’ll be gosh-darned. I just opened the nicest email from the beaver-savvy author of this High Country News review. It’s the kind of email that no girl deserves twice in her life, so I may as well just cancel the account now and hang up my ‘retired beaver tale-teller’ sign. You know, way back when I was a wee snip of a beaver advocate struggling to save our beavers from a conibear I was transfixed by a wondrous article in HCN that introduced me to the beaver shaman Mary Obrien who preached a whole new way of thinking about beavers and streams and ecology. The hair stood up on my arm to think that such wisdom existed in the world. And to get such a nice email from one of its reporters – well. You can see why I’m still tingling.

Apparently, he was prompted by reading our newsletter, which we had beautifully printed and received last week. (It came out pretty sharp, so if you would like your very own copy, email me an address and I’ll be happy to send one.)I asked his permission to share the delightful email  because it’s the kind of gratifying pipe you want to pass to your circle of friends,  but in the mean time here’s his awesome review of Frances Backhouse book. And some highlights so you can see that he really gets why all this beaver business matters.

The historical lifetime of the beaver

Our relationship with North America’s largest rodent is so complex that we can no longer classify beavers as simply as Horace T. Martin did in Castorologia, an 1892 zoological monograph written when beavers hovered on the brink of extinction. Frances Backhouse — formerly a seabird and grizzly biologist, now a University of Victoria-based writer/teacher — takes a new look at this landscape-changing critter in her book, Once They Were Hats: In Search of the Mighty Beaver. The book was a finalist for the Lane Anderson award for the best Canadian science book of 2015.

For last few centuries, we’ve regarded beavers as either nuisances or commodities. Now, we’re increasingly learning how they make our landscapes livable: not only by clearing a path for settled lands and farms, but by filtering, diversifying and storing the water on which we depend. Backhouse identifies beavers as “a classic keystone species — that is, the indispensable creator of ecosystems that support entire ecological communities; an unwitting faunal philanthropist.” As a Canadian, she surely has a particular affinity for her national animal, but the beavers’ watershed stewardship blurs political borders. In her final chapter, “Détente,” Backhouse shows that countries that once fought over fur are finding between beavers and humans can help provide a cooler future, too.

First of all, if you haven’t read the book yet, buy it NOW. Because you really need to support this kind of revisionist beaver thinking. And second of all, go read the whole review because it’s very well written and will make you eager to start flipping through pages. And third, I just heard from Mr. Rich that he is willing to let me share this so here’s the first paragraph that you can use please at my eulogy.

Dear Heidi,

As we start a new year, I want to thank you for your tireless coverage of all things beaver. After reading your recent post and newsletter on the decade you have honored this marvelous rodent, I realized what a small fraction of those 10,000 viewers/week probably reciprocate with the praise and support that Worth a Dam deserves. I know that I am guilty of this, having been a daily reader for at least the last two years without ever saying a word. I am so devoted to your site because there is no other nexus with such comprehensive insights into the beaver’s ecological benefits, and wisdom about their evolving relationship with us. There are many places to learn “facts” about beavers, but you connect them with humor and heart as you bring “distant leaders and particular regional blind spots” into conversation. So I hope I speak for many hundreds more when I say THANK YOU!

Rob Rich

I honestly have never read anything that makes me happier. Or ascribes better purpose to my weirdly addictive pastime. I frankly would be making it up if I ever tried to say why I post about beavers every day, or who I think reads and depends on it. But now I have the perfect answer, and suddenly it all makes sense.

I do it for Mr. Rich.

Beaver Benefits at the Big Boy Table

   Posted by heidi08 On January - 14 - 2017Comments Off on Beaver Benefits at the Big Boy Table

Didn’t I tell you that the quest for beavers in Marin would find answers quickly? Apparently there have already been discussions behind the scenes with the head of CDFG and now this article just magically appears in the SFGate. Mind you, and others have written them literally millions of time of the years about the important  relationship between beavers and salmon, but they obviously needed just the right motivation.

My mac is currently having issues so I can’t introduce the article the way I want but just go read it, and especially read the quotes about how important beavers are. Then set your watch for how long it takes to get them reintroduced in Marin. Maybe we should have a poll. I’m guessing they’ll be reintroduced before the first day of spring if the weather allows it.

California’s recent storms are devastating endangered salmon

Back in the North Bay, great efforts are underway to further restore the endangered coho salmon population. Ettinger hopes soon, beavers are re-introduced to the waterways.

“Beavers create the kind of habitat that really protect salmon in floods and drought by creating slow water ponds,” he said. “Coho salmon and beaver co-evolved for thousands of years and we lost beavers from trapping a long time ago. It would be really helpful to get that partnership re-established.”



It’s Raining Beavers!

   Posted by heidi08 On January - 13 - 2017Comments Off on It’s Raining Beavers!

Reach deep in your pockets and under that couch cushion. If you find anything there other than cheetos and lint you will want to donate it to the Lindsay wildlife hospital and thank them for treating two beavers in two days, which is more than they’ve seen in two years.

The Benicia Police Department posted this video yesterday after a beaver
was found disoriented on the campus of Joe Henderson Elementary School. That beaver is apparently on the mend this morning, and the papers have amused themselves with the story.

Walnut Creek: Injured beaver found outside Benicia school

20170112_134444WALNUT CREEK — A disoriented beaver that showed up outside a Benicia elementary school early Thursday morning is recuperating at the Lindsay Wildlife Experience.

School personnel discovered the 40-pound male beaver drooling at the front door of Joe Henderson Elementary School around 5:30 a.m. Animal control officers took the beaver to the Lindsay for treatment.

Other than abrasions on its tail and the soles of the feet, the beaver appeared to be healthy, according to Dr. Guthrum Purdin, director of veterinary services at the Lindsay.

This is the second injured beaver brought to the Lindsay this week. On Tuesday, two beavers were found near Mohr Lane in Concord. One had been struck by a vehicle and died at the scene. The second beaver suffered a broken tooth and a fractured skull, and was euthanized Wednesday.

We’ve known for years about the beavers near Lake Hermann in Benicia, which is not far from the school. Cheryl has even been out to photograph them. The odd thing is that their series of beaver dams are currently upsetting public works enough that they are complaining to anyone that will listen. A reporter for the Vallejo Herald wanted to talk to me about it yesterday and find out how we managed them in Martinez. Neither of us even knew about that local rescue until last night!

North American Beaver Castor canadensis Guthrum Purdin, Director of Veterinary Services at the Lindsay Wildlife Experience, examines six-week-old orphaned kit Lindsay Wildlife Experience, Walnut Creek, CA *Model release availableDr. Guthrum is the veterinarian who treated our sick kit. He came to the beaver festival that year and is a big supporter. We are grateful that there is a safe place for beavers to recover and that compassionate teachers and animal control officers made sure he got there. Please tell them you support their beaver rescue by donating to help keep their doors open. And if you write “This is for the next beaver” on your donation we’ll be even happier.

And there’s one more thing we’re grateful for, and that has to be the silver lining in these stories.

A beaver population in Concord, in Benicia, in Napa, in Hercules, in Sonoma. We are surrounded by beavers on every side. Ten years ago that would never, ever have been possible. Ten years ago it was unheard of for beavers to suddenly appear in a  city. Worth A Dam made sure that Martinez was safe harbor for the birth of 24 kits over a decade. Even if they haven’t found their way back to Marin, these lucky beaver have changed the population of beavers in the greater Bay area for evermore.

No matter what happens now, they’ll never put that particular genie back in that bottle again.  Happy New Year!


Bad news for beavers

   Posted by heidi08 On January - 12 - 2017Comments Off on Bad news for beavers

North American Beaver Castor canadensis Lodge in urban environment Napa, California

There is bad news a’plenty today for beavers. The puddles and buckets of rain that fell wreaked havoc on our flat-tailed friends. The beautiful lodge in Napa was flattened like adobe bricks under the ocean and while the well-built structure never washed away, it collapsed.  Robin went out in the morning to see the damage and Rusty sent these photos yesterday. I am stung with grief over the loss. He came back in the evening and saw one beaver hanging around in confusion. I’m guessing finding family members is job one after a displacement like this. Home is, after all, wherever your peeps are.


Flattened Lodge in Napa: Rusty Cohn

Worse still, It turns our that the beaver killed on Mohr Lane in Concord was the second one. The first was taken to Lindsay Wildlife Hospital an hour earlier. That one had a broken jaw and severe damage also and he died from his injuries. He was a smaller beaver, probably last summer’s kit. And obviously with his parent or sibling for safety. Both were killed.

The death was written about on the  the Claycord News and Talk website (the mayor is an old friend of the Martinez Beavers) and that earned a pretty interesting comments by readers.

Vehicle Hits, Kills Beaver on Mohr Lane Near Monument Blvd. in Concord

A beaver was struck and killed by a vehicle on Mohr Lane near Monument Blvd. in Concord on Tuesday night.

A ton of folks visit that sight, there have been 18 comments so far, but these two got all my attention:

Is this thing on?

I thought I saw a beaver dam on Walnut Creek between Monument and Willow Pass, upstream of the concrete drop structure. Anyone else see it from the Iron Horse this past fall? I’m guessing it’s gone with the high water.

Jojo Potato

@Is this… I guess you don’t remember this post of mine: riding along the Iron Horse trail this morning where it follows along the creek north of Monument, saw a really beautiful beaver dam across the stream. Overflow was cleverly directed around the east end and the dam solidly built with sticks and mud across the main channel. There is life in Concord! Great to see.

So there was a beaver dam and family along the Iron horse trail and we didn’t even know. Two (or maybe more) of that family were killed, and I’m sure the others are scattered and disoriented. They could easily be our offspring or descended from our offspring. I was so saddened yesterday by this news that I comforted myself by imagining starting a beaver clinic, like Mother Theresa – but for beavers.  Where lots and lots of beavers would be rescued, snugly wrapped in towels and fed cottonwood or apples until they regained their strength. Maybe you want to help?

North American Beaver Castor canadensis Danielle Mattos, Director of Animal Care at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, holding rescued beaver Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, Petaluma, CA

North American Beaver
Castor canadensis
Danielle Mattos, Director of Animal Care at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, holding rescued beaver
Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, Petaluma, CA


Streets Filled with Water. Please Advise.

   Posted by heidi08 On January - 11 - 2017Comments Off on Streets Filled with Water. Please Advise.

martinez3Recognize this bridge? We stood on it many many nights watching our beavers tend the dam below it. Beavers who wisely thought to get outta town before all this flooding so they couldn’t be blamed. Water was pouring down Alhambra yesterday, and Escobar. In Napa Rusty says the  lodge was entirely under water and the beavers were swimming around trying to find someplace safe. We just hope that beautiful lodge holds onto that tree beside it and isn’t washed away entirely like ours was in 2011. Rain is hard on creatures everywhere.

How hard? We were informed last night that a beaver was hit by a car at Mohr Lane in Concord near the actual Walnut Creek. Poor thing was dead when Cheryl got there. I suppose he was flooded out of his home, bumped along the flooded canal until he reached a place he could climb out, and was hit by one of the hundreds of cars in the area. Beavers can manage flooding, but they are really bad around cars. They’re so low and dark even the best-intentioned driver might hit them.

I saw this footage of the Yuba River yesterday and thought how hard it was for anything that lives on the shore. We are the ones who asked for an end to drought if I remember correctly. Now I’m just looking at all the snow in Oregon and thinking I might not make it to the Beaver Conference after all.

‘Dome Sweet Dome’

   Posted by heidi08 On January - 10 - 2017Comments Off on ‘Dome Sweet Dome’

The inside of a beaver lodge has captured the fancies of folks from Lewis Carol to Ian Timothy! I have been interested in art describing this because we’re thinking about doing some over/under art for our activity this festival. I thought I would show you some of my favorites so far.


Greg Newbold Art

Greg Newbold is an illustrator in Salt Lake City Utah who created this wonderful glimpse of the inside of a beaver lodge.  The colors are amazing, but even his sketch for the finished piece is pretty great. I particularly like the adorable young inhabitants inside. On his website “Life needs Art” he says about this,

I just finished up this one for an educational publisher. It’s fun to dig into details on something like this and create a feeling of reality even though this view is impossible to see in nature. I enjoyed the challenge of making the submerged portion of the beaver abode look like it was underwater which I achieved by shifting colors and values to reflect the effects of the water. Once again this is rendered in Photoshop over a graphite drawing. Size is 16″ x 11″ at 400 dpi. This one will print in the student edition as well as an oversize teacher edition to be used in group reading.

Fantastic job, Greg.  I love watching the family members swim home. Let’s just hope the book says in HUGE red LETTERS This is NOT a beaver dam. Because some people really need help telling them apart, apparently.

I did find a couple illustrations that shows the lodge, the dam, and the important food cache. This is from Miles Kelly publishing.

Or this nice peek from M.H. Peterson, although I’m not sure what that hole is at the base of the lodge. A place to turn around?

And that fun one in the snow from the Adirondack book I posted earlier this week by Mike Storey:


And of course there are a few fanciful ones that just grab our imagination. I came across this last year from an illustrator who’s name escapes me. I know it was a  female and I didn’t find it with the usual suspects looking for ‘interiors’ or ‘inside’ lodge. I will keep trying, because she deserves credit for this wonderful work. Aren’t the colors lovely?


I came across this yesterday and fell in love all over again. It is a watercolor by artist Jodi Lynn Burton of Detroit Michigan.

Get ready for some awesome inside artwork this summer I think!

Surviving the Storm

   Posted by heidi08 On January - 9 - 2017Comments Off on Surviving the Storm

When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.

William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Yesterday it rained and rained, so much that we parked across the street on a higher curb to avoid the runoff.  Folks armed their driveways with sandbags and there were no beavers in Martinez to blame for the flooding. Just the sky, which decided we needed a two-day dousing.

Rusty in Napa was undaunted and boldly went to see how their soggy beavers were holding up in all that rain. Of course the broken dam was topped, but the lodge too was underwater in the worst of it. Remember if there is water over the lodge, there is water IN the lodge, and the beavers were rudely awoken out of their days slumber and had to find another bed.


Beaver atop lodge in flood: Rusty Cohn

Sometimes they crouch in a cluster of trees, or have a little bank hole they can reach. Sometimes they decide to use the lodge like snoopy uses his dog house. And that’s what Rusty was hoping to photograph.

drybeaverThe amazing part to me, is that not only does this beaver look wonderfully calm and composed –

Dry yearling in storm: Rusty Cohn

(Nothing like we would look if we were flooded out of our home in the middle of the night) but he is also completely DRY. Look at his fur and consider the wonders of beaver weatherproofing.
On days like these we remember the countless worried storms we trudged down to our own beaver dam to see how our beavers were faring.


Beaver sleeps on bank while beaver swims below: Rusty Cohen

I remember the only beaver ‘swear word‘ I ever heard, watching a kit come out of the old lodge during very high current and immediately getting washed downstream in the flow. He was so surprised and alarmed he tailslapped loudly before swimming back. Which I’m sure has got to be the forensic equivalent of honking very loudly at a snow storm.

I’ve seen our beavers swim effortlessly upstream in a torrent, and move aside as terrible debris washed thru their ruined pond. Rain doesn’t hurt beavers. Snow doesn’t hurt beavers. Drought doesn’t hurt beavers. Really. Only we do that. Rusty had to work hard to protect his camera in the storm. But he was able to capture this later in the day so you could see for yourself that they are coping.

Sleepy and soggy, this beaver handles things just fine. Cue the “I will survive” soundtrack will you?


Here’s looking at you kid: Rusty Cohn