Bill Gates Gives Money for Beavers?

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 17 - 20142 COMMENTS

Well, probably not for the beavers themselves, but for the students who are studying them. Program manager Erin Sams has just asked that I clarify  and say:

“We did not receive money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates Family Foundation is a Denver-based foundation that solely supports Colorado programs. I don’t want people to get the wrong idea.”

Close enough, I’m still impressed. And you will be too when you read about this awesome project.

CaptureBeaver Habitat and River Ecology Monitoring

We are teaming up with Chatfield State Park, the Audubon Society of Greater Denver, Colorado Gulf and Turf, University of Colorado Professor Dr. John Basey, View Into The Blue, and Ocean Classrooms to monitor beaver activity along the South Platte River in Chatfield State Park. The project would not be possible without generous funding provided by The Gates Frontier Fund and Ocean Classrooms.

 Beginning in December 2012, scientists and students surveyed the area to determine where the webcams would be installed and to begin preliminary observation of the beaver activity. Now, we are ready to begin work on the project! In late March 2013, we will begin installing an aboveground camera that will monitor several dams along a portion of the river to help us learn more about activity within this beaver community. We will also be installing a science node to collect data on water quality parameters, wireless radio and a solar powering system. We’re looking for lots of help from the Denver T4O community to make this project finally become a reality!

 The installation is going to be accompanied by a workshop to teach students and the public about the American beaver’s influence on riparian ecosystems, macroinvertebrate biodiversity, impacts on water quality, and important resource management practices that can benefit both the environment as well as people’s livelihoods.


Colorado has so much to teach about beavers! I’m thinking these teens need to sponsor a beaver festival to really show off their work! And I know just who to invite to come lead the parade. Sherri Tippie is just down the road. I expect this to be a very exciting product that changes how we see beavers for years to come!

sherri worth a dam

* I’m not going to mention that certain regular people can observe beavers without expensive grants or fancy camera installations and said people have been doing so for seven years running – because that would just be….unnecessary.

Okay, every one can stop making “Leave it to Beaver” puns now…

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 16 - 2014Comments Off

The ultimate one has finally arrived.



Who’s talking about us now?

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 15 - 2014Comments Off

That would be Ghostbearphotography in Toronto. Just look at what’s featured on their site today?

That dam beaver chase…

Simon has told you all about his ‘curse of the beaver’, the chase for this surprisingly elusive creature. Well, maybe just elusive to Simon and me.

From his first post introducing the trials and tribulations we went through to find a beaver; to the story of the urban beaver that we discovered in Toronto one harsh winter day; to learning that you don’t want to get on a beaver’s bad side after we unknowingly got in the way of one: each post sparked some laughter from our readers.

It also sparked a wonderful new connection from a beaver advocate located in California.

Heyyyyyyyyy! I know that site! And you do too! Thanks Jill and Simon for recognizing how worthwhile beavers are! And plugging the work of Worth A Dam. They reprinted my letter explaining what we do and asking for a donation for the festival, which apparently got them interested enough to help out and spread the word. I’m waiting for the print to arrive as we speak. I especially like that they had their own “beaver-muskrat” mystery and thought our video was helpful.

FYI: Simon would really REALLY have benefitted from watching this clip from their website:

Ahhh, I always was fond of that film, my third effort ever. I had just learned to use iMovie and the world felt like my videography oyster! It remains one of my favorites of all times. All the footage is from 2007, and that tail slap at the end isn’t from mom or dad – and there were no kits yet. I filmed it before the time our first kits were seen. It was so long ago that when I walked to the lodge and saw a huge otter sitting on top of it I wondered if it was a beaver! Then that beaver swam out and did 19 tail slaps until the otter hi-tailed it away. I missed filming 18 others and finally got the last one, which accounts for my exclamation.

The reason this is interesting is because I think it means that Mom and Dad had a yearling already when they moved in to Martinez. The first woman who told me about the beavers in Martinez said she had seen three, but I never knew how much to believe her. The idea of their being a yearling comforts me because it means Mom was a little older when she died than we understood. I hate to think of her life being cut short. But if she had a yearling when she came that means she was at least 6 or 7 when she started her life in Martinez, which puts her closer to 10 when she died, and that’s about average I think for a beaver in the wild.

Anyway thank you, Jill and Simon for your support of beavers and Worth A Dam! And Planetsave is featuring that beaver lodge building from Canada film today, with excellent quote from Beavers: Wetlands & Wildlife on why beavers matter:

Busy Beavers—You Bet! (Video)

“Beavers reliably and economically maintain wetlands that sponge up floodwaters, alleviate droughts and floods (because their dams keep water on the land longer), lessen erosion, raise the water table, and act as the “earth’s kidneys” to purify water…. Several feet of silt collect upstream of older beaver dams, and toxics, such as pesticides, are broken down by microbes in the wetlands that beavers create. Thus, water downstream of dams is cleaner and requires less treatment for human use.

Nicely said, and very true. Thanks BWW and PlanetSave for reminding us!


There really are beavers in Martinez!

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 14 - 20141 COMMENT

I haven’t had the good luck of seeing a beaver since the Sunday before I went in the hospital. So it’s been nine whole weeks since I saw them in person. The longest absence ever. And the last couple of times I went down it was a ghost town with narry a beaver in sight. I started to think sad thoughts about them being gone, or using another habitat, or not feeling like Alhambra Creek was hospitable to beavers any more. My only consoling observation was that the primary dam has been lovingly maintained and was looking very tight.

april 015

Primary dam 2014

But last night  we saw 5 beavers!

They are definitely all living above the primary. When we got there one adult was working on the dam. Then two fast moving (barely yearlings) dashed over the primary and down to the secondary where they fished around for goodies, argued over who got what with audible whining, and did a little haphazard work.

This rough housing on the dam must have got mom’s attention, because she showed up next, taking a mouthful of branches to the gap, then sitting right next to the selfish one and daring him to try that with her. Which he didn’t. They touched noses and then she swam off with him following right behind. Only to each return with huge balls of mud which they carefully pushed onto the dam in tandem. This modeling sparked about four more trips to the dam with mud, even without mom to supervise. Still, like most young teenagers on the job, they were easily distracted by anything shiny.

Their somewhat more haphazard dam shows a little work has been done since the last rain. Obviously all those branches that wash down the creek in flooding get put to good use. Watching mom and our new yearlings work last night we realized how fast this could all happen.

april 003

Secondary dam April 2014

I can’t tell you how normal and cheerful it felt to them, and how utterly reassuring it was to see mom in loving attendance. I realized the three toddlers we watched emerge last year are now safely in their tweens and well on their way to adulthood. That’s 19 more beavers in the world because of US. And probably more born right now tucked away in the lodge that we just can’t count until they emerge.

In case you can’t tell, I was inspired. You just have to watch this.

A morality play about asking for help

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 13 - 2014Comments Off

When I was a child, I envied of the magical cast of adults and big sisters who made stories  emerge from paper, and I couldn’t wait until I could do it myself. The very first book I “read” (i.e. memorized and pretended to read, even turning the pages at the right intervals and scaring the babysitter)  was “The old woman and her pig.”

Even if you don’t think you remember it, I bet you will when I explain. The woman finds a crooked sixpence while sweeping her house and decides to go to the market and buy a pig, but on her way home the new pig won’t go over the stile, (which is a little english  wooden platform that allows people on the public footpath to get thru the gate, but keeps livestock from getting out.) It looks like this.

After trying to push and coax him onto it, she goes to a nearby dog in frustration, asking “Dog, dog! Bite the pig! Pig will not jump over the stile and I shall not get home tonight!” But the dog won’t cooperate. Is this ringing a bell yet? You should be hearing it in your head soon. She goes to a stick and says “Stick, stick! Beat the dog. Dog will not bite my pig, pig will not jump over the stile and I shall not get home to night!”

Of course the stick won’t cooperate either, but she keeps asking for help – first for fire to burn the uncooperative stick, then water to put out the vexing fire, then an ox to drink the  uncooperating water, then a butcher to kill the stubborn ox, then a rope to hang the difficult butcher, and finally mouse to chew that lazy rope.

The mouse is the only one who’s ready to consider her offer. He asks pragmatically “What’ll you give me if I do?”

Surprised, she reaches in her apron pockets and finds a tiny crust of bread which she lays in front of the mouse. He nibbles appreciatively, then agrees. And after all that asking the mouse begins to gnaw the rope. and the rope begins to hang the butcher, and the butcher begins to kill the ox, and the ox begins to drink the water, and the water begins to put out the fire, and the fire begins to burn the stick, and the stick begins to beat the dog, and the dog begins to bite the pig, and the pig decides to finally go over the stile…

And that little old woman really does make it home that night!

All festivals

Which, I’m sure you realize, reminds me vividly of what it’s like to organize every single beaver festival we’ve ever had.
And when I look at these together, I can see we’ve had a lot!


   Posted by heidi08 On April - 12 - 2014Comments Off

I heard this morning the official word that Jari Osborne’s Canadian Beaver Whisperers documentary will have its American debut on PBS Nature May 14, 2014! (It will be released under the title “Leave it to beavers” which is SO overdone.) That means in a month you can get your friends together for the very best superbowl-type viewing party of the century! It will star our good beaver friends, Glynnis Hood, Sherri Tippie and Suzanne Fouty, with beaver problem-solving by Michel LeClare of Quebec. Jari is flying to New York to appear on MetroFocus May 1st and promote the series.

Sherri Tippie kissing a beaver kit (a pup). East Beaver Creek, Colorado. Photo Credit: © Ford McClave 2013

Not excited yet? Just read the promo:

A growing number of scientists, conservationists and grass-roots environmentalists have come to regard beavers as overlooked tools when it comes to reversing the disastrous effects of global warming and worldwide water shortages. Once valued for their fur or hunted as pests, these industrious rodents are seen in a new light through the eyes of this novel assembly of beaver enthusiasts and “employers” who reveal the ways in which the presence of beavers can transform and revive landscapes. Using their skills as natural builders and brilliant hydro-engineers, beavers are being recruited to accomplish everything from finding water in a bone-dry desert to recharging water tables and coaxing life back into damaged lands.

Beaver at work dragging large branch/closeup. Ontario, Canada. Photo Credit: © Michael Runtz

It says these great photos by Michael Runtz (a good friend of our good friend Donna DeBreuille)  can only be used for promotion but I’m pretty sure this qualifies! Watch it! Watch it! Watch it! Watch it with your children, your grandmother, your mailman. Drive up the ratings! Send letters to the station! Make PBS think they need a weekly beaver program! Don’t get up to use the bathroom during any part of it unless your in pain. Stay all the way to the very end of the  credits because it’s theoretically possible that my tiny name will be there.

Here’s the viewing schedule for KQED in case your busy that night.

KQED 9: Wed, May 14, 2014 — 8:00pm
KQED 9: Thu, May 15, 2014 — 2:00am
KQED Life: Fri, May 16, 2014 — 7:00pm
KQED Life: Sat, May 17, 2014 — 1:00am
KQED World: Sat, May 17, 2014 — 9:00pm
KQED 9: Sun, May 18, 2014 — 10:00am
KQED World: Sun, May 18, 2014 — 3:00pm
KQED World: Sun, May 18, 2014 — 9:00pm
KQED World: Mon, May 19, 2014 — 5:00am
KQED World: Mon, May 19, 2014 — 11:00am

 They haven’t released a trailer yet, but here’s the Canadian one which I adore.

From the: It never rains, but it pours, beaver files!

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 11 - 2014Comments Off

Sometimes I go for weeks with nary a beaver report to etch together because the world is in a collective beaver lull. And sometimes there are way too may stories to write about. This morning is the second problem, but we have to start with a mind-blowing report from Saskatchewan, Canada. Which happens to be home to some of the most famous beaver intolerance in the Northern Hemisphere and was even featured as an example of beaver woes in the Canadian documentary on beavers last year. Its horrific report of beaver killing has spurred my most treasured columns (Saskat-CHEW-on-that!) and one of my most praised graphics (The exploding beaver population). exploding beaverWhich is just back story to remind us that they really, really hate beavers. And  makes this story all the more remarkable.

Moose Mountain Provincial Park Beaver Management Plan presented to public

Conflicting views on beaver management in the Moose Mountain Provincial Park have been issues for many years, but issues surrounding the actual workings of the watershed and Kenosee Lake are the underlying driving force of the concerns regarding water levels in Kenosee.

Phillips spoke to his research which pointed towards the park’s topography as being nearly saturated by beaver, with 2.13 colonies in every square kilometre which is a considerable density. However, despite there being numerous beaver in the area Phillips wasn’t hesitant to suggest a drastic beaver management plan, thus his recommendations following his studies included looking into flow devices in certain areas to prevent beavers from damming these spots and to refrain from much blasting of beaver dams until a hydrological study could be performed on the area.


Mind you, there is also a passage in the article that suggest beavers are to blame for their being less water in the lake. (Drinking too much?) But considering the source, this is a HUGE step forward from an area I wasn’t even sure had feet. Maybe this next article has something to do with it, because Alberta is just one province over. Dr. Hood is steadily persuading hearts and minds in Canada.

Beavers fulfill important role

Glynnis Hood is so passionate about beavers she has built a life around fighting for the enduring symbol of Canada.

 “Whether you love them or not, the Canadian landscape was formed by the beaver,” said Hood, an associate professor at the University of Alberta’s environmental science and studies Augustana campus, at a recent meeting of the Bow Valley Naturalists.

In examining how beaver influenced some of Alberta’s wetlands in Elk Island National Park over a 54-year period, Hood and co-investigator Suzanne Bayley discovered the presence of open water increased up to nine times with the presence of beaver and their dams.

 Climate models predict the incidence of drought in parts of North America will increase in frequency and length over the next 100 years and Hood’s research shows beavers will likely play an important role in maintaining water and mitigating the effects of drought.

Don’t you just  love Glynnis? Sometimes I feel so frustrated, like a lone voice in the wilderness, and then she lands a report in the news and I just feel so relaxed. Like a child falling asleep in the back seat while their parents drive. You can bet that repeating this story over and over, and her compelling spot on the Beaver Whisperers  documentary, and her smart book, have all made an impact on her neighbors.

Currently, Hood is working on an ongoing study in the Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, just south of Elk Island National Park.

 They have installed 12 pond levelling devices, all of which are performing well to date. Three devices have been in since 2011 and have required very little to no maintenance and have withstood summer high water and winter warm spells.

 Hood, along with Dr. Varghese Manaloor, an economist at the University of Augustana, have been supervising a student on a directed study this semester to work with cost-benefit data for these sites.

 Hood said there are significant financial gains by using the pond levellers instead of the more traditional approaches, such as dam removal or removal of a beaver colony. In one case, she said, a device was installed adjacent to a popular park trail that was subject to regular flooding and closure over the past 10 years.

 “The trail has remained open and dry since installation and the wetland and beaver colony remain intact,” she said.

What could possibly top that, you ask? How about this short report from England where a beaver was observed reintroducing himself.


Beaver seen swimming on coast

 A BEAVER was sighted in Ramsgate sea this morning before swimming as far as Viking Bay.

Remember that beavers often use the ocean to get between rivers, and since they can close their eyes, ears, nose and throats, they can manage in salt water fairly well for a time. I’m thinking this beaver has read the many articles on the glacial speed with which the United Kingdom is moving towards beaver reintroduction, arguing about reintroducing dinosaurs because they were native once too,  worrying about farmers, fisherman and flooding, and the beaver just said,

“Fuck it, I’ll do it myself”