Too bad for the frogs and fish at Brookside

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 25 - 2015Comments Off

First the good news.

Remember the beaver in Brookside Elementary that had flooded a field and drove the administrators to seek a trapper? They had the sense to wait until the last day of school and warned kids to keep away from the traps. Then some moms and kids found out, got upset about the plan, drew some media attention and made a few administrators upset in the process. Eventually they were able to slow down the decision and shine some light on options. I talked to them about all the resources available and suggested they should really know better, since they were a whopping 7 miles from Michael Pollock’s office.

So far so good. Now the other news. The option the school picked was relocation rather than installing a flow device and letting the beaver stay to educate children about their important roll in restoring creeks. Okay, bring on the Hancock traps.

Beatrix the beaver trapped — and waiting for love in new home

Remember the beaver that a month ago became a cause célèbre in Lake Forest Park?

It was caught Tuesday, its life spared, and moved to a temporary home at the Tulalip Fish Hatchery near Marysville.

Now the rodent, named “Beatrix” by neighbors, waits for the nonprofit Beavers Northwest that captured her to find her a mate. Then off the pair will go to some creek on Forest Service land along the Highway 2 corridor. Pairing up beavers makes it more likely they’ll stay at that spot.

We are trying to handle this with as much sensitivity as possible,” wrote Pete Rose, Lake Forest Park administrator, in an email.

The answer to the city’s problem came in the form of Ben Dittbrenner, a University of Washington Ph.D. candidate in aquatic ecology, who a couple of years ago co-founded the nonprofit Beavers Northwest.

Okay, right off the bat I need to say that Ben is a good guy. He really admires the work beavers do and understands the ecology. I met him a few years ago at the State of the Beaver Conference when he was working as a watershed steward. He helped Mike Callahan with his salmon adaptions to the flow devices. He has since left to pursue his Ph.D on using beavers to mitigate global warming. He’s a good guy, but he’s no Sherri Tippie. She uses branches as a lure so that the beavers are relaxed and chewing when she releases them. And usually doesn’t bring the media. I’m sure using scent sets them on edge. They are already expecting a fight.

He is very, very enthusiastic about the largest rodent in North America.

“They’re amazing, they’re fascinating,” says Dittbrenner. “They are keystone species, they’re ecosystem engineers.”

 Those ponds created by beavers?

 Dittbrenner begins the list of why the ponds are great: They remove pollutants from ground water, they are drought protection, they decrease the damage from floods, they produce food for fish and other animals.

 Working with the Tulalip Tribes, over the last couple of years Dittbrenner’s small group has captured and relocated some 40 beavers.

I would like this story SO much better if they had installed a flow device. Just as I would like Ben’s website SO much better if the links for nonlethal solutions were not all dead or 404′s and he didn’t have the story about throwing beavers from the airplane on the front page. He’s doing good work for the right reasons I keep telling myself. But this kind of thing just upsets me.

Have you seen those inhumane concrete  container crates they use at Guantanamo? They are NICER than what this beaver gets. And speaking of torture, how do you think a beaver feels in a tiny box listening to the roar of rushing water that she can never, ever repair? I can’t help myself. What on earth is the fascination with housing beavers at fish hatcheries? Are they just big concrete spaces with water?


lodge envyThis is where beavers SHOULD be living. Rusty of Napatopia sent me this photo yesterday after the beavers did some repairs. He smartly asked if I was suffering from “Lodge Envy”, which I’m sure you can guess the answer to. Big beaver showoffs!

We have accomplishments of our own to boast of. Jon finished the stage platform refinement yesterday for the beaver festival. How lucky are OUR musicians going to be? There are three platforms which we formally inherited from the John Muir Historic site. We decided they needed sprucing up a bit. Here’s the center one.

stage three



And then there were two

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 24 - 2015Comments Off

Footage of second Scots beaver kit revealed

 Footage of a second beaver kit in the Knapdale Forest in Argyll has been released by the Scottish Beaver Trial.  It comes a week after a first young beaver was spotted at the trial site.  Scottish Beaver Trial (SBT) said it suspected further breeding had occurred, but had now managed to capture evidence on camera.

The trial is the first licensed reintroduction of a mammal to the UK and has brought the beaver back to Scotland after a 400-year absence.

Roisin Campbell Palmer, field operations manager for the Scottish Beaver Trial, said: “We had suspected further breeding had occurred at the site but had not managed to capture it on camera.

 ”We can now confirm two kits present at this lodge.

 ”These kits are around three months old. Having spent the first couple of months within the lodge, they are now starting to leaving the lodge and explore their surroundings.”

Further breeding?

I would blame the crazy framing on the reporter but this quote came from field manager Roisin Palmer  in the flesh. ‘More kits obviously means further breeding’, right? No, honestly. This kit is from the same lodge and the same parents. It was the same breeding that did the trick. It took place about 107 days before the kits were born and won’t take place again until next year. See beavers are like dogs and cats and have what’s known as a “litter”. It just takes a while to see them all because they don’t all mature at the same rate. Keep watching. There might be three in the camera next time!

Still Same Breeding. (Wow, you really haven’t had beavers for 400 years have you?)

I’m totally loving that little hippity hop hop at the end. It starts at 35 seconds. You can tell it looks unusual because mom reacts with surprise. What is that child of mine doing NOW? It immediately reminded me of rabbits, which oddly made me think of a Pablo Neruda poem.

EL pie del niño aún no sabe que es pie,
y quiere ser mariposa o manzana.

Which basically translates to “The foot of a child, doesn’t yet know it’s a foot, and wants to be a butterfly or an apple.” Which is perdy. Now because it’s Neruda it goes on to talk about the worker’s boot that a capitalist society will force that little foot into eventually, but the first two lines are the most famous.

After seeing that video, I’m sure the castor version goes something like “the foot of the beaver doesn’t yet know it’s kit, and wants to be a rabbit or a bird.”

foot underwaterstony footprints1

Reminiscing beavers

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 23 - 20152 COMMENTS

I had fun with the new toy yesterday. Apparently 62 percent of voters never miss a beaver festival! There is NO beaver news in the world today, and I am too cluttered with details to have anything interesting to say. A couple readers wrote brilliant letters about the Alyth stupidity, and that of course makes me very happy.

Let’s try this again shall we?

Here’s a history lesson  with music. I made and uploaded this video May 2007, more than eight years ago. Before the flow device, before Worth A Dam, before the festival. Before Jon even started watching. You can tell it is such a long time ago I made it even BEFORE I was friends with Cheryl. (Because I use no beautiful photographs of hers.)

One part I especially like is the very blurry photo of an otter actually sitting on top of the old beaver lodge. I snapped that soooooo long ago. It was so early and I was just barely awake. I wasn’t even sure what it was! I remember a youngish beaver came and tail slap alarmed him away. I counted and he slapped 19 times. Of which I managed to film the very last one.

Honestly, I was such a newbie I included a stolen nutria photo by mistake, can you spot it? I was just starting to get intrigued by this new species in my midst. And having fun using iMovie.  If I had taken the poll back then I would have answered number two.

We were all new to this once.

Blame the Rodent – Part MCMLXVII

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 22 - 2015Comments Off

Claim beavers made Alyth flooding worse


A row has broken out over whether beavers are partly to blame for exacerbating Friday’s devastating flood in Alyth.

The Scottish Association for Country Sports (SACS) said several members have contacted them claiming debris washed through the town showed clear signs of having been chewed by the aquatic rodents.

Others have claimed that felled trees left lying in a bid to encourage biodiversity also aggravated the raging torrent.

However, beaver supporters have leapt to the animals’ defence, refuting claims that material from dams upstream of the town were brought down by the floodwater.

Louise and Paul were worried about this being used unfairly, and they were right. Is there a better example of the misunderstanding of cause and effect? We saw some beaver chewed sticks floating in the flood so  that means it was caused by beavers? We saw some felled trees taken in the flooding so it was caused by beavers?  That’s like saying we noticed jewels missing after the robbery so we think the jewels did it! Or a whole grove of trees were burned in the fire so they must have started it!

Paul Ramsay, who owns the Bamff estate where some beavers live, said it was a “ridiculous exaggeration” to blame the animals.  He said: “There could conceivably have been a twig or two that had come from beavers, I wouldn’t deny that was a possibility, but the catchment area of the Alyth Burn covers about 36 sq km.

 “The contribution from Bamff to that is tiny.

 “As for the debris, as the water flowed down through the Den of Alyth it picked up an enormous amount of wood. It is exaggerated out of all proportion.”

Honestly, burning witches at the stake is starting to make more sense.

OF COURSE beaver chewed sticks were washed out during the flooding. So did  dog-chewed sticks. Gardening sticks and walking sticks. So were tires and benches and rolls of toilet paper rolls. That doesn’t men they CAUSED the flooding you silly scottish beaver-phobes. This is bad even by their standards.

Honestly people never miss the opportunity to blame a problem on their favorite enemy do they? It’s like Pat Robertson saying hurricane Katrina was caused by the gays.


Here in beaver festival preparation land  things are humming along. We received the lovely brochures from the printers yesterday which look amazing. Did two interviews yesterday morning and finished the signs for display. Also an accidental delivery from Weavers coffee lead to a big donation, and great conversation about the evils of Peet’s and bird-killing rat poison, meaning that wildlife lovers need to find new sources and the auction was a great way to do that.

More importantly we made a beaver discovery that I’m very happy about.

It all starts with a fairytale of sorts and a literary reference. In Hope Ryden’s beautiful beaver book “Lily pond” she often notes that when beavers disperse or get sick they go away to the “Upper ponds”. I was obviously worrying about not seeing mom and dad beaver the last time we went to watch, so I dreamed reassuringly of them being in the “upper ponds”. It was only when I woke up that I realized Martinez doesn’t have any upper ponds. Darn.

But then I thought, we may not have an upper pond, but we DO have Ward street? So last night at 8 pm Jon went creeping to ward street bridge where he blissfully saw Mom, Dad and a two year old browsing about on the brambles and happy as you please. When you think about it, since ward street has no dam to tend or mud to move, it must like their vacation home.We had seen Jr and the other two year old at the footbridge the night before.

So that means our family of 5 is all happy and accounted for. Hurray!


Grooming Beaver on dam by Cheryl Reynolds 2014

Nobody tells you

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 21 - 2015Comments Off

Nobody tells you when you decide to save some beavers that things are going to change dramatically. I mean, how could they? We’re just talking about a handful of rodents, and the whole thing will be over in a few weeks. Or months. It’s harder than you expect. A lot harder. So you try to make the job a little easier by starting a non profit to carry the load and throwing a festival to tip the scales in the public eye. You imagine that it’s  like planting a tree, lots of tending for the first 6 weeks or so and then it will lay down deep tap roots and tend itself.

Nobody pulls you aside and says, listen kiddo, you’re taking on something really, really big. I know it seems like fun now. But it will take less time than you think to completely transform the way your life looks. Down to the last detail of when you wake up, what’s in your living room  and who you talk to. And you have no idea how much of you it will consume. Honestly.

And then there are these vibrating crystal days like Monday, where the first thing you do in the morning is connect with a favorite reporter who wants to cover the festival, the button project, and the importance of having a major wildlife photographer on hand to teach other people about beavers, and as the day unfolds you arrange a meeting with her editor who wants to profile your work in a feature before the festival, which is really, really good. While you’re finishing the display board for the jewelry in the silent auction, you find you have to repair a blunder you made while trying to be polite that ended up causing possible harm to people you never met, and after you fling about trying to correct the harm, you get reassured by the people who noticed the mistake in the first place that everything is fine now. the mini-crisis actually made two different forces connect that were unaware of each other and that could turn out very, very good for beavers. Oh. Okay, then. Meanwhile you manage to wheedle three companies into arranging their service for the festival more conveniently for your needs without a surcharge, call the printer about the brochures, confirm the fiddlers and the solar unit, and contact everyone you know with children about Saturday.

And finally, when the mail arrived it has a grant from Martinez Kiwanis.

I realized in the buzzy hum of yesterday, that there are parts of all this work I like.  There are parts of all this that feel just right. Like I’m using every conceivable piece of whatever talent I might have in just the right way. The funny thing is that there are days like today in my professional life, when you spend all day on the phone with CPS or Probation and have to talk your way up the ladder to get your patient into a different placement, or into the hospital, or blessed with another chance. But those days, when they come, are unbelievably draining. Maybe not in the moment, but afterwards. I always feel later like I could sleep for a week. Maybe because someone’s life is at stake and in the moment you are the only one who can help.

It’s all very different. But familiar.

Anyway, I’m off this morning for an interview with the editor. I heard last night that  Suzi had an excellent conversation with the freelance reporter, Jennifer Shaw, who wrote the great article last year. So I’m expecting another wonderful feed to the festival this year, and a great reminder in the public eye about the importance of beavers.

Which is the point.


Whenever there’s a good day like yesterday a part of me crouches in panic that something awful is coming. I’ll let you know if it does. But for now I have to do a thank you note for Kiwanis. They have been so very good to us over the years! I have said before and I’ll probably say again, that all the nice people in Martinez belong to Kiwanis. (Aand all the other ones belong to Rotary.)



Calling all Children

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 20 - 2015Comments Off

If you have a grandchild or nephew that lives in the vicinity, get them to the beaver dam Saturday for a epic photo shoot. Amazing wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas will be taking some urban shots of the dam and footbridge and wants as many children as possible to be there showing how Martinez watches out for its beavers.

The photo is destined for the acclaimed Ranger Rick Magazine which means it will be seen by children all over the country from California to Colorado to Maine.

Don’t you want your granddaughter or nephew to be a star? Bring them or your neighbors kids to  the footbridge this Saturday at 7 pm. Oh and if they have a beaver t shirt or charm bracelet, they should wear it for luck!

Suzi at workThis is what the Suzi looks like filming beavers, so you’ll recognize her. Look for the big, big camera and the pony tail. and you’ll know you’re in the right place.   This will be Suzi’s last chance to see beavers because she’s off soon for a trip to Brazil to photograph jaguars on the Amazon. (Such a step down).  It’s a lot of fun to see her work, so you should really plan to be there.

Not sure you should come? Here’s a taste of what it’s like standing near Suzi’s camera.


Suzi filming new kit and yearling from Heidi Perryman on Vimeo.

Dam Builders: A review

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 19 - 2015Comments Off

51imI+jikBL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_It took longer to arrive than I had hoped. The publication was delayed several times and is still expected to be another 6 weeks for American readers. But this weighty record showing 30 years of beaver watching is definitely worth the wait.

I received my courtesy copy from the publisher Fitzhenry & Whiteside Ltd. last week, and have been engrossed ever since. Everything about this book is impressive: its stunning photographs, gripping account of little known beaver details, and its truly classy lay out, right down to the beaver silhouetted page number in the corner. (I had a good friend who was a copy editor at Random House and I know how much work pulling these details together can be.) I had prepared myself to be impressed, and was not disappointed.

What I hadn’t prepared for was to be surprised.

After nearly 10 years in the beaver biz, reading and writing about them daily, and viewing them regularly at very close quarters, I pretty much thought I had heard and seen it all. Michael Runtz michael-runtzbook was still filled with gloriously unexpected treasures. From the amazing photograph of a beaver floating on its back (yes you read that right, not a sea otter, I swear, he speculates he might be picking a splinter from its teeth with its rear toe) to the exciting collection of facts about their lives, (did you know that when beavers breathe they replaces a whopping 75% of the oxygen in their lungs? Compared to the paltry human rate of 15%!) or that beaver tails in colder climates actually look different in the fall than the spring, depending on how much fat content they’ve lost from it over the winter? Something we’ll never see here in Martinez.

If some of the photos seem vaguely familiar they should, Runtz supplied his stills to Jari Osborne’s Beaver Documentary (Beaver Whisperer in Canada, and Nature’s “Leave it to Beaver” in America). My favorite chapters were those documenting beaver effects. First a lovely one showing the biodiversity that blooms in beaver ponds, with beautiful macro photography of gnats, insects,  dragonflies, to featherlight photos of birds and water fowl, to richly-textured images of otter and moose you can practically feel.  Then a beautifully solemn one about what happens to the trees beavers kill by flooding. (Showing excellent homes for a variety of woodpeckers, wood duck and blue heron). And finally a chapter on the pond’s “afterlife”, what happens when the pond silts up and beavers move on, as the flora take over and the fauna shift accordingly with the flourishing nutrient exchange. Honestly, I was almost in tears through these sections, feeling that they showed better than I ever could hope to explain how powerfully beavers impact biodiversity.

(I wanted to sit every contractor,  public works crew, and politician down at the table and force them to look at every page. But that’s just me.)

190318-57321_ContentUnlike this website, Runtz doesn’t “preach” the beaver gospel. He simply shows it and waits for readers to get the message. There is a short section covering beaver baffles,  which is the Canadian flow device that has had good success. He doesn’t talk about the beaver deceiver or its offspring, but I was happy to see him acknowledge problems and explain their solution. A memorable passage describes the anticipation of sitting at a beaver pond before dawn and listening as it comes to life, comparing it to hearing a truly impressive symphony warm up in the darkness before a performance.

With over 200 pages containing stunning photos from one end to the other, this is a book you will look at again and again. I anticipated and missed a forward from some smart researcher like Glynnis Hood or Dietland Muller-Swarze, talking about why his photos are invaluable, but maybe this book isn’t trying to prove that beavers have value. It just shows you that they’re ‘worth a dam’ without ever saying it.

I was especially struck by the final paragraph, when he comments on how children’s minds would be enlivened by a beaver pond, if they could just put down their electronics long enough to get there. It made me think of these 100+ year-old words from my hero Enos Mills in his last chapter of “In Beaver World” where he calls beaver “the original conservationist”.

The works of the beaver have ever interested, the human mind. Beaver work may do for children what schools, sermons, companions and even home sometimes fail to do, – develop the power to think. No boy or girl can become intimately acquainted with the ways and works of these primitive folk without having the eyes of observation opened, and acquiring a permanent interest in the wide world in which we live.

The American version of this unforgettable book won’t be available until (hopefully) mid-september. If you can’t wait, there will be two copies available in the silent auction at our beaver festival. As far as I know they will be the only two copies on American soil in the entire country. I’m guessing that they will be very popular items, so get ready for the bidding war.