The importance of being semi-arid

   Posted by heidi08 On May - 24 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

Georgia reader BK alerted me to this article in on a recently understood hero in climate change management. Apparently it’s not just for rainforests anymore.

Savannahs slow climate change

Tropical rainforests have long been considered the Earth’s lungs, sequestering large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and thereby slowing down the increasing greenhouse effect and associated human-made climate change. Scientists in a global research project now show that the vast extensions of semi-arid landscapes occupying the transition zone between rainforest and desert dominate the ongoing increase in carbon sequestration by ecosystems globally, as well as large fluctuations between wet and dry years. This is a major rearrangement of planetary functions.

An international study released this week, led by Anders Ahlström, researcher at Lund University and Stanford University, shows that semi-arid ecosystems—savannahs and shrublands—play an extremely important role in controlling carbon sinks and the climate-mitigating ecosystem service they represent.

Tropical rainforests are highly productive, and this means that they take up a lot of carbon dioxide, but rainforests are crowded places with little room to fit in more plants to do more photosynthesis and to store carbon. In addition, the typical moist, hot weather conditions are ideal for growth and do not change much from year to year.

In savannahs it is different. As productivity increases there is room to fit in more trees whose growing biomass provides a sink, or store, for carbon sequestered from the atmosphere. In addition, savannahs spring to life in wetter years, causing large fluctuations in carbon dioxide uptake between wet and dry years. Large enough, Ahlström and colleagues show, to control the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

So we need the rain forests, but it’s the returning wetlands that really make a difference. Because of the sudden bloom that comes when a semi-arid region turns green. Gee, are there any semi-arid regions in California? Survey says yes. But what’s the point of discussing it on this website? Because a few well-placed  beaver dams could easily trigger this seasonal greening.

CDFW says that California is one of the few places where five major climate types occur in close proximity. Here, the Desert, Cool Interior, Highland, and Steppe climates border a smaller region of Mediterranean climate. Here’s their map of the different zones. You can see that the semi-arid regions stretch across the central valley from Stockton to Bakersfield and everywhere in between,

CaptureThese dry, warm areas are the places where a tree in standing near the house really make a difference to your family’s comfort. It turns out that a bunch of trees, bushes and foliage on the riparian really matter to the carbon we need to get rid of. So let’s just look at our depredation map and see how California is treating these bounty-makers in semi-arid regions. Something tells me it isn’t going to be good.

depredation permits in caUh-oh lots of dark blue in the modesto region. I guess those semi-arid places got even more arid shortly after those beaver were killed.  Oh well, it’s not like Climate change is real or anything. Besides they were interfering with the landscaping.

Once again beaver heroes are prevented from solving the problem they’re uniquely equipped to repair. And it’s another dry Sunday in California.

Words fail me. How about about a rhyme and graphic?





beaver limrick

 12 Angry Beavers


Tails in the City

   Posted by heidi08 On May - 23 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

the missing pieceI found this picture when hunting around for an underwater shot of a beaver dam and just couldn’t resist. (I actually just noticed there IS an actual beaver on the right, but it’s still fun.) Apparently there are sadly no split shots on the internet of beaver dams, so someone please fix that, okay?

Speaking of missing things our beavers were missing last night, we saw no one come from the footbridge, one from the old dam and last year’s kit blithely hanging around ward street like the old days. I have to think its tidal. But it made me wonder if mom hasn’t moved her kits again. And where would she move them? I guess the old lodge next to the creek monkey.

We know she likes to move them around. That’s why I was able to get this two years ago.

Beaver kits are like easter eggs. You have to hunt around and find them yourself!

I saw this video posted on Facebook by our Idaho beaver friends. I notice when I first watched it a little ‘caution float’ as the beaver seemed to sense the photographer. My observation was confirmed by the tail slap that followed. That and this photo got me thinking about tail slaps in general. It was posted by photographer Lee-Anne Carver in Canada and is a beautiful look at the windup. This is the poise before the actual slap surrounded by unbelievable colors. She’s a really talented photographer.


Getting ready for the tail slap: Lee-Anne Carver

I was remembering when I filmed my first tail slap, a million years ago. It must have been this time of year in 2007, which means I knew nothing about beavers at the time. I went down to film the beavers in the morning and saw a huge otter sitting on the old lodge. I wasn’t even sure at the time what it was. A young beaver came and started slapping and slapping until that otter left. I remember I counted that he slapped 19 times, and was able to film the very last one, which is why you hear me say THAT, I GOT in this video.

It made me think that it was about time for Rusty to film his first tail slap in Napa. I guess my powers of beaver prediction are considered pretty honed in some circles, but even I was surprised to receive this from him last night.

It all happens so fast I thought a little slowing down would help. When you sail past the equator they give you a baptism with salt water. When you film your first tailslap you just get this. Congratulations Rusty!

World Wildlife Federation promotes Beavers

   Posted by heidi08 On May - 22 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

CaptureSara Moore is a Sonoma-based climate writer and blogs for the WWF climate report. Guess what she decided to talk about in this issue?

California: The Rebeavering

The California case for beaver reintroduction is picking up steam.

Specifically, the case is being made for the benefits of beaver dams and their ponds to California’s high Sierra, where a disappearing snowpack is threatening the state’s summer water supply—and overall economy.

California faces peculiar beaver-reintroduction barriers not faced by other western states where people are starting to think of beaver ponds as a landscape restoration and surface water retention tool, like Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. And drought-plagued California might gain particular benefit from a new surface water retention tool.

Sara goes on to do a fairly deft recap of the beaver nativity issue and the research we did to prove it, and then even makes room for one particular city that decided to live with beavers.

Although individual cases of conflict can be solved (as they did famously in Martinez, CA, now the home of an annual Beaver Festival), there is a lack of information in favor of beavers as a way to solve problems. 

Thanks for the mention, but I think you’re wrong about missing information. We have tons of research on beaver benefits to salmon and riparian and carbon. What we’re missing is broadcasting and persuasion. There was a time I thought that more information would change peoples thinking, but now I realize that when people say ‘more research is needed’ they’re usually just stalling or looking for funding. There are about 20 people in the entire state whose minds could be changed by research about beavers. The rest are going to learn by watching, seeing, or getting public pressure. Come to Martinez and see for yourself.

The article ends on a cheery note:

So, the CDFW is cautiously showing interest in what the beaver believers have to say. There appears to be momentum behind locating and evaluating populations for possible increased protection. Sierra mountain meadows and their far-downstream neighbors, thirsty ranches and farms, may eventually see the benefits.

Hurray for beavers! Hooray for Brock and hurray for WWF. We need folks all over to be seriously thinking about this issue, at this starts the conversation nicely. If people want to learn more Sara has a great list of references at the end for further information and this introduces folks to the issues  very well. When you beaver photo gets into the WWF calendar I’ll consider it a real victory!


Can I complain now?

(I spoke with Sara back in April and our conversation was kind of unsettling. Of course I referred her to all the sources named in the article, and gave her background about all the states that allowed relocation. To tell the truth though, I’m surprised Martinez made it in at all, because she really wasn’t interested in solving beaver problems. She was interested in Relocation and couldn’t understand why I didn’t think it was the best idea EVER. As you can see, Worth A Dam, or my actual name appear nowhere in the piece, even when she refers to the papers we wrote on which I was second author (grr) – I guess I should be happy to get a link, and several links to articles on this website, an information source apparently so useful it isn’t even mentioned.)

This is me shaking it off. (Video of grooming beaver from Rusty Cohn at Tulocay beaver pond in Napa.)


Beaver magnets

   Posted by heidi08 On May - 21 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

DSC_5863This is filmmaker Marcy Cravat, who’s working currently on a new documentary about soil. She is particularly interested in the way beaver ponds capture carbon and how important they are to dealing with climate change.

Marcy and her husband paid a visit last night to the worlds easiest to see beavers. And the beavers did not disappoint. We saw four, with only one coming from above the primary dam. The others all in the bank hole near the footbridge. During the day Jon very heroically kayaked the pond and cleaned every bit of trash out of that creek, although he was most annoyed when high tide brought a floating soda can downstream right back to center of the dam.

Marcy was treated to several lovely beaver moments, and only 1 tail slap. Including the smallest family member working on the dam with excellent developing skills.  I think she left with enough beaver sightings to have her interests thoroughly peaked.

No  kits yet in Napa either, although there have been nice photos from the folk who are waiting for them. Rusty Cohn sent this turtle train a couple days ago,

turtle RC

Turtles in Tulocay beaver pond: Rusty Cohn

And Robin watched this beaver last night and wanted to know if we were dealing with an elder?


White-whiskered beaver in Tulocay pond, Napa: Robin Ellison

We are still trying to track down that lovely plant the beaver is enjoying sticking out of the water. The closest we’ve come is Ludwigia, which is a very common invasive aquatic plant in the napa river watershed. I’m not so sure. Because our beavers almost never eat anything people wish they would. So I’m still holding out for more information.  Robin’s white whiskered beaver reminded me of this film though, from so long ago, which was fun to revisit.


   Posted by heidi08 On May - 20 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to be as cute as orphanly possible so that we can raise enough money to keep you around. Yes, it’s sad that your mother and father died. And that beavers in general have such human-fraught lives every day. And it’s even sad that wildlife groups have to pretend that beaver ‘orphans’ are natural and happen by chance. It’s all sad.

Work that.

It’s obviously THAT TIME AGAIN when news stations implore for help with raising baby beavers who were mysteriously ‘orphaned’ by their parents. (Gosh, beaver parents must be irresponsible, because they seem to ‘capriciously abandon’ kits a lot.) I’m sure the responsible media wouldn’t mention if parents were ruthlessly and indifferently killed every time someone’s subdivision or highway was inconvenienced, right?

Here’s a slightly more cheery seasonal sighting. This young disperser thinks that walking on the shore would be easier than swimming the rapids. Nice footage of two of Cheryl’s very favorite animals.

Beaver meets pelicans at Saskatoon weir

Last night we saw five beavers in Martinez and something VERY WONDERFUL. See for yourself.


About that beaver call…

   Posted by heidi08 On May - 19 - 2015Comments Off

There was a fair amount of interest in the ‘beaver call’ video I posted a few days ago. Drs Lixing-Sun and Bekoff had never heard it before and thought the beaver was an adult and sounded distressed. Neither of which I agreed with. The more pragmatic Skunk Whisperer from Oklahoma had the interesting observation that the beaver was actually IMITATING the human. Whoa. Then a favorite rehabber with massive ground experience with actual beavers sent me this story. She said I could share it but not her name because of the unusual (but totally understandable) care conditions.

That was very neat!  The yearling sure seemed to be responding to the human’s call. Who knows what the human was saying? Whether he was mimicking the person or responding to him, it was a little yearling communicating with the person.

We once had a beaver who we hand raised. When he got critically ill (Tyzzers disease), he was sleeping with us.”Bruce” always slept right in my arms. Every morning the alarm would ring and I’d moan and reach over to hit the snooze button, One morning after about a week, the alarm rang and before I could groan Bruce began moaning. It was hysterical. Every morning after that he’d do it.

He would often mimic the tone of my voice of things I’d say frequently. One time he had an accident and when I walked in he said UH OH in the same tones my voice would say it. Of course he couldn’t enunciate it, but he got the sounds right with his whiny voice. So it would not surprise me if that beaver was imitating the person calling to him.

Hahaha! Now that I can believe. Experience trumps research! I can totally imagine that happening. And it is hysterical to think of these careful lurking trappers trying to master what they think will lure a beaver, and actually just giving the beaver something to learn to copy! Beaver mocking birds!

stained glassI discovered a new free tool on the internet playground yesterday. In case you want to play too it’s called FLAMING TEXT and here’s the link. You enter in the word you want and then ‘shop’ for all kinds of logos, backgrounds and fonts. Then tweak it to your satisfaction by adding or removing colors, glows, etc. I have only made it through ten pages of options and there are several. It would be a great pass-time if you were recovering from knee surgery or waiting for Godot.

Which means it is very, very dangerous.beaver lettering bluegrnI made the above graphic yesterday to match our logo and make letterhead, because I spent the day imploring folks to give to the silent auction at the beaver festival. Zoos, museums, amusement parks, cruises, excursions, you name it, I asked for it. You’ve heard of “Dialing for dollars”? Well this was Begging for Beavers. We’ll see what it generates. At least it looked looked beaversWe even got our  insurance yesterday for the festival, which meant we could turn in the application for the park permit. Now we need to coordinate the exhibits so that people show up for the grand event! Of course the really fun thing would be to combine the images with graphics to make something impressive.  I decided I had to try and get this message out. If I can’t send it to the governor at least I can submit it with payment in every water bill.

Blue Watersavers

Martinez Beavers go to Pacifica

   Posted by heidi08 On May - 18 - 2015Comments Off

June 6th is my final beaver talk for a while and will be at the San Pedro Valley Park visitor’s center in Pacifica, ending one of the busiest 6 months of beaver-speaking I’ve known. It started with the SF waterboard in Oakland, then the State of the Beaver in Oregon, then the salmonid federation in Santa Rosa, then Trout Unlimited in Coloma, then SARSAS in Auburn and Safari West in Santa Rosa. Now there’s just one left and then I can focus on the festival.

San Pedro Valley SPV is a county park in the peninsula hills described as A vast area embracing the middle and south forks of San Pedro Creek, which are Steelhead spawning grounds, this park is nestled amongst the Santa Cruz Mountain range and the foothills of Pacifica. “ They also happen to be interested in having beaver, and originally contacted me thinking relocation might be an option. I explained that the only way to get beaver in California right now is to let them come to you and they invited me to come talk about benefits and solutions. They did an awfully nice blurb on their newsletter. I especially like “repatriated”.nice bioThey might not have all that long to wait. We have a beaver sighting 5 miles east at the water treatment facility, and a beaver killed on the highway 5 miles south. Since several forks of the San Pedro Creek flow through the park, the odds are good beavers will find their way eventually. underwater adaptions Since it’s a new crowd I thought I’d work on some new graphics, which is always fun.  This should remind me not to leave anything out when I discuss their physical adaptions! And this could be a good prompt for discussing beaver chewing of trees and why not to panic.

chewedBut the last was the most fun to do.  And really will be the most powerful. Because, in the end, it isn’t science that saves beavers. Even though it should. People don’t change their minds because of data.  We all learned first hand in Martinez, it’s not brains that convince. It’s hearts.

kits get a lift