Farming Friends and Beavers

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 19 - 2016Comments Off on Farming Friends and Beavers

Oh the farmer and the beaver should be friends,
Oh the farmer and the beaver should be friends,
The beaver likes to build his dams
The farmer plants his corn and yams
But that’s no reason why they can’t be friends.

You know I already did a complete rendition of this song for the salmon in 2011, but I guess the beavers have lots of friends, (and don’t it’s not my fault if dam just naturally rhymes with yam, okay?)




Pond and Slower Streams created by Beaver Serve as Nitrogen Sinks

Beavers, once valued for their fur, may soon have more appreciation in the Northeastern United States. There they are helping prevent harmful levels of nitrogen from reaching the area’s vulnerable estuaries. By creating ponds that slow down the movement of water, they aid in removing nitrogen from the water.

Arthur Gold at the University of Rhode Island, along with his colleagues, studies how the presence of beavers affects nitrogen levels in these waters. “What motivated us initially to study this process was that we were aware of the fact that beaver ponds were increasing across the Northeast,” he said. “We observed in our other studies on nitrogen movement that when a beaver pond was upstream, it would confound our results.

Those darn confounding beavers, ruining Suzanne Fouty’s drought research and Glynnis Hood’s nine year study with their crafty, research ruining ways. Just look at our beavers in Martinez! Confounding their memorial by continuing to exist!

The researchers realized the water retention time and organic matter build up within beavers’ ponds lead to the creation of ideal conditions for nitrogen removal. They then wanted to see how effectively they can do this. The researchers tested the transformative power of the soil by taking sample cores and adding nitrogen to them. These samples, about the size of a large soda bottle, were large enough to incorporate the factors that generate chemical and biological processes that take place in the much larger pond. They were also small enough to be replicated, manageable and measured for numerous changes. Researchers then added a special type of nitrogen to the samples that allowed them to be able to tell if the nitrogen was transformed and how.

Bacteria in the organic matter and soil were able to transform nitrogen, specifically as nitrate, into nitrogen gas, removing it from the system. Thanks to the conditions brought about by the beaver ponds, this process can remove approximately 5-45% of the nitrogen in the water, depending on the pond and amount of nitrogen present.

“I think what was impressive to us was that the rates were so high,” Gold explained. “They were high enough and beavers are becoming common enough, so that when we started to scale up we realized that the ponds can make a notable difference in the amount of nitrate that flows from our streams to our estuaries.

Ahh those rascally beavers, fixing our nitrogen problems and saving our salmon. I’m sure farmers will be rushing to lay down their dynamite and welcome these flat-tailed eco-heroes, right? I won’t hold my breath. It takes a lot of effort on all sides to change hearts and minds about beavers – which we learned first hand in Martinez.

Speaking of which, the drama was apparently a big enough deal (even in Washington) that I’m allowed officially to say it will be recognized by our Congressman at the beaver festival with an award and visit, and some discussing of the slim possibility of adding the Martinez Beavers to the congressional record.

No really.


Beaver Mystery

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 18 - 2016Comments Off on Beaver Mystery

beaver mysteryYou would think, wouldn’t you, that after 10 frickin years of watching a single beaver family you would actually have a clue about what to expect. I mean after ten years of marriage there really aren’t many surprises, ten years as a parent you’re pretty much ready for anything, and after ten years at the office there really isn’t anything new under the sun.

But beavers, apparently, are an eternal mystery

We saw both Wayward Street beavers on Friday as you know and Jon saw them in the evening over the weekend a couple times. This morning we went down to see them again and say only one small cautious beaver. Where was mom? Was she hiding out? Then Moses drove up and said he had been filming mom working on the dam at the OTHER place down stream. (!!!) He showed me the footage, and thought she looked very pregnant, which I think she might be but can’t imagine it is late enough for her to show, since he just filmed them mating 5 weeks ago and she should be due until September.

Why didn’t dad go with her back to their old haunts? It was a very high tide last night, and will be again tomorrow. Will he move down to be with her eventually? Are they sick of each other? Are they taking a break? Has he met someone else? Or could this possibly be a whole NEW beaver?

We don’t know. We have no way of knowing, and the beavers obviously aren’t talking. Stay Tuned.

The Importance of being Ernst

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 17 - 2016Comments Off on The Importance of being Ernst

Sometimes even the back of the class earns a gold star. The Ernst trail  in Meadville PA lies in the upper left hand corner of the state near Ohio. Neither state has been particularly progressive on beaver management issues in the past, so I was thrilled to see this. Remember the trapper who said he was only going to take the ‘soldier beavers’?

ON THE ERNST TRAIL: Importance of beaver pond outweighs potential flooding

In the spring of 2015 the water, in the wetland, just south of Bean’s, on the west side of the Ernst Trail, began to rise precipitously up toward the trail. The water was also rising on the east side of the trail. We were concerned that the water might flow over the trail and perhaps damage the trail surface.

A short investigation revealed that beavers had dammed up the two culverts that drain from the west side of the trail to the east side and that there were many small dams on the east side as well. The board of directors decided to act.

In the course of trying to figure out what to do I visited the trail one June day last year at lunch with Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer Mark Allegro. He was busy with nuisance bear complaints and only had time at lunch to consider our beaver problem. Mark pointed out that there weren’t any good options; our best hope was to wait for trapping season and get a trapper to trap the beavers

Since it was a nice noon-time, many people were on the trail, several of them recognized Mark, who was in uniform, and commented on wildlife they had seen along the trail. One person pointed out a huge snapping turtle on a log in the beaver pond, about 30 feet from the trail. Another showed me a couple of snakes alongside the trail that I had walked right by. Others noted birds they had seen, signs of beaver activity and so on. Our beaver pond was generating quite a bit of interest for trail users.

To better understand what a beaver pond had to offer, I talked to Scott Wissinger, an ecology professor at Allegheny College. Here’s what he said: “Because beaver ponds create so many different types of sub habitats of different shallow depths, flow regimes, plant communities and invertebrate communities, they are considered hot beds of biological diversity. Even if people don’t really care about invertebrate and plant diversity, they might care because the invertebrates and plants (especially their seeds) are magnets for charismatic animals that people do care about — fish, waterfowl, songbirds, amphibians and reptiles.”

With all this life attracted to the beaver pond, our board of directors decided to let the beavers alone. We’ll take our chances on the flooding.

Yes, if you need advice on trapping, go to the Game Warden, but if you need advice on BEAVERS go to college. I’m so hopeful about this article and will be working hard to get in touch with the author so he can see how to prevent flooding AND keep beavers. I can’t tell you how impressed I am that the people on the trail got you thinking about the enormous impact a beaver pond has on wildlife. And so glad that you listened, and kept asking questions because that isn’t easy to do when a man in a uniform tells you to give up.

Shout out to Janet Thew who posted on FB about the beaver totem skins offered by Decalgal. Of course I wrote her WRITE AWAY and she said she’d be delighted to donate to the silent auction. How much do you love this?

Final gift from Moses Silva filmed at the noisy crane work station by the beaver home. I guess not everyone is intimidated by progress.




Selfies and Science

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 16 - 2016Comments Off on Selfies and Science

Something really exciting happened yesterday, but I am using all my shards of self control and not talking about it yet, in case it affects the outcome. You will know soon. And it will be cool. I promise. In the mean time, a wildlife friend posted this article on FB and it really got me thinking.

Even scientists take selfies with wild animals. Here’s why they shouldn’t.

One of the great things about being a biologist is getting to work in the field and connect with wildlife. Through my career, I have enjoyed many unforgettable close encounters with various species, including turtles, birds, marine mammals, invertebrates and a lot of fish, especially sharks and rays.

My research program also has a strong focus on citizen science. I use data collected by recreational scuba divers and snorkelers to describe marine animal populations and conservation needs. Therefore, I work closely with the tourism industry.

Reflecting on my own experiences, however, I recognize that I and many of my peers have not always followed those best practices. Sure, we need to have close encounters with wildlife to do our work, and we have the necessary training and permits. We often have reason to photograph animals in the course of our research – for example, to quickly capture information such as size, health, sex, and geographic location. But we do not have permission, or good reason, to engage in recreational activities with our animal subjects – including restraining them for selfies.

I have worked with many researchers, including some who have pioneered best handling practices for wild animals. These people have years of training and experience, and know how to handle and release animals properly to maximize their survival. I have witnessed the making of many researcher-animal selfies – including photos with restrained animals during scientific study. In most cases the animal was only held for an extra fraction of a second while vigilant researchers simply glanced up and smiled for the camera already pointing in their direction.

But some incidents have been more intrusive. In one instance, researchers had tied a large shark to a boat with ropes across its tail and gills so that they could measure, biopsy and tag it. Then they kept it restrained for an extra 10 minutes while the scientists took turns hugging it for photos.

Although this may be an extreme case, a quick online search for images of “wildlife researchers” produces plenty of photos of scientist-selfies – with whales, birds, bats, fish, turtles, and other animals – including some of the world’s most endangered species.

Mixed signals

Taking selfies with animals may seem trivial and even beneficial if the photos get viewers interested in science. But these images do not show the researcher’s expertise or training or explain how his or her scientific sampling protocols have been vetted and approved by animal ethics experts. Moreover, the photos do not reveal that many sampling procedures injure or kill some of the animals that are captured for study and that research proposals include acceptable numbers of casualties. The public only sees scientists with animals that appear to be thriving and producing valuable information, despite being captured and handled.

When biologists add extra seconds or minutes of restraint for taking selfies, they reinforce the perception that animals are robust enough to tolerate this treatment. Some members of the public may think that it is a safe and acceptable practice and try to emulate what they see.

The easiest way to show that researchers working with wild animals are following best practices is to avoid engaging in recreational activities with restrained animal subjects, and to be careful about sharing photos from the field that are not clearly related to sanctioned research activities. By taking these steps, biologists can lead by example and help guide the public to interact more responsibly with wildlife.

Of course when I read this article I immediately went searching for scientists posing with beavers, and thought to my self, NO ONE would do that. But of course they did do that. After I found the first one I thought, well sure there’s one lunatic in Canada but no one ELSE would do that. And then I found three more. And then I stopped looking because it was too depressing.

The smart article makes reference also to the great effect of famous reseasherri worth a damrchers interacting gently with animals (Jane Goodall, Sylvie Erle) (Ahem, Sherri Tippie) and says that while those events have significant benefit to public perception and little harm to the animals, researchers still need to be thoughtful about their choices every time.  Is the photo to help the world see that animal in a different way? Or is it just to show off? Where will this photo go and who should see it?

Even if all the average biologist, researcher and technician did was THINK of the points raised in this article I’d be grateful. The tension between observing and interacting is a constant one, and certainly not unfelt in the drama of the Martinez Beavers, right down to the end of life decisions we had to make with our original mom. Go read the whole thing, and share it with your wildlife friends.

And I will try again tomorrow not to blurt out the exciting almost-news.

View from under the bridge

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 15 - 2016Comments Off on View from under the bridge

All we can hope, in this tangled day and age where nothing is certain and there are no guarantees, is that if someone decides one day to paint a memorial bridge in our memory, we get to come back and swim UNDER it.

This is what Jon filmed last night, when he went to check on our wayWard st™ beavers. Mom still there enjoying the pool and surveying the joint, and dad right behind being cautiously eager as usual. Will they stay only as long as that felled tree lasts? Will they move on in a day or two? We know what questions to ask but not what answers to give.

It occurred to me yesterday in my bleary sleep-deprived afternoon that it had been 10 months and 7 days since the last time I had seen beavers at Ward St. During that excruciating time we had missed them, mourned them, and given them a memorial.

Best. Un-memorial. Ever.

beavers under the bay bridge

A Present for Rusty

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 14 - 2016Comments Off on A Present for Rusty

I never thought I’d ever really appreciate the noisy art of chainsaw carving. Clearly I was wrong.

The evolution of a beaver

Mr. “Rusty” Beaver was raised in a 12-metre (40-foot) spruce tree on a quiet residential street in the Canadian prairie town of Beausejour, Manitoba. After 78 years of slow growth in sandy soil, his journey west began when the lives of his mom, sisters and brothers came to an abrupt end in favour of a new residential development.

Fortunately for Mr. Beaver, he was rescued by Beausejour resident Russ Kubara, retired school teacher and chainsaw carver extraordinaire. Then it all came together. A new roof on Ron’s house decommissioned the flagpole that launched off the eave and a date for a road trip to Russ’s new home in Beausejour was confirmed.

Day after day, the 180-kilogram (400-pound) log was whittleCaptured down to a manageable 90 kgs (200 pounds). A large hole was bored through from top to bottom and an eight-metre (25-foot) flag pole already waiting with the Canadian flag mounted was inserted.

It was so fitting – Canada’s mascot at work chewing a tree at the base of the Canadian flag.

Ron thoroughly enjoyed seeing Mr. Beaver come into existence as he emerged from the spruce log formerly laying prone in Russ’ back yard. He is now securely fastened to a buried concrete base in his new home at the front of Ron and Lynne Kubara’s house in Surrey.

Mr. Beaver now has been christened Rusty – named for his creator.

You can’t imagine how longingly I’m looking at my front yard waiting for a beaver flag pole holder to appear! We of course need two: (one American one British). The creative process and repurposing is very impressive. And to think that lucky beaver is named for our own Napa photographer extraordinaire obviously! He sent this last night as a demonstration of beavers creating habitat for turtles.


Turtle and Beaver: Rusty Cohn


My buddy at NCHEMS helped with a  very odd request yesterday. This is a map of all the places in California that issued ZERO depredation permits last year. We can infer what that means, right? California is missing a lot of beavers.

no permits 2016But I of course saved the REAL news for last. Guess who was cheerfully swimming around Ward Street today enjoying that felled willow? Two lovely beavers as comfortable in that big pool as you please.

The habitat is so rich up there my lens apparently got distracted by a moth, but never mind. We know who that was.

There was no activity at all at the old dam, where we started the morning at 5. Does that mean they moved? Does that mean their vacationing? Does that mean they’ll build a dam at Ward Street when the rains start? I can honestly say, after a decade of beaver watching, and dedicated study that I have absolutely no idea.

Stay tuned and we’ll see.


New Beaver News

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 13 - 2016Comments Off on New Beaver News

I want Benny the beaver at the festival! What do you think it would take to induce a field trip?

‘Benny Beaver’ stars at OSU Day at County Fair

Benny Beaver will be showing his trademark buckteeth and flat tail at the Hood River County Fair. The OSU mascot will be cruising the fairgrounds on Thursday, July 28, starting at 1 p.m. with free photo opportunities and a scavenger hunt with prizes. Benny will help fairgoers learn what Oregon State University is doing in Hood River County.

Benny has a rich history with Oregon State University and its culture. Beginning in 1908, “The Beaver” was used as the school newspaper’s title and later as the yearbook title in 1916. Benny’s name came from a photograph of OSU students standing next to a beaver statue that was inscribed as “Benny Beaver” in the 1942 yearbook, but didn’t officially become the mascot until 1945. The first performance at an athletic event from the mascot was in 1952.

Ahhh, speaking of having a ‘rich history’!

Things are starting to feel actual, the buttons arrived yesterday (so cute). Here they are decorating my wineglass last night.

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Amelia Hunter finished her wonderful brochure and it’s off to the printers for execution. I made it into a flip book for you here. It will take a moment to load but be patient! Make sure you click on the image to enhance the view and scan thru the pages. Didn’t she do an awesome job?

My buddy at NCHEMS helped me again load the county data into a depredation map, and this is the horrific result.

depredation three years caAs you can see, the number of unlimited permits has tanked and the number of allowable beavers has skyrocketed. Not exactly the kind of difference I was hoping to make!

But there’s one GRAND new event that eclipses all others and made our hearts sing yesterday.

IMG_1336This whopping willow specimen was at Ward street and had already been chopped down once about 10 years ago.  It was such a lovely piece of work we decided to snag the top and bottom chews right away for educational display.  Being that it’s July – not the most chewy month (lots of other food available) and such a BIG tree I’m going to guess its the work of our youngish male, who’s definitely strutting his stuff. Maybe the pile driver had something to do with it too – driving them upstream. Currently these lovely carvings adorn our fireplace hearth. I honestly NEVER imaged that we’d have beavers chewing trees upstream again. Did you?

It made me feel like I’d drunk far too much champagne all day.