Anything’s better than yesterday

   Posted by heidi08 On March - 21 - 2017Comments Off on Anything’s better than yesterday

There’s a nice mention of our urban beaver friends in the Bronx River in a different episode of the Chicago program I showed you with Riley earlier. I can’t believe they’re doing a whole program on urban wildlife without mention US but go figure. We definitely are there in spirit. Go here, to watch the whole thing.Capture

Thriving ‘Urban Nature’ in Three American Cities

Urban Nature takes a look at both unmediated ecosystems and places where humans are stepping in to save nature that is threatened by urban development. Host Marcus Kronforst catches a glimpse of San Francisco as it appeared before human settlement by venturing into a redwood forest in Oakland and by hiking through the Presidio, where a rocky outcropping shelters a shrub that’s the last of its kind in the wild. He encounters endangered birds in the salt marshes of Brooklyn’s Jamaica Bay, and canoes down the Bronx River to spot eels, herons, and beavers.

The Bronx River Bounces Back | New York


I sent yesterday’s horror story to every one I could think of that might ‘pitch’ some grief for the beaver-killing monsters at the golf course in Alabama. I managed to get a new friend who’s in charge of watersheds for 8 southern states very interested, and an author researching a ‘beaver book’.

I’d like to think of it as my “Fly my pretties” moment. But we’ll see what

We have met the enemy – and he is Alabama

   Posted by heidi08 On March - 20 - 2017Comments Off on We have met the enemy – and he is Alabama

I needed to do this for several hours before I even tried to write this story. I’m leaving the graphic just in case you need a reminder of how to stop that panic rising too. Get your bag handy. Because this is a doozy.

Birmingham golf course beaver kill a dystopian Caddyshack

The Great Beaver Slaughter of 2017 at Birmingham’s historic Roebuck Golf Course began one January morning. It didn’t stop until 17 beavers were dead.

Did the beavers have to go?

Yes, according to prominent biologists. Were the beavers political casualties? Maybe so, and in more ways than one, based on the statements made by the president of the Birmingham City Council.

According to golf course employees, the prolific and resourceful beavers were rounded up in January with “pitchforks” and “by government employees.” The largest of all, weighing in at 38 pounds, was frozen by one of the maintenance staffers for future consumption. This all happened after Birmingham City Council President Johnathan Austin visited the course, and produced a Facebook Live video demanding coverage by television news stations, and implicating negligence by, well, somebody.pitchfork

“This is real news,” Austin said during his video. “This is coming to you live from Rogusta, where something needs to be done about this. This is beautiful city property. We are trying to preserve the property that we have, take care of the property we already have.”

Austin plays regularly at Roebuck Golf Course, along with many other prominent members of the Birmingham business, political and legal communities. (In full disclosure, if I had a home course, it would be Roebuck.)

17 beavers killed with a pitchfork in the dead of winter by some happy maintenance worker. How’s that bag coming along? Triggered by a petulant city council complaint on facebook that the water was ruining his golf game. Breathe. Now brace yourself. Because the reason cited for this madness was the fate of one very special fish.

 It didn’t end well for the furry animals, but they died, say scientists, to preserve another, more favored animal, the endangered and federally protected fish known as the watercress darter.

Now wait a minute. If you’ve been reading this website since the dawn of time you’ll remember that the rare watercress darter was the subject of one of the LARGEST fish and wildlife fines in history after some city officials ripped out a beaver dam. Say, where was that anyway?

Oh RIGHT Birmingham.


Almost a decade ago, a supervisor for Birmingham Park and Recreation ordered the destruction of the beaver pond and the man-made levee it rested upon because two tennis courts were being flooded. The backhoe removed the dam and levee, and the sudden loss in habit drained the pond and killed about 12,000 of the watercress darter.

Combined, the U.S. Department of Interior and the Alabama Department of Conservation sued the city for $4 million, and federal officials called the backhoe incident one of the largest fish kills in the history of the Endangered Species Act. The city settled most of the fines out of court after cooperating with U.S. Fish & Wildlife to preserve the habitat, but litigation associated with that lawsuit remains. Part of the deal affected the golf course and, by and by, multiple generations of unlucky beavers.

In other words, the backhoe savagery changed everything.

In the past 10 years, the maintenance crew at “Rogusta” hasn’t been allowed to step within 25 feet of the stream that runs through the course. Mowing, trimming, cutting and any other funny business that might somehow affect the fish hasn’t been allowed. Maintenance staffers aren’t even allowed to clean trash out of the water, so they claim. An old shopping cart was lodged in the creek bed next to the No. 8 green for years. Thousands of plastic bottles litter the water.

Keep breathing. So a eager beaver-destroyer brought the mother-of-all fines from Fish and Wildlife and they spent nearly a decade defending themselves in court. The negotiated settlement was “We promise to do nice things and we’ll never, ever, Ever go in that creek again. Scouts honor.” I remember being SO INSPIRED by this case. I quoted it so many times to remind cities how expensive it could be to remove beavers. I thought it meant that a certain part of our thinking had turned a corner. But I was wrong.

Just imagine how fond the good ole boys in Alabama were of the federal government telling them what to do on their own golf course in the middle of town.

Golfers don’t like looking at all the trash, but the single-minded beavers of “Rogusta” were made of tougher stuff. When trees started growing back along the banks of the golf course, the beavers did what beavers do: they moved in and claimed the territory as their own.

“The golfers are all upset because they won’t cut the vegetation within so many feet of the creek, and they’re always hitting their balls into the vegetation out there,” said Howell, the biologist and a former Samford professor. “Well, I look at it as just another hazard.”

But it’s more than that. Over the past few years, the beavers have transformed a portion of the golf course into wetlands. Until recently, the beaver annex was mostly in an out-of-bounds area, but the beavers weren’t satisfied with merely punishing the hard slices of hack golfers.

Here’s what Fish and Wildlife says about the area on their website

“Our ultimate goal at Roebuck Springs is to restore and protect the habitat of the watercress darter. That’s always been the plan,” said Cynthia K. Dohner, Southeast Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We want to do what’s best for the fish, and our work is far from over.”

But beavers got in the way of golfers and the fact that they had caused the feds to pay attention in the first place meant that everyone hated them even more than they usually hate them in Alabama, which is a lot. Breathe some more.

See, in a perfect world — or just a world without streets, and neighborhoods, and tennis courts, and a golf course built around and through a large spring system — Birmingham beavers create the habitat that allows the watercress darter to flourish.

But there is no such thing as a perfect world for urban beavers, especially when multiple government agencies get involved, not to mention politicians who love to play good, cheap golf.

Turns out, too many beavers are apparently a bad thing for the watercress darter inside the fragile ecosystem of Roebuck Golf Course.

“The beaver is not good for the darter because, No. 1, the darter lives in the bottom of the stream in and amongst the heavy-growing aquatic mosses and the watercress and the eelgrass,” Howell said. “When beavers get in an area, they rip up all the vegetation off the bottom where the darters are living.”

You thought life served you a raw deal? Think again. The beavers out at Roebuck got it the worst. Consider this life calculus: The beavers naturally create the environment for the watercress darter to live, and then get blamed for also destroying that environment, at which point the beavers have to die so the watercress darter can live.

“I guess the beavers caught the short end of the sticks, so to speak,” Howell said. “It’s the beavers that have broken the law, and not man.”

So did the city council want them dead? Did Fish and Wildlife? Did maintenance?

Who killed the beavers?

U.S. Fish & Wildlife says it didn’t do the deed, but the service has trained the city in proper beaver removal. The key: Take out the beavers without taking out the fish. Why that involved pitchforks remains unclear. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s lead recovery biologist for the watercress darter said he has never heard of pitchforks being used to “lethally trap” beavers. A representative for Birmingham Park and Recreation initially said his department didn’t know anything about the beaver kill, and since then hasn’t returned follow-up calls requesting more information.

Together, it seems, the biologists, golfers and politicians outflanked the beavers. But only for a short while. Five days after the beaver kill, the water level at “Rogusta” flooded once again. There is no longer standing water on the No. 8 fairway, but it remains unplayable.

“For all the news stations that want to report fake news, this is real news coming to you live right out here at the park, Rogusta,” Austin said. “We’ve got endangered species that we’re trying to save and protect.”

And not to mention golf handicaps.

I wrote the reporter who replied that NOTHING happens in town to this creek now  without Fish and Wildlife permission, so someone there knows what transpired even if they didn’t do it themselves. I’m pretty sure that we can get our clue from the city council man who said “For all the news stations that want to report fake news, this is real”.  Does that remind you of anyone in particular? Someone  who loves to golf who doesn’t want federal agencies interfering with profit? Whose supporters happened to win an election in January just around the time those beavers were hacked to death with a pitchfork?

But what about the endangered water cress darters?  Remind me how Mr. Trump feels about the endangered species act, anyway. This was reported back in January, right around the time the city council member decided to kill 2 birds 17 beavers with one stone pitchfork.



Make way for Beavers!

   Posted by heidi08 On March - 19 - 2017Comments Off on Make way for Beavers!

It’s Sunday. All the cut-outs are done for the “Martinez-Loves-Beavers” art project at Earth Day. And we may well have beavers in Martinez. That all sounds like good news to me. But maybe you need some more, just to make sure. How about the appearance of our good friend Ann Riley on Chicago Public Television talking about why WILLOW is especially important to creeks. Ahem.


The Streams Below Our Streets | San Francisco

Cities once converted streams into sewers to make room for development. But now there’s a growing movement to unearth these buried waterways.

They flow beneath city streets, sidewalks, and even homes: creeks and streams across the United States were once forced underground into sewers, drainpipes, and culverts to make way for urban development.

For more than 30 years, efforts have been made in and around the Berkeley, California area to uncover—or “daylight”—the area’s buried waterways. The term daylighting was coined here in the 1980s, to describe efforts to bring Strawberry Creek back aboveground.

In 1903, a four-acre section of Strawberry Creek had been led into a culvert to allow construction of a Santa Fe Railway right-of-way. When Santa Fe abandoned the property in the early 1980s, the land was acquired by the city, and a park was proposed for the site.

As part of the park’s development, the Berkeley Parks and Recreation Commission planned to remove the 300-foot concrete pipe and expose the enclosed section of water. Although the idea was initially rejected by the city as too expensive and dangerous, the commission eventually implemented the plan. Activists argued that the transformation of the site from a derelict railroad right-of-way to a natural waterway would provide stormwater relief, and create heightened awareness about the ecology of streams.

The groundbreaking project represented the first time a culvert had been dug up and re-created in a channel, and helped pave the way for the formation of the Berkeley-based Urban Creeks Council in 1982. Co-founded by Dr. Ann L. Riley, the Urban Creeks Council was established to foster the preservation, protection, restoration, and management of natural waterways in urban environments. In addition, the non-profit organization works to educate the public on the ecological, aesthetic, and recreational values of restored urban streams.

Riley was introduced to urban stream restoration while she was training in the academic field of fluvial geomorphology with scientist Luna Leopold—who Riley called “the father of modern-day river restoration.” Fluvial geomorphology is the study of how water forms the earth.

Riley shows jon what to do

Riley shows jon what to do

Riley & Cory plan the attack!

Riley & Cory plan the attack!


Just in case you don’t remember Riley, she’s the awesome beaver supporter and author who helped Worth A Dam plant willow for the last three years which our very schizophrenic city helped her do and then promptly pulled up. Ahh, memories. Sometimes she obviously has much better luck. If you didn’t watch the video, go watch now. It’s really well done and we are SO lucky she’s on our side.

ann teaching

Our donation this week for the silent auction is an watercolor painting that comes from artist Patricia Manning in Tonawanda New York. When she’s not busy crafting, sewing dollhouse clothing or raising her two girls, she likes to paint the natural world she sees. So obviously she chose our favorite subject. What got my attention first about this painting was the striking rings of water, which is something I’ve come to associate so intimately with watching beaver activity. They write everything they do on the water surface, which is lovely to see. Thanks Pamela for your generous donation! We’ll make sure to find it a good home!


Cree “Beaver Bird”

   Posted by heidi08 On March - 18 - 2017Comments Off on Cree “Beaver Bird”

Gentlemen may prefer blonds, but we prefer beaver ponds…

Beaver Bird: The Adaptable Hooded Merganser

Mergansers are expert divers. Swimming serenely, they suddenly disappear, leaving barely a ripple, and can remain submerged for up to two minutes. All birds have a nictitating membrane, a transparent extra eyelid; for mergansers, this serves as a diving mask that allows them to keep their eyes open underwater where they swim gracefully with webbed feet. Using wings to steer, they appear to fly through a liquid sky.

“They’re a cool bird to watch,” said Dr. Kevin McGowan at Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, “popping up in little ponds—very similar to wood duck nesting habitat. In fact, they often share the same pond, but hooded mergansers dive underwater to find their food, while wood ducks feed on the surface.”

“Between the 1980 and 2000 Breeding Bird Atlas surveys in New York,” said McGowan, “the occurrence of hooded mergansers more than doubled. They like beaver ponds, and there are more beavers now than there have been for a long time. Their breeding range has also moved south, probably due to reforestation over the past 100 years, which has improved their habitat.” The occurrence of breeding hooded mergansers nearly tripled in Vermont between 1981-2007, according to findings of the first and second Vermont Breeding Bird Atlas, edited by the Vermont Center for Ecostudies.

National Audubon predicts that, as the climate warms, hooded mergansers will significantly expand their winter ranges northward and live year-round where they are currently found just during the breeding season. Researchers in Manitoba discovered that, in 2001 hooded mergansers were returning to their breeding grounds 32 days earlier than they had been returning in 1939.

Despite its ever-changing environment, the endearing, diminutive waterfowl that is known to the Cree as the “beaver duck” is doing just swimmingly.

The beaver duck! Isn’t that wonderful? All these years I’ve been talking how hooded mergansers showed up in our beaver pond and Napa’s beaver pond, and I thought I was on to something but I wasn’t sure. Now I’m sure.  This makes me happy. The Cree are one of the largest tribes of first nations in North America and extended across the middle band of Canada. The definitely knew their beaver because the Cree was one of the most important nations for the Fur Trade in the Hudson Bay Company of early Canada. When I gave a talk to the waterboard one fish scientist asked whether our mergansers eat themselves out of house and home, because they were such voracious fish eaters.

I’m just glad that these birds and beavers get along.

Mr and Mrs HM

Rusty Cohn

The winner and still champion…

   Posted by heidi08 On March - 17 - 2017Comments Off on The winner and still champion…

Congratulations to our friends in Devon who welcomed the wayward beavers with aplomb. Their dynamic advocacy has kept the discussion of beaver benefits front and center long enough that they won this year’s Countryfile award!

Wild beavers in Devon win national BBC Countryfile Magazine award

Devon’s wild beavers have won a top national BBC Countryfile Magazine award.

Readers selected the Devon Wildlife Trust led River Otter Beaver Trial based in East Devon, along with the Scottish Beaver Trial, as their ‘Wildlife Success Story of the Year’ for 2017. The public poll attracted 56,000 votes across 12 award categories.

The Devon beavers are the first wild population of the animals to exist in England for 400 years. Devon Wildlife Trust leads the trial in partnership with Clinton Devon Estates, University of Exeter and the Derek Gow Partnership.

Mark Elliott, who manages the beaver trial at DWT, said: ‘We’re delighted to have won this prestigious award. The fact that thousands of members of the public have taken the time to vote for beavers in Devon and in Scotland shows the wide support these charismatic creatures enjoy.’

Derek Gow, Devon-based mammal expert and project partner, said: ‘I’m over the moon the Devon Beaver Trial has been given this recognition. I’ve worked with this magnificent species for 22 years. It’s just brilliant that BBC Countryfile Magazine has recognised the importance of beavers in the presentation of this award.’

It’s thought around 20 beavers now live on the River Otter, which winds its way through 20 miles of East Devon countryside.

What a fantastic award for our hard-working friends in the UK. They struggled to keep the animals out of harms way when the Anglers convinced the government that they had diseases and would ruin fishing. They worked to keep the issue in the public eye WITHOUT exposing the beavers to unwanted looky-loo traffic. They inspired an excellent Countryfile episode and they WON against all the eagles and bees and badgers and hedgehogs on the program. We are SO proud of you and grateful for your support of beavers.

Rumors indicate that the Anglers are still complaining that the award didn’t go to a fish.

Meanwhile in Sacramento they are doing something that is very unusual to the levy-threateners they usually trap. And yes, it’s named ‘Justin’ because why be original when you can be exactly like everyone else?

‘Justin Beaver’ Visits Sacramento County Animal Care

SACRAMENTO COUNTY — Sacramento County Animal Care had a special guest Wednesday — his name is “Justin Beaver.”

The animal shelter doesn’t normally take in beavers, but this was an exception. The little guy was found at an apartment complex Wednesday with multiple lacerations and punctures that were thought to be from a coyote or a large dog.

“Justin Beaver” was also missing a front foot from an old injury. Those at the shelter said he didn’t seem to be bothered by it.

The shelter’s medical team got to work cleaning and repairing the new wounds. They even gave him a hair cut before sending him to the Wild Life Care Association for recuperation.

Well, good luck to you Justin. Even though you have a silly name you may well be the luckiest beaver in Sacramento so that should count for something. You can see my favorite part of this article in bold. This beaver has already been trapped once and is doing fine. So I feel he’s got a good chance of making it!



Freshwater Heroes in Danger

   Posted by heidi08 On March - 16 - 2017Comments Off on Freshwater Heroes in Danger

There has been more interest lately in the health of freshwater mammals, and more support for the belief that their decline signals doom for ours. That seems about right to me. And I can think of ONE freshwater mammal in particular that should be carefully protected.beaver phys

Large freshwater species among those most threatened with extinction on the planet

Freshwater megafauna such as river dolphins, crocodilians and sturgeons play vital roles in their respective ecosystems. In a recent scientific publication, researchers of the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) in Berlin have teamed up with international colleagues to illustrate the factors that currently threaten these large vertebrates. The authors also call for a more comprehensive assessment on these large freshwater animals and for a more targeted conservation plan. Also, a wider range of freshwater species and freshwater ecosystems suffering from biodiversity decrease have the potential to benefit from such megafauna-based actions. Many large aquatic vertebrates, referred to as freshwater megafauna, cover long distances between their breeding and feeding grounds. To ensure their safe passage, they are dependent on free-flowing waters.

The mode of life of the Eurasian beaver and the North American beaver, for example, induces them to shape entire river courses, affecting not only biochemical and hydrological processes, but also in-stream and riparian assemblages; in the Everglades, the American alligator creates and maintains small ponds, providing habitats for a large number of plants and smaller animals. “The importance of freshwater megafauna for biodiversity and humans cannot be overstated,” stressed Fengzhi He together with colleagues from IUCN, the University of Tübingen and Queen Mary University of London, Fengzhi He describes in this publication which factors pose threats to freshwater megafauna. Besides the obstruction and fragmentation of water bodies following dam construction, these factors include overexploitation, environmental pollution, habitat destruction, species invasion and the changes According to the authors, megafauna species are highly susceptible to external factors owing to their long lifespan, large body size, late maturity and low fecundity.

Despite the fact that many megafauna are under great threat, they have been largely neglected in previous research and conservation actions. Fengzhi He and his co-authors call for research focusing on the distribution patterns, life history and population dynamics of megafauna. Freshwaters are among the most endangered ecosystems on the planet, where biodiversity is declining faster than in marine and terrestrial realms. For this reason, it is all the more important to develop sustainable nature conservation strategies forfreshwater ecosystems and their megafauna.

We here at beaver central think Dr. He is absolutely right about this. Our freshwater heroes don’t get enough research. No one knew why our kits died in 2015 and no one knows anything about the population size in general. People like to study smaller species that fit conveniently in tanks in the laboratory. But science has largely forgotten the importance of field research, and how much can be learned just by observing the animals in person.

I don’t share his worry that beavers will be among the first to go. I think they proved their resilience on Mount St. Helen’s and at Chernobyl. Not to mention bouncing back after near extermination once. Beavers are very unusual freshwater fauna because they are NOT the top of the food chain and can travel long distances over land. I am sure they will outlive us.

Especially since we happen to be the greatest threat to their existence, and have been for 1000 years. They might actually be better off.

The Ides of the Martinez Beavers

   Posted by heidi08 On March - 15 - 2017Comments Off on The Ides of the Martinez Beavers

Yesterday was a very odd 79 degrees in the Sierras in March. Daffodil hill was in full bloom, the mountains were heavy white with snow, and another 17 dead ponderosa pines still need to be taken down at my parents house in the foothills. Because California may have escaped this round of drought roulette, but there are still carcasses all around us and a grim horizon. Not to mention the land drop from the smashed aquifer that Bakersfield is never getting back. Well, enjoy the almond blossoms, and the daffodils while we can.

I came across this looking for footage of the big beaver meeting in 2007. I posted it last year but the video was taken down so rendered un-sharable. With a strike on my Youtube record already from the UK I was afraid to do it. I was delighted to see someone else had. This is cued up for Martinez, but you might want to watch the whole thing. It’s actually pretty good.