Original title: Giving wolves credit for everything beavers do.
With predators’ numbers falling in the wild, the rest of the food chain is being forced to adapt.
Do you think lions and tigers and bears are scary? As it turns out, their absence is even scarier. Predator ecology is gaining in popularity, as scientists discover just how crucial top predators — such as lions, tigers and, well, you know the rest — are to the success of an ecosystem.
A prime example of an essential predator is the gray wolf, Canis Lupus. Once a thriving and abundant species, gray wolf populations have been nearly eliminated from 48 U.S. states. The absence of this apex predator has a dramatic top-down effect on the entire ecosystem. With their natural predators removed from the picture, elk populations flourish.
Do you give the pastor credit when the choir sings a truly ‘Amazing Grace’? Sure he plays a role, but he wasn’t singing those notes or practicing in the loft, was he? Now don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of wolves. I love their song and their fur and their social interaction. I loved ‘never cry wolf’ more than any movie I saw in college, and to this day I remember scenes and vivid images from it. But wolves shouldn’t get all the credit for restoring creeks. Wolves don’t build dams or raise the water table or augment the invertebrate community so that we get more fish and more mammals and more birds that eat fish. Beavers do that, and it drives me crazy when they get only an ‘incidental mention’.
In turn, cottonwoods and other trees become elk chow. Fewer trees result in fewer songbirds and fewer resources available for beavers to build dams with. Remove beaver dams from an ecosystem and small ponds also disappear. Eliminating ponds reduces habitats for succulent plants, a critical food source for grizzly bears.
Someday Earth Guardians or Wildlife watch will make a film about how good beavers actually are for the creek and wildlife and it will blow the mind of every single well-meaning person who has sent me the wolf-glorifying film. Wolves make it possible for beavers to weave their magic, and that’s very important. But beavers are the one who do all the work and make the difference. Beavers are the ones who deserve the credit!
Today’s donation is a whimsical painting by Suzanne Hunter of Phoenix Arizona called ‘Party in the Den’. Her Etsy shop ‘Red Raven Design‘ features “art with a sense of fun!” She painted the donation specifically for our festival, and her website says, “Yes, these hip beavers are having a cocktail party in the den! You never know what kind of crazy antics these revelers will get into. I did this painting specifically to benefit the beaver restoration project in Martinez, California. I’m all for animal and nature conservation and who doesn’t love the beautiful beavers!”
I love to imagine the beavers in their lodge toasting our success! The painting is colorful fun but honestly my favorite part is what looks like Martini glasses the beavers are holding. How appropriate is that considering our beavers hail from the home town of the Martini? Thank you Suzanne for your wonderful support! How did you know?
Um four. Because looking at this I see and hear two youngsters and a parent. Which means there are two parents somewhere. How cool is THAT! Click on the image to go to the BBC report and watch for yourself.Everything looks rather familiar.
Three beavers have been filmed together on the River Otter in Devon. Landowner David Lawrence is mystified about where the animals have come from.
A spokesman for the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs said it was unlawful to release beavers in England and they were looking into what action to take.
Mr Lawrence thinks the beavers could help reduce flooding on his land and improve water quality. “We are quite happy for them to be here,” he said.
“At some point we might have to go in and clear up some of the wood because it could wash on down to Tipton and cause a flooding problem down there.”
Beavers were hunted to extinction in England and Wales during the 12th Century and disappeared from the rest of the UK 400 years later.
Do you love Mr. Lawrence as much as I do? Maybe we should start a fan club. I pleased to hear whining in that footage and realize we’re talking GENERATIONS of beaver! Looks like youngsters and a parent. How perfect to have wild beavers s0 near where Heidi and Jon’s ancestors once walked!
Less love this morning for Ontario that has decided that the word “management” is a synonym for the word “kill”.
Beavers are a problem in Enniskillen Township and will be managed so they don’t spread to other areas of Lambton County.
According to township administrator-clerk Duncan McTavish, beavers are currently active in the watersheds of Bear Creek, Durham Creek, Black Creek and Fox Creek. These are the primary municipal drains and natural watercourses that drain the township.
“This is a management issue. Like other wildlife, the numbers of beavers have to be controlled,” said McTavish in a Feb. 27 e-mail. “Unlike skunks and squirrels that are trapped and relocated, beavers cause damage to trees and obstruct the flow of waterways.
Managed sounds SO much nicer than crushed to death, doesn’t it? Thank goodness Ontario is going to take care of these beavers before they ‘spread’ their water-saving creek-enhancing ways to other areas!
I’m beginning to think it is easier to pass a camel through the eye of a needle than to get Ontario to understand beaver benefits.
Today’s donation comes from Paper Particles in Toronto, Canada. Laurel generously donated a beaver stamp set from her delightful collection. “These Rubber Stamp Sets Feature Iconic and Sometimes Corny Slogans and Motifs, that Every Canadian will Recognize!” Thanks Laurel!
HERE’S a question for you. Do you wish to see lynx and beavers living freely in Scotland again within our lifetimes? Let’s throw in another question. If these animals never returned to the wilds of Scotland, would that really bother you?
There are simple answers to these questions. The problem is that my answer could be the total opposite of yours. However, these are questions that we must reach consensus on if we are to agree an intelligent way forward for the conservation of Scotland’s wildlife and our landscapes.
Make no mistake about it, both beavers and lynx will trigger changes in our natural environment that will force us out of our current comfort zones and take us down the road to “re-wilding” some of our favourite places.
Are we ready to allow nature more say on how our landscape may look and function in places? There will certainly be physical changes that some of us will like and others will not, whilst others might not even notice. There will also be knock-on changes for the rest of our wildlife which could prove initially dramatic as our natural environment re-boots itself to the return of such key species. The life of a roe or red deer will become very much different in an area where a top predator is present whilst those species that benefit from wetlands will undoubtedly gain from the activities of beavers.
If there’s one thing I admire about Lynx its those dams they build that impact the entire forest. Oh wait – they don’t. I mean I have nothing against Lynx but I don’t understand why they’re lumping these two animals together. I’m sure there are useful trophic things lynx do for the habitat. Reduce rodents, add a predator, etc. Still beavers are wayyyyyyyy better.
Many of us believe that every species has a right to live where it belongs and the environment of Scotland is the poorer without it. We intrinsically know this, and the fact that we obsess in our media about trying to save the last members of a rare species (usually furry, feathered or bright-eyed) shows how the value we attach to it increases with its increasing rarity.
But how should we value species that were formerly native in Scotland but that we have now eradicated?
Conversely, while we can quantify the costs of livestock lost to re-introduced species, how do we assign a value to the fear, however irrational, that we might have walking through a dark wood inhabited by lynx?
We will continue to debate the pros and cons of whether beavers and lynx should return to live freely in Scotland and arguments on both sides of the debate are equally worthy.
However, the final question is possibly the most important. Does it bother you whether beavers and lynx live in Scotland or not?
The answer lies deep within us all and should be the one that determines this debate.
Honestly, I don’t think that IS the final question. Scotland can’t decide whether it needs beavers or not based on how much they are missed. How much would folks miss politicians if Scotland took them all away? Just because something isn’t missed doesn’t mean its not necessary. And beavers are NECESSARY.
Today’s donation comes from the Oakland Zoo who kindly offered a Family Pass for the silent auction. When is the last time you went to the zoo? I had so much fun on my recent trip with beaver friend and guide Cindy Margulis. I also heard rumors about the vast new land the zoo has purchased and will turn into California terrain before it was settled, with all the wildlife that USED to be here, including you-know-what! Thanks Oakland Zoo for supporting the Martinez Beavers!
I thought today we’d talk about the very most important thing beavers do in creeks. Sure they raise the water table and filter toxins and increase fish and mammals and birds. But THIS is how it all starts and is an essential action by beavers that makes the quintessential difference.Beavers don’t have access to mortar so they constantly use what’s on hand to do the job of holding their dams and lodges together. They do this by scraping mud from the pond floor and plopping it where ever its needed. And they do this all the time. We’ve seen very young beavers learning how to do this – starting with a big ball of mud from so far away that by the time they reach their destination it’s a watery teaspoon.
In addition to needing mortar to hold everything together, they also lack bulldozers to dig trenches and canals. So often times beavers will do that work by hand – joining two bodies of water, making a canal to drag trees or even digging a passage to their food cache in freezing climes. Beavers are always moving and removing mud from the bottom of the pond.
The result of all this earthwork is that the floor of beaver ponds tend to look like the surface of the moon (or an english muffin). Nooks and crannies and different elevations everywhere. In fact Dr. Glynnis Hood did some research on this fact and measured pond height with a GPS unit across the water. She found very different elevations across the entire pond. And she found something even more interesting.
It turned out that the differing depths had differing occupants, meaning the biodiversity of the invertebrates changed depending on floor elevation. Some bugs lived in deeper parts of the pond and some in shallow parts, and some in newly dug and some in old channels.
Why does this matter? Because the diversity of bugs sets the table for the diversity of things that eat bugs. (Fish, amphibians, turtles, birds). And the as the population of things that eat bugs grows, it sets the table for the things that in turn, eat them! So more fish and more kinds of fish mean more fish eaters. Which means more otters, mink and heron at the beaver pond. See how important those bugs are?
Dr. Hood recorded and cataloged these differences and presented her findings at the 2011 beaver conference. She and a colleague published this initial paper on the issue. (Another one is in review).
This is the kind of paper that should get way more attention than it will, because it outlines the secret alchemy by which beavers change dirt into gold. I wanted to make sure you knew how it all happened from the ground up. Here’s the abstract and you can read the entire paper here:
Over a 3-year period, including a year of drought, we demonstrate how beavers physically altered isolated shallow-water wetlands in Miquelon Lake Provincial Park, Canada, which then influenced aquatic invertebrates diversity and abundance of functional feeding groups and taxa. Digging channels by beavers extended aquatic habitats over 200 m into the upland zone and created unique aquatic habitats, which became hot-spots for predaceous aquatic invertebrates. Some taxa (e.g., Gerridae and Gyrinidae) were found exclusively in beaver ponds, while Culicidae were primarily in wetlands without beavers. Amphipoda were strongly associated with beaver ponds in drought and postdrought years. During extreme drought in 2009, species richness, diversity and abundance declined dramatically, but recovered quickly in 2010. Although species richness was associated with wetland area, increased niche availability through active maintenance of wetlands by beavers played an important role in aquatic invertebrate diversity and distribution. Understanding the role of common, but seldom surveyed within-wetland habitats in boreal wetlands expands our ability to understand aquatic biodiversity, the importance of habitat heterogeneity and the role of other taxa in species assemblages.
So the next time you see beavers playing in the mud remember that there is no single thing they do that’s more important and you’re lucky to see it with their own eyes!
However, it appears the excavation of beaver channels and their regular use could provide important within-wetland habitats for some aquatic invertebrates.Beaver channels in particular were an important influence in the assemblage of functional feeding groups and served as potential “hunting hot-spots” for various predators. As such,actively intained beaver channels contribute a unique niche that is not found in wetlands lacking beavers. Dominance of predators in activelymaintained beaver channels also suggests that regular activity of beavers in these channels increases the importance of this habitat, not just the existence of the channel itself.
Today’s lovely donation hasn’t actually arrived yet but I’ve been assured it will and I can’t wait. It’s a print of a pen and ink drawing called ‘beaver town’ by Cynthia Robbins Safarik. You have to see it for yourself to grasp the whimsical detail in its entirety. I can’t wait to add this to our silent auction! Don’t you think it would look great as a huge billboard at the entrance to Martinez? Thanks Cynthia!
I sure hope you’re sitting down for this…
In some circles, beavers have long been considered pests that damage trees, clog up culverts, and build dams that inhibit or alter the natural flow of waterways. But, to two University of Wyoming researchers, the crafty critters are viewed as natural allies that actually can help keep riparian systems healthy in the short and long term.
Results of a recent study of the Pole Mountain Recreation Area in the Medicine Bow National Forest reveal that beavers can be helpful managers of ecological and hydrological systems.
“The goal of this project was to better understand how beavers impact riparian systems and gain an understanding for how managers might be able to use beavers to enact desired habitat/hydrology management strategies,” says Matthew Hayes, a spatial analyst with the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at UW.
NO KIDDING! Next thing you know they’ll be telling us that the sun is hot, water is wet, and children are smaller than adults! I can’t understand why everyone needs to prove facts for themselves. Isn’t science based on the idea that the results can be applied to other settings? Yes, beavers are good for fish and birds in Montana and Washington and Alaska, but that might not be true in Pennsylvania so we better do another study. ARGH! Never mind, at least they got the right answers.
The study determined that, when beaver numbers increase in a habitat and trapping of the animal stops, willow counts improve while aspen and conifer numbers decrease. Beavers forage on aspen and use it to build dams.
As a result of the beavers’ action, trout, amphibian, songbird and moose habitat is increased, and foraging for winter ungulate (hooved animals such as deer, elk and moose) improves. This is because, when beavers build dams, the local water table rises.
More water becomes available and accessible to plants which, in turn, increases the width of the riparian system and provides more food for animals and aquatic life. The increased water table can be crucial to these species, especially if rainfall levels are limited in arid systems like Wyoming.
Beaver ponds store water from snowmelt and rainfall runoff events, and slowly release water over time as damming slows water movement. Beavers provide optimal brook trout habitat in southeastern Wyoming and other places in the West, and can be viewed positively by sportsmen, Miller says.
Ya’ don’t say.
Last week Howie Kurtz at Fur Bearer Defender Radio asked for an interview about beavers and drought. I gamely accepted, and it’s posted this morning as the second half of this broadcast. Unfortunately he VERY MADDENINGLY refers to us twice as GIVE a dam. HRMPH! (Worth Worth Worth!) But it’s not a bad interview so you might enjoy it. Click to go to the FBD page where you can listen.
This mornings donation to the silent auction comes to us from Linda at Meadow Valley Lavender. She’s nearby in Byron CA and knows about our beavers first hand. The 2 sachets are each made from 100% cotton fabrics. Each bag is approx. 4″ by 4″ before being filled with dried lavender. The listing is for 2 sachets….one with maple leafs and one with a beaver motif. Thanks Linda!
שנים עשר חודש Shneim asar chodesh – Twelve months Don Perryman Dec 1 1928 – February 24, 2013
Take the time to watch this very nice report about why it might be a good idea to reintroduce beavers in England and benefit from their water management skills. It’s well worth your click.
Obviously beavers have a significant role to play in water management and when the state of California declared drought in 2014 I thought someone should mention this fact. I wrote a letter to the Secretary of Natural Resources, John Laird about the topic. He happened to grow up in Benicia so I thought he might be familiar with the Martinez Beaver story. When I came home from the hospital there was a letter waiting for me from Dr. Eric Loft of the Wildlife Branch of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife who was asked to respond to my letter.
That’s nearly my favorite paragraph. I love that we’ve been ‘heard of’ and made a ripple on the surface of the hard waters of Fish and Wildlife. I’m very happy to think that anybody in Sacramento was forced to sit at their computer and write about beavers for half an hour. And that anyone thought about the issue at all.
Oh yes it will! And it’s sold OUT. So you can expect 50 of these letters next quarter. The Scott River watershed is the place where Fish and Wildlife actually installed a flow device, and you know it is the first part of California that will get beaver smart. I’m glad that he knows to mention this. He goes on to say that beavers are also icky.
Why can’t you require folks try solutions before they kill beavers? And why can’t the state provide an incentive of some kind for living with beavers on your land? How about an environmental tax credit? He goes on to say I exaggerate how many beavers are killed because they only issue a few hundred depredation permits a year. I pointed out that those permits are per incident – not per beaver, so a single permit could take out as many as 10 beavers, or who ever lives in the family. Which adds up to thousands – not hundreds.
Do you think I will follow up and remain part of the discussion? Go ahead, guess. It’s very nice to have a response and contacts for the future, but they are going to need 100 letters like mine to take this seriously. Let’s all do what we can!
Today’s lovely donation to the silent auction comes from Primrose Prints In Norwich, UK. The funny thing is that Jon’s best friend in all the world lives in Norwich, and we are very familiar with the town. They donated a 1935 photograph of two beavers in the stream and generally offer only vintage original prints. Here is one from Grey Owl’s text. Thanks so much Primrose Prints!