OW! The stupid! It hurts us!

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 17 - 2016Comments Off on OW! The stupid! It hurts us!

There are precious few articles about beaver that shock me any more. Remember, I’ve been doing this a long time and written nearly 4000 columns about the way a city responds to beavers. Sure, every once in a while a city makes the right decision for the right reasons and that shocks me a little, and sometimes entire regions make bad decisions that are so destructive it catches my breath, but often I’ve seen it all before. This, as they say in the cattle trade, ain’t my first rodeo.

But just when you think you’ve seen it all, something can come up that you never in a million years would have expected. Something that is so antithetical to all logic, research and instinct that it makes me groan so loud I frighten the neighbors.

Most severe drought restrictions imposed in this Georgia county

North Georgia’s searing drought has forced Haralson County, 35 miles west of downtown Atlanta, to impose the state’s harshest watering restrictions. No outdoor watering (except for irrigation of family food plots). No car washes. Football fields must remain dry. And, please, don’t run the water while brushing your teeth.

The Tallapoosa River is so low that the county water authority dismantled beaver dams Sunday. Preachers used the pulpit to spread the water-conservation word. And nearby Anniston, Ala. is sending water Haralson’s way.

Haralson is the first Georgia county to trigger a Level III — the most severe — drought. Yet 50 counties across North Georgia are experiencing, at least, an “extreme” drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. A handful of counties in far Northwest Georgia are experiencing an “exceptional” — the worst — drought.

It’s up to everybody to do their part,” Walker said. “If you don’t need to use water, don’t use it. We’re asking everybody to conserve.”

He’s also aiming for those pesky, river-clogging beavers. About 30 volunteers targeted four beaver dams along the Tallapoosa River Sunday morning. They’ll try to tear down the dams by hand or, possibly, with back hoes. Wood and other debris dislodged from a dam the other night filled three dump trucks.

That’s right. You read that correctly. Haralson county is experiencing the worst drought they ever faced. Their lawns are dying and cars are dirty, even by California standards. And the most important water official in this entire dusty land is addressing the crisis by using work parties to rip out BEAVER DAMS because they HOG all the water.


I bet you didn’t know that all those years you turned off the tap to save water you were actually HOGGING IT!

Well, I wrote everyone a letter last night, including the reporter and all the mayors in Haralson county, and you can imagine how full my mailbox is this morning with heartfelt thanks appreciating the many articles I sent them. Because the entire state is so interested in research and learning. It’s hard to believe out here on the backwards west coast.

(Did you get that? Or is my sarcasm too subtle?)

I told them that ripping out dams to save water is like removing traffic lights to reduce accidents. I think of that beaver with a leaky pipe on the dry Guadalupe River just sitting there building his little dam and waiting for his pond to accumulate.

Beavers are so selfish. If he hadn’t hogged all those drips to himself they would have rolled into the cracked ground and disappeared entirely and the drought could have belonged to everyone.



You can never step in the same river twice – or can you?

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 16 - 2016Comments Off on You can never step in the same river twice – or can you?

Shaun Clements, research scientist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, tests the waters of the upper Deschutes River for environmental DNA. Scientists are now collecting eDNA to tell what species are present in aquatic populations.

What if you could take a thimbleful of water in Alhambra Creek and analyze it to learn what species lived in the water before now? Were there beavers? Coho? Wayward dolphins? With eDNA you can learn all that and more. And the science is just getting started.

Technology, DNA, may revolutionize fish and wildlife monitoring in streams

Enter the latest technology – environmental DNA (eDNA).

It’s actually been around for years, but the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s research branch is the latest to embrace science-fiction-become-reality.

From a test tube of untreated water taken in a river (lake, reservoir, etc.), scientists can determine what various species live in or near the water, based solely on the DNA they derive from microscopic particles found in the water.

“Environmental DNA … is naturally released by all living organisms (including people),” read a recent department news release. “The water in rivers and lakes contains millions of DNA particles, each with a unique signature. By sampling the water and decoding the DNA, researchers can tell if some … came from a coho salmon, beaver, spotted frog or other species.”

Isn’t that cool? Think about what it will be like when the science gets a little more specific and can tell you WHEN the population of leopard frog was greater or when beaver first appeared in the area.  I imagine it like DNA rings on an old tree – we’ll eventually get better at counting them and then the sky’s the limit.

“We are working towards a future where our biologists can collect a water sample, analyze it on site, and determine which of Oregon’s native and non-native aquatic species are in the general vicinity,” said Dr. Shaun Clements, research scientist for ODFW. “eDNA has the potential to revolutionize fish monitoring.

What they aren’t as sure of yet are how the eDNA moves, where the fish (frog, beaver, etc.) emitted the sample or even whether it originated in the same water.

While the department’s effort is new, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have been monitoring DNA from streams for several years across western Oregon and Washington.

There are plenty of mysteries I’d like eDNA solutions to. Like evidence of beavers historically in the sierras for example. In the meantime a girl can dream can’t she?

Our Beaver-buddy ‘Sylvie Biber’ from the Save the Tay beavers FB group posted this yesterday. Footage of the ostentatious ‘Mrs. Bob’ beaver and her five (yes five) new kits. Special moments of loveliness to watch for include the kit’s tail-up swim in the beginning, Mom’s four visible teats which I haven’t seen this late in the year here, the lovely eye whiskers/vibrasae in dawn lighting, the adorable mutual grooming between mom and kit, and the beautiful ‘kit reach’ at the end as the faulty visual tracking and depth perception of a young beaver clashes with the ever growing appetite and he reaches for a branch that is beyond his grasp.

Not to mention the LOVELY background noises of quail and dove that sound nothing like the ambient trains, garbage trucks and homeless cursing we get in Martinez.

I’m am deeply jealous of this moment. But I keep telling myself to be grateful. Martinez had a ‘long turn at the trough’ as they say.

“Ohhh the beaver and the rancher should be friends…”

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 15 - 2016Comments Off on “Ohhh the beaver and the rancher should be friends…”


Tcapturehe Seventh Generation Institute in New Mexico does remarkable work on a pretty fierce landscape. They’ve been interested in the role beavers can play repairing water systems for a long time, and now they are working with Jon Grigg and the ranchers in Elko to release this new film on the subject. I for one  can’t wait to see it. They are using CROWDRISE to raise funds for a screening tour around areas that need it most: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Nevada and oh yes CALIFORNIA.

Maybe after you see the trailer you’ll want to help get them started?

Trail Center presents film on ranching and beavers

ELKO — The California Trail Interpretive Center will present a free screening of a one-hour film that explores the pros and cons of beaver on ranch lands. “Rethinking Beaver: old nuisance or new partner?” will show at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

The film features local ranch manager Jon Griggs of Maggie Creek Ranch. It draws from real life experiences and unscripted interviews with him and other ranchers.

“Rethinking Beaver” explores the use of beaver as a tool to repair erosion, increase forage and overall productivity, and improve wildlife habitat on ranches.

The film was produced by Seventh Generation Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

smallerIf Elko Nevada doesn’t have the highest beaver IQ in the state -let alone the entire west I’d be very surprised. It was where I first read about the remarkable work of Carol Evans of the BLM which introduced me eventually to Susie Creek and Jon Griggs. Carol has since retired from her BLM job but is still interested in creeks and beavers. I was trying earlier to tempt her into hitching a ride to the State of the Beaver Conference in Oregon.

img_3508_cWhen SGI isn’t making movies it’s talking directly to ranchers,  relocating nuisance beaver or leading workshops teaching how to install flow devices. They are a front lines organization with smart work and good intentions. Congratulations Catherine Wilds and our friends at Seventh Generation! We can’t to wait to see the positive effect this has.



   Posted by heidi08 On October - 14 - 2016Comments Off on Confluence

I knew Joseph R. Walker was a mountain man who happened to be buried in Martinez. I wrote about him years ago when we were working on the historic prevalence papers.  I believe I referred to this picture as a “Dreamy Mona Lisa with a beard.” Ha!  But I never realized before how very important he was to the eventual settlement of California. It’s not a stretch to say we might not even be here if it wasn’t for him.

He was the first white man to cross the Humbolt Sink in Nevada. The first to find a pass over the Sierras. The first white man to stand in Yosemite. And although he is fairly forgotten by history, he was considered the greatest of fur trappers in his day.


He was a big man, 6 feet 2 and 220 lbs – but a thoughtful, unboastful, determined man who was said to never drink more than a toast. He was fair and cautious in his treatment of natives, but brutal if he felt they wronged him. While he never earned the fame of Bonneville (Who got Washington Irving to write his memoirs) or Fremont (who is famed for naming Tahoe) he was regarded as a remarkable leader of men and encouraged the most loyal regard by those who served him. The saying was that he only lost a single man in all his travels and that man had been attacked by a grizzly bear, not an indian.

Given our current political fray I found this quote about Fremont, attributed to Walker, amusing.

“Frémont, morally and physically, was the most complete coward I ever knew. I would call him a woman, if it were not casting an unmerited reproach on the sex.”

Yikes! That’s kind of respectable and catty at the same time. (Kind of like those leaked emails of Colin Powell.) Fremont was a complicated character in his own right, with his notable achievements including taking over as Governor of California, getting court marshaled for insubordination, being one of the new states first senators, and eventually running for president on an antislavery platform for the GOP.

Different story. Different day.

Back to our hero, I guess compared to Walker lots of men were short on courage. He was just 34 when Bonneville retained him to do a reconnaissance mission in ‘Alta California’ – which is what the Mexicans who were in charge of it called the territory. Since they were asking him to spy on another country Bonneville got him a Mexican passport before sending him out the door. Walker’s disguise was a fur trapper so he hired 60 grizzled others to look the part. They traveled down the Green River in Utah to the Humbolt in Nevada to the edge of the Sierras. They had been assured they would find the “Bonaventura” which was supposed to flow from Utah to the Pacific. Guess how true that turned out to be? Unfortunately it was already November by the time they started their ascent of the Sierras and conditions quickly went from bad to miserable.

Here’s  how a nice article in the Half Moon Bay Review recently described it

Growing short of food for themselves and feed for their animals, they moved ahead. What followed as they made their assault on the mountains is a truly California story. Their animals began to starve. The air was thin. Their wool and fur-lined clothing was little match for the snow and freezing wet cold. Most of all, the unknown way forward became a brew of uncertainty and fear, even for these seasoned men.

Walker needed to use both reason and inspiration. As they neared the highest ridges in mid-November they were also approaching the very edge of their ability to survive. They began eating their horses. There was talk of mutiny and retreat. They began to wonder whether they were more likely to survive by going forward or by retracing their steps in retreat. 

The part about eating their horses stuck in my craw the first time I read this. I guess because they theoretically were there to hunt beavers which they were just tossing away after they skinned them. Apparently during dire times mountain men were known to eat horses, mules, dogs, and their native guides – not to mention sucking what little nutrients they could glean from their beaver skins, leather fringes or moccasins.  Apparently they were on the original Paleo diet, gorging on barely cooked meat and fat when it was available and not eating much of anything else.

Suffice it to say our noble captain lead his men through an eventual pass and they left the snow to camp under the really big trees of Yosemite. He eventually discovered “Walker Pass” and opened all California for discovery. After Joseph and his friends had trapped out beaver they rented themselves as guides to the pioneers heading west.

He lived to the remarkable age of 80 and eventually went to live with his nephew on a ranch on Mount Diablo.

And so it came to pass that the most famed beaver trapper of his day was buried in the town of the most famous beavers in the nation which happened to be the home town of the most famous conservationist ever and where he was visited by the author of the most famous beaver book ever.

Because … castor coincidence.

  • Belated note. RIP to early Martinez Beaver supporter Paul L. Wilson who died peacefully and with family yesterday. Paul was the city watchdog and always ready to make sure they did the right thing. You will be missed.




Gentlemen of the night and early morning

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 13 - 2016Comments Off on Gentlemen of the night and early morning

Even if I was abducted by aliens this very moment, the following article would pretty much write itself. The column was written by Ben Gruber for the Hub -City Times.

Attending the Wisconsin Trappers Association Convention

Sept. 9 and 10 was the 54th annual Wisconsin Trappers Association Convention, held every year at the Central Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in Marshfield. A rainy start was unable to dampen the enthusiasm of trappers and outdoors enthusiasts from across the state and region that came to Marshfield to take part in the convention.

The buildings were filled with the latest innovations to hit the market for trapping, booth after booth of both new and used products available to those looking purchase, upgrade, sell, or trade equipment. Attendance appeared good despite the weather, and I was excited to see a fair share of younger folks here, although admittedly the demographic of trappers is headed the same way as that of all outdoorsmen: aging.

Nothing taught me more about wildlife behavior, wetland biology, and stream ecology than trying to outwit those raccoons, muskrats, beaver, and mink. I did that until I was about 18 when fur prices bottomed out and gas was expensive.

By his own admission Mr. Gruber hasn’t learned anything about stream ecology in many decades. Stop and think what your perspective on anything – cars, politics, sex, your parents – would be like if you had learned nothing since you were a teenager. This is what he knows about the role of beavers in streams and their importance theirin.

But I’m not a PETA fur-painter opposed violently to all hunting and trapping. Rather, consider me a pragmatist who gets frustrated when people don’t ‘read the label’ and make smarter decisions. The real problem isn’t the trappers of America whose numbers are so small they could fit in half of a roll of toilet paper. The real problem is US – you and me – who have expanded into every crevice of open space and get upset when the wildlife we displaced chews our begonias.

If America didn’t hire trappers to get rid of nuisance wildlife that little girl in the picture would never grow up to follow the trade.

I guess I think of trappers like prostitutes. Not my favorite profession, to be sure, but if the Johns stopped hiring them there would sure be fewer on every corner. The market demand creates the trapper just like it creates the hooker. If we alter the demand with education about flow devices and wrapping trees and teaching why beavers matter we have a better shot at reducing the numbers of grim night-walkers than if we arrest a few or spray paint their vehicles.

Don’t believe me? Let’s change this first and then we’ll talk.

depredation three years ca




Take me to the Faire!

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 12 - 2016Comments Off on Take me to the Faire!

The Renaissance faire was always a fun place to visit, I especially loved the old one in Novato before it moved. I loved the costumes and the ‘reduced shakespeare company’. Jon loved the beer. I remember one particularly clever vendor claimed that his “Oysters were guaranteed to work“. And one equally clever dissatisfied customer came back angrily saying “He had purchased two, and only one of them worked.” HA! ” The renaissance faire for visitors was the sometimes joyful sometimes awkward playdate of summer.

But for my acquaintances that worked it – it was more of a way of life. I remember one classmate who would work on stitching her bodice in Algebra class.  For a month or two out of each year ‘Rennies’ would literally live in character, speak in character, dress in character, do some drugs in character, and have sex in character. Sometimes they had more deeply vivid lives in character than they had without them. Lets call it the seedy underbelly of faire life.

And lets just be thankful they weren’t working the Rendezvous circuit.

Event teaches crafts, history

Once again, the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge is a window to the past with the 23rd annual Mountain Man Rendezvous.

History enthusiasts set up camp at the refuge like 19th-century trappers and traders and gave presentations Friday to students about various historical topics, from blacksmithing to trapping. The rendezvous will continue today and Sunday, so visitors can learn more about the past.

Gordon “Talking Bear” Welch from Wichita has attended the rendezvous off and on for 15 years. On Friday, he spoke to schoolchildren about the life of a trapper.

“I give trap demonstrations, show them how beavers were skinned and turned into hats,” he said. “A lot of people ask if the traps would cut off a beaver’s foot. I say that’s the last thing a mountain man wants, because then the beaver can just swim away.”

Well isn’t that precious. Teaching children how hundreds of millions of beavers were slaughtered. I can’t think of anything more inspiring.  Of course if the trap cut off both their feet they couldn’t ‘swim away’ could they? I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that there are many survivalists in the mix who expect the wild west to come back any day now.

“I think it’s best to know how to do things the old-fashioned way, just in case,” he said.

Minix said there’s value in learning old crafts, especially in troubled times. If a situation arises where people are cut off from modern technology and amenities, these old skills could be very useful.


Anyone wanna guess the number of firearms these men own?  Me either. I’m pretty sure the actual rendezvous were no place to ever bring a decent human being let alone a child.  There must have been shooting, stealing, boasting, swearing and all kinds of whoring.

Kind of like a Trump Rally really.

My ecosystem poster got a fair amount of attention yesterday. Fur-bearer Defenders wants to re-release it with legit images and co credit Worth A Dam. Environmental writer Mary Ellen Hannibel reposted it yesterday on facebook and I’m hopeful an artist friend of hers will take it under their creative wing soon.

It’s nice when crime pays, isn’t it? :-)


Pyramid Scheme

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 11 - 2016Comments Off on Pyramid Scheme

The internet is a big sandbox, and when I play in it I tend to share other kids toys without asking. Technically, I hate when people use our photos without permission, but we almost always say ‘yes’ when we are asked. (And we are asked a lot.) The number one reason I’m possessive is just that I think anyone could get wonderful photos of their own if they just worked on coexisting with beaver in their own neighborhoods. They wouldn’t need to steal OUR photos if they just learned how to stop killing beavers.

But when I do something criminal to copyright law myself, (and I do it a lot) I prefer to think of it as “Quilting“. Putting existing fabric together in new artful ways to create a finished piece that is warmly useful and belongs to the quilter.  I say this in preference to the product of my greatest copyright-violating-quilt yet. Yes, these are images I hunted for and stole out of the ‘sandbox’. Yes, the quote is from the recent BBC earth article and not original. I didn’t make the font either. But isn’t it beautiful?