Beavers: The smartest thing in Fur Pants!

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 20 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

One of the stories that’s been hovering around my inbox is a new BBC production in the making called Wild Alaska. It is going to feature the animals you’d expect and some beavers, but I was delighted to see this pre-runner released this morning on a channel called “It’s okay to be smart”. Ha! Now I know everyone is busy but this is really worth your time and your friend’s time, and your bosses time. Settle in for a few minutes and watch it and then share it with EVERYONE you know.

From a website called Zhil Speed.

 

Ná leathnaigh do bhrat muna féidir leat á chosaint.

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 19 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

Which is an old Gaelic proverb that means something like “don’t unfurl your flag if you aren’t able to defend it” OR don’t pretend that you are good for the environment and wetlands if you can’t back it up with the research. Fortunately for us, the beavers of Scotland are all they claimed to be, and the headlines are sweeping the nation. Literally.

CaptureEager beavers experts at recreating wildlife-rich wetlands, study reveals

The extraordinary ability of eager beavers to engineer degraded land into wildlife-rich wetlands has been revealed by a new study in Scotland.

Scientists studied the work of a group of four re-introduced beavers over a decade and found their water engineering prowess created almost 200m of dams, 500m of canals and an acre of ponds. The result was a landscape “almost unrecognisable” from the original pasture that was drained over 200 years ago, with the number of plant species up by nearly 50% and richly varied habitats established across the 30 acre site.

The researchers say their new work provides solid evidence that beavers can be a low-cost option in restoring wetlands, an important and biodiverse habitat that has lost two-thirds of its worldwide extent since 1900.

“Wetlands also serve to store water and improve its quality – they are the ‘kidneys of the landscape’,” said Professor Nigel Willby, at Stirling University and one of the study team. Earlier research by the team showed how beaver dams can slow water flows, reducing downstream flood risk and water pollution.

Beavers build their elaborate waterworks to create pools in which they can shelter from their traditional predators, bears, wolves and wolverines. The new research, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, regularly surveyed the site near Blairgowrie in Tayside where two beavers were released in 2002 and began to breed in 2006. Beavers live 10-15 years in the wild and the average number of beavers present during the study was four.

“After 12 years of habitat engineering by beaver, the study site was almost unrecognisable from its initial state,” the scientists concluded: “The reintroduction of such species may yet prove to be the missing ingredient in successful and sustainable long-term restoration of wetland landscapes.”

Alan Law, another member of the team from Stirling University, said: “We know lots about the benefits of beavers in natural settings, but until now we did not know the full extent of what they can achieve in present-day landscapes where restoration is most needed.”

He said wetland restoration usually involves ditch blocking and mowing or grazing to maintain diversity: “Beavers offer an innovative, more hands-off, solution to the problem of wetland loss. Seeing what beavers can do for our wetlands and countryside highlights the diverse landscape we have been missing for the last 400 years.”

“I think as long as beavers have plenty of space to form a decent number of territories, there are enormous potential benefits,” said Wliby. “Sometimes the negative views of farmers can dominate.”

Lovely to see so many good things about beavers in an area that is doing it’s very best to bring them back. Alan must be the most fully discussed researcher in Scotland, although I’m guessing he gets a few mean looks at the Annual Angler’s dinner. I love how we get to learn this all again, because they’re learning it for the first time. When you teach, you learn twice they say. (Although it does make me chuckle a little to open 100 headlines in one morning saying basically “this just in! Beavers make dams which improve biodiversity!” No kidding? Next you’ll be telling me that  water is wet!)

Still it’s great news, and it might help the Beauly beavers a little too.

Take a moment to send your most positive thoughts to our good friend Beth Pratt-Bergstrom had to be evacuated from her hillside Mariposa home because it is in the fire path at the moment. Her husband and pets are hanging out at the shelter. We at Worth A Dam and the entire wildlife community wish you cooling rains, no wind,  and very hardworking firefighters.

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Asked and Answered

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 18 - 2017Comments Off on Asked and Answered

We’ve entered the phase of the festival planning where things are falling into place. The brochure proof from the printer was ready yesterday and it’s fully ADORABLE. Our grant from Kiwanis arrived in the mail and an unexpected treasure floated our way in the offer of help from this group.

Have Fun, Give Back, Run!

I was surprised I’d never heard of this group before but read they were formed this very year, which is as good a way as I know to demonstrate the beaver spirit still exists in Martinez. Their lovely website says:

The Martinez Beavers Run Club (MBRC) was established in 2017 as a way to bring people together through a shared interest in running. The club is a fun way to meet new friends, explore new areas and continue to strengthen the sense of community that is being cultivated by the people of Martinez.

Which makes enormous sense because if the Martinez beavers symbolize nothing else, they surely  represent a sense of community! With glowing eyes, I immediately suggested a million jobs for which they could be wonderfully appreciated, and maybe they had a flag or shirts with their logo and wanted to run in the parade? I know Jon would be VERY happy about any cheerful worker who wanted to help set up or take down the event! This is the kind of thing that makes the beaver festival seem imminently possible. Here they are gathered for their coffee run in May.

I hope the Martinez Beavers Run Club is around for many, many years and reminds people cheerfully of the plucky spirit of our beavers which did what no one thought they could (or should) for a decade. They brought out the community in Martinez, and truly they brought out one other thing. Which is the subject of our NEXT discussion.

Alan McDonnell: Do beavers have to be made into a political issue?

It is less than a month since we discovered a family of beavers on a river near Beauly. Watching footage of two kits playing in the water near their lodge, we did not foresee how abruptly their fate would be determined by politicians’ need to be seen to be doing something. We know beavers have been controversial on Tayside, but this corner of the Highlands isvery different.

There is no way of knowing where this population has come from. It is possible they were released, but we think it is more likely they have escaped from a private collection. From evidence along the river, we know beavers have been in the area for at least five years and do not appear to have caused anyone any problems. Trees for Life has supported the return of beavers to Scotland for 25 years. They can improve the health of rivers and lochs, reduce flooding, and create wetlands that benefit many species. So following the announcement from environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham’s last November, that reintroduced beavers can remain in Scotland, we have been looking into the scope for establishing a population in the Highlands.

When we found the beaver family near Beauly, we spoke with Scottish Natural Heritage and proposed engaging with local people to discuss whether these animals could be allowed to stay where they are or look at other options that could work well for both the animals and the community. But shortly after the news reached the Scottish Government, Ms Cunningham announced that the beavers are to be trapped and removed. She is determined to avoid a repeat of the experience on Tayside, where arable farmers have seen crops damaged by an unauthorised beaver release with no measures in place to manage the impacts the species can have on farming. This is understandable – but we disagree with the idea that this should drive a decision to remove a beaver family in a completely different area.

Actively managing how their natural behaviour can affect farming and fishing has been key to these successes and has allowed them to benefit from the positive ways beavers affect the river environment and added to an area’s appeal to visitors.

A knee-jerk response to remove this beaver family will do nothing to address the impacts of beavers in Tayside, but it may deprive the Beauly community and environment of something very special. We have an opportunity here to have a different kind of conversation about wildlife – one that doesn’t lead to conflict and stalemate.

We need to listen to the concerns of farmers and fishermen, but let’s consider the opportunities beavers bring and see if any solutions can work. What have we got to lose?

Alan McDonnell is conservation projects manager at environmental charity Trees for Life

Nicely done Alan! Great letter. And I’m interested in the response you get for that. I’m not convinced they came from a escaped private collection OR an illegal release, since waterways are highways and beavers go long distances even over land. But who knows? It actually makes me think Scotland might be the very place to answer the question no one else could ever manage. Namely: What habitat do beavers prefer?

The impression I got from watching our beavers all those years, and seeing the beavers that tried to break into the habitat, was that beavers PREFER being in a small creek where they can dam, and have a lodge and a pond of their own, but when none is available they’re content to live in a bigger waterway where no dams are possible. (Like  the carquinez strait.) But Dr. Duncan Haley said that he thinks beavers PREFER to be in a large river and only move upstream and do all that work to live in smaller ones when things are over crowded.

The relatively untapped puzzle can best be settled by following a population of beavers in an area where there have been NONE for 500 years so there’s no competition. You see why Scotland is the perfect place to answer this question? Bring on the researchers!

But as for your original question, “Do beaver issues always have to be political?” After a decade of careful research, Martinez can tell you firmly that the answer is

YES.