A silly thing and three special things

   Posted by heidi08 On May - 17 - 20151 COMMENT

First the silly thing….

Beaver cuts tree down, starts grass fire south of Saskatoon

Capture SASKATOON – A beaver caused a large grass fire Saturday, according to the Saskatoon Fire Department. The blaze was located near Valley Road, south of the city near The Berry Barn.  The fire department says the animal chew ed down a poplar tree which fell on a power line.

Those beaver arsonists are the worst! Smoking in bed, starting fires with their appetizer course, with zero regard for personal property. They obviously don’t know how hard it is to put up those power lines in the first place.

Now, let’s share in the wondrous developments at the Napa beaver pond, where Rusty has been patiently waiting for a glimpse of the new kits. Of course while he’s waiting there’s lots to see. Check out this weekends bounty.

He even got video of two otters at the sight having a little tussle. Megan of ROEP thinks it mighthave something to do with mating. How exciting!

Now for this truly stunning photograph brought to my attention by someone I can’t yet bring to your attention. Isn’t this BEAUTIFUL?

kit ride

This is the kind of photo that every wildlife watcher dreams of getting. That perfect moment when opportunity crosses your path and everything goes right. He writes that it’s a mother carrying her kit, which is a fair assumption. But we in Martinez know it might not be true. The most stunning footage I ever got was dad carrying both kits. And we only know that because of mom’s beautiful tail clue.

This is the kind of photo that saves beavers, so I hope Jeff doesn’t mind too much if I share. You can see Jeff’s remarkable work on flickr here.

And finally the best for last. Now pull up a chair and gather close because this is really important. First, a little background. In the films about Grey Owl they describe him doing a special call to bring the beavers. The way a duck call brings ducks. Which I would have ignored as silly if I hadn’t also read in a book about someone who hand-reared kits in Canada who said that their brother was a trapper and he taught her to call beavers. She noted that it was so powerful she would never teach anyone else because she didn’t want trappers to use it. So I was curious.

And then there’s Bernie Krause’s amazing recording of the beaver after the dam and his family was blown up. It sounds very much like he is mourning. But I after I heard it I always wondered if he was calling to find them. (Which is what we would do if our homes were blown up and we weren’t sure if our family members were inside.) I discussed this idea with him, but he was fairly disinterested. But then yesterday – out of NOWHERE – I stumbled on this.

I know that readers of this site mostly don’t click on the videos. Life is busy and who has time? Believe me when I say you want to see this. (I was so scared it would end badly I practically watched it with my eyes closed the first time. But nothing bad happens, trust me.) And this is really, really worth your time.

(I trust if you know any trappers, you won’t show it to them.) And honestly, don’t practice this call on our beavers because they’ve been through enough. But isn’t that amazing? Do you realize what this means? It means parents call kits. And beavers call each other. I am sure this is a youngish beaver, looking for his family. What surprised me was not only that it existed, but how very different the sound is from a kit whining. Almost like loud nasal mooing. Also I could hear the similarity in the young beaver answers, and hear how similar it is to our kits whining. It made me think that beaver kits are imitating adult speech – just like children!

Honestly, this is a big deal. Such a big deal that I got an email last night from Bernie Krause himself.

SWAP places with the beaver…

   Posted by heidi08 On May - 16 - 2015Comments Off

Beaver takes stroll down aisles of Alaska hardware store before being foiled in plumbing


Beaver at Lowe’s in Fairbanks
A beaver pauses in the middle of an aisle at the Lowe’s store in Fairbanks, Alaska, Friday, May 15, 2015. The beaver triggered the automatic doors and strolled inside, where it wandered around the aisles until workers were able to corral it under a box. Alaska Fish and Game officials relocated the animal to a more suitable location. Photo courtesy of Angelesa Ward

FAIRBANKS, Alaska – A beaver walked into an Alaska hardware store on Friday, but couldn’t find anything for his lodge.

 The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports (http://is.gd/6oWIqo) the beaver triggered the automatic doors and walked into Lowe’s about 7 a.m. Friday.

 Employees trapped the beaver with a cardboard box in the plumbing department. A state wildlife biologist was called.

 Hollis released the beaver into the Tanana River, far enough from town where it won’t be a nuisance.

 Lowe’s assistant manager Adam Vanhoveln says the beaver didn’t cause too much of a commotion, and it didn’t reach the lumber department.

 My goodness dispersal season is exciting. And terrifying. Anything could happen. Someone in the video on the website observes that he appears to be bleeding. Which isn’t surprising when you consider how low he is to the ground and all the distance he had to travel from the water. Beavers have keen senses of smell.  Maybe he went in because he could scent the lumber? Well hopefully he wasn’t too badly injured and can stick to the water from now on.

Ongoing beaver drama from Ada MI.

Neighbors battle over beavers in condo pond


Ohhh this is turning out to be very, very interesting. Mr. Hughes hasn’t written me back yet, but you can see he is a thoughtful man who’s done his homework. Assuming he’s looked for beaver information on the web at all he’s seen this website and knows where to find us. Good luck beaver champion! Let us know if you need any help!

In case anyone else wants homework this weekend, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has just released their SWAP assessment (state wildlife action plan) which they do every 10 years. This includes public review dates. They’ll be taking public comment through the end of the month. Go here to read about their wildlife plan or tell them something in particular about beavers.

Sacramento — May 22, 2015, 9-11 am, Resources Building Auditorium, 1416 Ninth St.,

Oakland —May 28, 2015, 2-4 pm, Joseph P. Bort Metro Center Auditorium, 101 Eighth St.,

San Diego —June 3, 2015, 1:30-3:30 pm, Chula Vista Women’s Club Reception Hall, 357 G St., Chula Vista

Los Angeles — June 4, 2015, 2-4 pm, Los Angeles Zoo Witherbee Auditorium, 5333 Zoo Dr., Los Angeles (Does not include zoo admission)

If you think CDFW is doing a great job with beaver management, then let them carry blithely on. But if you (like me) have some ideas for improvement spend some time wading through the materials and let them hear from you by email or in person. If this all seems inconvenient look on the bright side. At least the oakland meeting doesn’t charge admission.

Free, furry nitrate-removal kits.

   Posted by heidi08 On May - 15 - 2015Comments Off

Wetlands continue to reduce nitrates

Wetlands created 20 years ago between tile-drained agricultural fields and the Embarras River were recently revisited for a new two-year University of Illinois research project. Results show an overall 62 percent nitrate removal rate and little emission of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas.

Slowing down the rate of flow of the water by intercepting it in the wetland is what helps to remove the nitrate,” says Mark David, a University of Illinois biogeochemist in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. “The vegetation that grows in the wetland doesn’t make much of a difference because the grasses don’t take up much nitrogen. It’s just about slowing the water down and allowing the microbes in the sediment to eliminate the nitrate. It goes back into the air as harmless nitrogen gas.”

I’m so glad Illinois is looking into this. We really need to understand the ways to fix our streams. The EPA says that nitrates are leftovers from all the fertilizers and rodenticides farmers use. And that if the get into wells or groundwater they can cause illness in children or cancer at higher levels.

Exposure to nitrates and nitrites at levels above health-based risk values has adverse health effects on infants and children. The health effect of most concern to the U.S. EPA for children is the “blue baby syndrome” (methemoglobinemia) seen most often in infants exposed to nitrate from drinking water used to make formula.

Exposure to higher levels of nitrates or nitrites has been associated with increased incidence of cancer in adults, and possible increased in cidence of brain tumors, leukemia, and nasopharyngeal (nose and throat)  

As a rule Americans are against turning our babies blue or giving ourselves cancer. So we really, really want to get rid of nitrates when we can. And it turns out that just slowing down the water by making wetlands is a better way to do that than just about anything else. Even better than plants. Even better than building expensive bioreactors.

“Farmers generally prefer to install bioreactors because they don’t take up much space,” Gentry says. “A wetland requires about 3 to 4 percent of the drainage area. So, for a 100-acre field, you’d need about 4 acres in wetland. Although bioreactors don’t use much land, they also don’t slow the water enough during high flows. Research on their performance is still underway. Because water tends to be in the wetlands for a much longer time period, they are more effective.”

Wow, wetlands work harder for longer and they are supremely effective at getting rid of nitrates. We really need them! The article doesn’t mention it but they also have all these added benefits as a buffer zone for huge storms, and a stopping place for migratory birds, or habitat for wildlife. We should be working hard to protect them since they do this important work. Maybe giving a tax credit to farmers  that allow them?

The article also doesn’t mention a certain rodent that actually makes and maintains these valuable wetlands for free. Its name escapes me now. What was it called again?

I think it started with a ‘B’?

Mudding the dam Cheryl Reynolds

Mudding the dam Cheryl Reynolds

Thanks to BK for sending this my way.

Beavers don’t have Lodge Owners Associations

   Posted by heidi08 On May - 14 - 2015Comments Off

Family of beavers face eviction from their adopted pond in Ada subdivision

ADA TOWNSHIP, MI – A family of beavers that has moved into a pond at the Ada Moorings subdivision may soon be evicted, despite the impassioned protests of neighbors who live in the surrounding houses.

The beavers have endeared themselves to nature-minded residents after building a lodge in one of the ponds dug to collect rain water in subdivision, located near the south banks of the Grand River east of Ada.

“The Beavers Have Returned!” cried a neighborhood newsletter that celebrated the return of the furry beasts to their historic habitat.

That’s not how the beavers are being welcomed by the board of the Ada Moorings Condominium Association, which governs the ponds and grounds for 151 homes in the site condominium development.

 The busy beavers’ efforts to block an outflow drain on the pond have upset neighbors, who worry the dam will cause water levels to rise in the connected ponds and create flooding in the neighborhood.

 Chris Beckering, the association’s president, said the neighbors have had to remove the dams almost daily to assure the flow of water through the ponds to the Grand River.

 ”As an association, we are concerned about damage to our infrastructure and potentially, our homes,” Beckering said.

Visible Popcorngif.com beavers! Supportive residents! And a negative administrative response! Could there be a better combination for a beaver drama in Michigan? Maybe Martinez can help – we’ve certainly been there, eight years ago when our beavers were busily stirring up terror in a town afraid of flooding. Neighbor pitted against neighbor in the single biggest event ever to happen to Martinez. This is right out of our playbook. Just look at this deeply threatening nonresponse from Mr. Bickering;

On Tuesday, May 12, the condominium association’s board reiterated its decision to contact the state’s Department of Natural Resources about the best way to remove the beavers, their homes and their infrastructure, Beckering said.

 ”They have put us in touch with a trapper,” said Beckering, who declined to speculate on how a trapper might resolve the problem.

 ”It’s not our place to tell them,” Beckering said.

That’s right. We just contact them, retain them and pay for them. We can’t be responsible for what they decide to do. Just like people aren’t responsible when they hire a hit man. Oh wait, that’s right, courts tend to think they are.

Well I tracked down everyone I could find and sent off the information and resources about what we did in Martinez. I even sent this Michigan radio program on beavers from a few years back just in case they could listen better to one of their own. If you never heard it I think you might enjoy it.

hileplay_audioOh and it’s getting to be summer and time for more beaver horror stories, how many new outlets do you think this will be on by tomorrow? It includes a grisly photo of the dead beaver, which you will have to go look at yourself.

Woman is savaged by an angry beaver: Neighbour stabs animal to death after seeing it tearing at his friend’s leg in Russia

 A woman in Russia who had her leg ripped open by an angry beaver was saved after a neighbour came running over and stabbed it in the head.

 But she felt a terrible pain in her leg and looked down to see a large animal had bitten into her calf. Miss Eliseeva said: ‘I was in complete shock and had no idea what it was at first.

‘I thought it might have been a dog that had jumped on me. It was quite dark but it seemed to be standing on its tail as it was so tall.

‘Then it he got on all fours and charged at me again. Its teeth were in my leg and it was furiously shaking its head from side to side.

‘I was screaming like a maniac and this man suddenly appeared out of nowhere and attacked the beaver.’

The woman’s rescuer, local man Hleb Yefremov, 54, said: ‘I heard the girl scream and saw this giant hairy beast attacking her.

‘I didn’t stop to think what it was, I just pulled out my knife and plunged it into the creature’s back. It was only later I realised it was a beaver and not a dog.’

I know there are rabid beavers in the world, and that beaver teeth are sharp. But why are these ‘unprovoked’ attacks always in kit season? Doesn’t that make it seem like there might be some perceived provocation on the part of the beaver?

WHYoming? (The powerful E. Coli Lobby strikes again!)

   Posted by heidi08 On May - 13 - 20152 COMMENTS

Forbidden Data: Wyoming just criminalized citizen science.

“The new law makes it a crime to gather data about the condition of the environment across most of the state if you plan to share that data with the state or federal government. The reason? The state wants to conceal the fact that many of its streams are contaminated by E. coli bacteria”

Justin Pidot for Slate

Everyone interested in water should be interested in this news from  the cowboy state, where the governor signed SF0015 into law making it illegal for any citizen to collect data on open lands or water anywhere in the state without express permission from the polluting landowner to do so.

“Resource data” means data relating to land or land use, including but not limited to data regarding agriculture, minerals, geology, history, cultural artifacts, archeology, air, water, soil, conservation, habitat, vegetation or animal species.

Got that? So no Friends of Alhambra Creek water quality or student soil samples will be allowed unless the landowner specifically says so, which I’m sure if there was anything wrong they’d be happy to do right? Because people love to have it pointed out to them when their oil well is seeping or quarry chemicals are leaking.

Here’s a very good summary of the law and it’s specifics.

One area that has been an issue for concern all over the state is E Coli in streams, generally caused by cattle spending too much time where they shouldn’t be. This cheerful bacteria, as you know, can cause illness or even death. The WWP (Western Watersheds Project) has been spending a lot of time on this issue and Ranchers are particularly eager for them to stop it. Now they can finally make sure that anyone looking for unpleasant things will stay out, or even if the sneaky do-gooders manage to find something, it can never be used in court.


No resource data collected in violation of this section is admissible in evidence in any civil, criminal or administrative proceeding.


Resource data collected in violation of this section in the possession of any governmental entity as shall be expunged by the entity from all files and data bases, and it shall not be considered in determining any agency action.

I cannot possibly imagine what greater protection they could be giving to  the polluters than this. It is officially illegal to look for wrong-doing or report it, but even if you do, the facts you find will never be admissible or used in any way expect for  your own prosecution.

You’ve heard of protections for whistle-blowers? Apparently not in Wyoming.



So close and yet so far…

   Posted by heidi08 On May - 12 - 2015Comments Off

There’s very encouraging news out of Alberta this morning, where Lorne Fitch is holding an all-day workhop on beaver management and benefits. He’s the provincial riparian expert at the extremely beaver-progressive Cows and Fish  which has done so much for beaver education in the province.Capture

Beaver education presented by Lorne Finch

A May 21 workshop will help educate landowners, municipal officials and anyone interested in the impacts of beavers on the surrounding area will be held May 21 at the Cremona Community Hall.

 “Beavers bring challenges, but they also bring benefits,” said Finch. “The challenge is what is the balance between the two?”

The purpose of the workshop is to highlight the impact Canada’s national animal has on watersheds in the area surrounding Cremona, values beavers provide for the community and issues and challenges presented by beavers.

“It has become recognized by many ecologists that beavers are one of the tools that help us adapt to climate change,” said Finch. “We recognize that climate is changing, it’s becoming more variable and uncertain. In some cases the climate manifested as weather events (that are) quite violent.”

 Finch said beavers have helped maintain safety for communities whether there is a drought or a flood. In the case of a flood beaver dams help moderate or dampen flood flows, while during a drought they naturally help store water and controls the effects of low stream flow conditions.

One of the key segments that will be offered during the workshop offers insight to better understand beaver ecology.

A whole day of beaver education? Don’t you want to be there? Cows and Fish has made a name for itself by straight talking right to the ranchers themselves. They have done amazing job making the smart beaver research done by Dr. Hood and others available at the hands-on level.  They have a great relationship with the media and they know how to use it well, and are firmly committed to letting beaver do their restoration all over the province. This video introduces there long-term restoration goals, and is nicely done. (Even if it DOES sport a famous muskrat photo….sheesh.)

It’s hard to understand how such a significant beaver IQ could plummet so dramatically if the boundary is crossed into the next province over, Saskatchewan. 850 miles from the Cremona, the even less populated untown of Kellross is doing everything it can to get rid of beavers. (Everything it can without actually learning, I mean.)

 Beavers are a nightmare for some in rural Saskatchewan

 Provincially, beaver numbers are up as well. The beaver control program is an initiative of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, with help from the province.

In 2014, a total of 37,645 beaver tails were turned in — a significant jump (about 56 per cent) from the 27,653 beaver tails submitted in 2013.

Despite the aggravation they cause, Patterson still has a grudging admiration for the engineering feats, and stick-to-it attitude, of the beaver.

“They are good workers,” he admitted. “They’re hard workers that’s for sure. They don’t give up.”

For reference, the province is about 3 times the size of Texas. They are so notorious for beaver slaying that they were in the canadian version of Jari Osborne’s documentary. And I first wrote about them on this website in 2011 when I was prompted to create the famous ‘exploding beaver’ graphic.

exploding beaver The province has 22,921 square miles of water which means they killed 1.6 beaver per mile. Considering that the numbers of beavers went UP every year you’d think they start to consider that maybe this technique wasn’t working. Instead of just doing it more, they could actually do something different?  With population rebound being what it is this might not be the smartest idea.

Apparently there’s no danger of any thinking going on anytime soon. Guess what the numbers will be next year?

Yesterday I spent some time working on the handout for children participating in the Keystone Project at the beaver festival. They will each get a laminated copy to use and hopefully return it to me and take part in the survey we need to use for our grant. I tried to make it fairly simple and straightforward. What do you think?

laminated card


What do other people do on the weekend?

   Posted by heidi08 On May - 11 - 2015Comments Off

How was your Mother’s day? Thanks Rusty for the nice recap of your year of beaver watching in Napa. Beavers: Wetlands & Wildlife aptly posted this on their Facebook page and I feel it’s something we should all see.  If you’ve ever had your mother hold your chin while scrubbing something off your face that shouldn’t be there, you know EXACTLY how this feels.

Saturday night at Safari West saw a bouncing  crowd gathered for the beaver talk, many families with young children including a few of the attentive serious kind, and a few of the boisterous crying kind. It pretty different than the last few talks I gave and I did my best to adapt. We had dinner in the lodge with Marie Martinez (in charge of carnivores) and Danny Cusimano director of education and research. He  was a paleontologist finishing his thesis and talked about their work (currently doing a study on hand-rearing vs parental rearing) and looking at population successes. He also seemed very interested in hearing about our work and the primary challenges facing beaver in urban settings.  A few others dashed in and out during our dinner, updating them both or asking questions. It was definitely a dynamic place to be.

After dinner we came back to our luxurious tent, sat on the beautiful deck and drank a glass of wine while the light dimmed and the animal sounds took over. All night we heard the whooping lemurs, grunting flamingos and lowing whatevers in the distance.  It was wonderfully cold at night in those beautiful hills, and the beds were unbelievably comfortable and warm. We both slept like children.

Collages1In addition to the excellent overnight and jeep tour Safari West generously made a donation to Worth A Dam and presented a certificate for our silent auction.  I made sure to bring a list of wildlife friends I thought would be great speakers for the future and we swapped stories and ideas for how to engage people about nature.

Then it was home to meet Greg Kerekes for an interview. He was hired by the Guadalupe RCD to produce five videos on urban wildlife. The first was on Grey Foxes which you can see here.

The next is supposed to be on beavers. I expected a ten minute interview but ogreg's wifeur conversation lasted nearly two hours. He hadn’t really known the Martinez story before and he found it very interesting. His wife had an injury that meant she couldn’t climb the stairs so she was waiting in the car outside the whole time! ( You might remember her as the dancing beaver from our festival two year’s ago.)

Greg said he was surprised that I never seemed to say “um” or seemed at a loss for word like the others he interviewed. (Ha – plenty of practice!) We talked about beaver challenges, beaver benefits, beaver nativity, beaver depredation and the history of Worth A Dam. They were excellent questions  and he was a  great listener but I was exhausted by the end. Not sure how much of our conversation will find it’s way into his short film, but he said he was interested in doing a bigger project too and it would help down the road.

Fortunately for me (and the people I work with in my day job!) I’m off today, so I can rest and enjoy NOT talking about beavers. Then I can start focusing on the festival. (Eek!) The application that Lory was kind enough to fill out (all 19 pages of it) goes to the city just as soon as I can get the event insurance taken care of.

New festival