On a salmon roll!

   Posted by heidi08 On August - 18 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

Don’t look now, but Andy Wallace and Jane Friedhoff are finishing off an Arcade game where two beavers carefully roll a salmon between them in such a way as to protect it from very hungry bears. No really. They call themselves “the upstream team”.

First off, I’d like to introduce you to Salmon Roll: The Upstream Team! Jane and I designed the game, with me taking on most of the programming and Jane handling the production. The amazing Diego E. Garcia is doing all of the art.

In Salmon Roll, two players take control of a beaver on either side of a wooden beam and must work together to guide the rolling salmon resting on the beam to its nest upstream all while avoiding the hungry bears along the way. The game is a collaborative, two-player, super-sized take on the early 80s arcade classic Ice Cold Beer (which itself was inspiration for the recent TumbleSeed). Its levels are designed specifically to utilize the architecture of the space, and players interact with it by using a 5-foot-long, wooden, custom two-player controller.

Here’s a peak at how it works. Oops! Watch out for that bear!

The controller for Salmon Roll is a 5 foot long wooden box held by players at either end and with joysticks sticking out of the sides. The joysticks move up and down, allowing the players to control their beavers, but the construction of the box requires players to hold it up together with their free hand. This ensures that it is impossible for any one person to control both joysticks at the same time: the size of the controller itself makes sure that this is a two-player game. The image of the two beavers holding a plank projected on the wall is mirrored by our players holding the controller in the real world!

Play NYC happens this weekend in NY and is being touted as the city’s first gamers convention where are the exhibits are 100% playable. Large companies and new startups will show off their newest creations.  25 dollars will get you through the door and access to three floors of adventure. But none, I’m sure, as fine as the salmon roll. Which cleverly demonstrates the very important fact that beaver help salmon.

And salmon need all the help they can get.

CaptureNow small world update, I just found out that one of the volunteers taking care of those two lucky beavers at AIWC was formerly one of our own Cheryl Reynold’s volunteers at IBRC! She just reminded us that there is a go fund me campaign for the two furry friends, and I thought you might want to help. Even if you don’t have funds to spare, watch the video just to appreciate how differently colored those two beavers are.  Colors living in harmony.


Beaver Creation Myth

   Posted by heidi08 On August - 17 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

Jules Howard is a freelance zoologist and author from the UK. His article in the guardian introduces a whimsical creation myth about beavers that is near and dear to my heart. It also answers the common question ‘why do beavers build dams?’. Get your coffee cup and settle in because the article is so good I’m posting it all.

Why do beavers build dams? You asked Google – here’s the answer

Here is a beaver-based creation myth. It begins thus. God so loved the world that He seeded it with diligent rodents able to do the hard work of habitat creation – damming streams and creating ponds and lakes in which amphibian larvae thrived, providing food for water beetles and dragonfly nymphs and a host of other invertebrates which fed the fish that early humans consumed. God gave us beavers to make the landscapes upon which we depended – that’s the myth I want you to imagine for the sake of this piece.

Ohhh! Was that a marriage proposal? If it was you had me at ‘habitat creation’. Sigh.

It goes on. My creation myth believes that the wetlands that these early creatures created washed away and purified humanity’s poisons. And that these holy creatures, The Beavers, saved us from Biblical floods by slowing the flow rate of sudden aggregations of water. Again and again, The Beavers saved us, but in time, predictably, things changed. We humans came to turn our backs on them. We forgot about Beavers, and God was not pleased about humankind’s insolence.

Like all good creation myths, this one features a gruesome twist. Like the rosy apple that hung from the tree in the Garden of Eden, in my creation myth God put things on beavers to tempt those first people into sinning. He covered them with thick fur that they would desire as clothing. He put their testicles on the inside, rather than the outside, and gave these mystical and elusive gonads properties that may (or may not) have provided medicinal properties. And, lastly, there beneath their tails, God hung a pair of anal glands that produced a smelly substance that the early humans found irresistible. Those early humans made a choice. They couldn’t help themselves. They committed original sin.

Upon discovering their unusual glands and delightfully thick fur we humans slaughtered them in their millions to make top hats and well-known perfumes that still sell today courtesy of a deft hint of anal glands that makes them more appealing than the competition. (Also ice-cream flavouring, but that’s another story). The rest, as they say, is history.

In less than 200 years, the North American beaver went from 90 million to between 10-15 million. In Europe and Asia, just 1,200 beavers remained by 1900. The beavers died, almost totally exterminated. In time, we forgot that they had ever been here.

How much are you loving Mr. Howard’s creation myth? I’m having a tingly feeling and smoking a cigarette. Wait, wasn’t he going to answer a question at some point?

The simple answer is that beavers build dams to deepen watercourses, so that they can create “lodges” that can be better defended from modern predators including bears, wildcats, otters and other mammalian forebears with whom the beavers shared prehistory. It seems that deep water is particularly important to beavers. Lakes and ponds allow for a kind of floating structure of sticks and branches that can be accessed from a secret hole beneath, a key real-estate feature that reduces the need for terrestrial entrances through which land-based predators can climb. Upon finding shallow watercourses, colonising beavers immediately begin damming, creating canals along which trunks and branches can be dragged along to add to this, their anti-predator superstructure. In these lodges, beavers rear their young and see out winter, safe and sound.

Why and how they hit upon this behaviour is of interest to those who study beavers and their family members, the Castoridae (nearly all of whom are now extinct). It may be an example of a behavioural trait that has “piggy-backed” upon an appetite for bark-gnawing. One imagines that their semi-aquatic ancestors were tree-gnawers that used their spoils for building riverside burrows, with some accidentally hitting upon damming rivers. The truth is we don’t yet know. The creation myth eroded, now a new mystery is being gradually exposed based by those that study comparative anatomy, fossils and DNA.

Got that? Beavers build dams to create deep water that protects their lodges. I especially like thinking about all the kinds of castoridae that used to exist. Surrounded by beaver cousins! What an interesting world that must have been!

One thing is clear. Our original sins now washed away by rushing floodwaters, we have an opportunity to bring beavers back into our lives. In recent years, almost every European country has made steps to re-introduce and restore their wild beaver populations. In Scotland, an introduced population of beavers is doing well – indeed, it is now considered a protected native species. There is a good chance that a small breeding population in England may be granted the same status.

After almost killing them off entirely, we may yet redeem ourselves from the sins of our ancestors. How delicious, therefore, that we should free ourselves from damnation by becoming, once more, a dam-nation.

Oh, that was awesome, Jules. I adore your creation myth, but I’m not sure it’s a myth at all. I truly believe beavers WERE put on this earth to give us habitat and store water and that when we reject them we are turning down a gift from the divine. But that’s just me.  I know the world is full of athiests. I just had to look at my Sacred center video from So long ago. There wasn’t a part of making this video that wasn’t packed with wonder and curiosity. In fact in those days I was watching the beavers on Escobar street and had never even been as far as the dam!
I’m sure you want to know more about Jules. I’ll leave you with his TED talk just so you can see what a fine story teller he is. Let’s be thankful that he chose to tell one about beavers.


   Posted by heidi08 On August - 16 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

Another beaver extravaganza combining the Beaver tails art exhibit, a beaver tour, and movie night all courtesy of the Nehalem watershed conservancy.

Beaver Tales: on the land and the big screen

NEHALEM — To celebrate beavers and their contribution to the ecology of the North Coast, Lower Nehalem Watershed Council, The Wetlands Conservancy and community partners are hosting the Beaver Tales Art Exhibit and accompanying events in August.

Beaver Trail tour

The watershed council and community partners will lead participants on a tour of beaver habitat sites throughout the Nehalem Watershed 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19.

The tour will stop at two to four locations where participants will see different examples of active and historical beaver activity. Alix Lee, coordinator for the watershed council will lead the tour and provide narrative on beaver ecology, history and importance for maintaining healthy ecosystems on the North Coast.

Transportation between sites will be provided and has been funded by Tillamook People’s Utility District.

This event is part of Explore Nature, a consortium of volunteer community and non-profit organizations working to provide meaningful, nature-based experiences in Tillamook County.

Movie night: ‘Leave it to Beavers’

Join the watershed council at Alder Creek Farm 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19, for movie night in the barn featuring the PBS documentary “Leave it to Beavers.”

The hour-long documentary examines beavers in a new light, revealing ways in which “the presence of the industrious rodents can transform and revive landscapes,” organizers wrote. “Bring a comfy camp chair and settle in to learn about these fascinating builders and brilliant hydro-engineers.”

Sometimes my jaw literally drops and hangs open to see how many good things come can come together with the right collection of people pulling the strings. Hats OFF to the wonders of this Beaver Tails exhibit, which has been like a band of firecrackers going off at regular intervals for nearly a year now. The Wetlands Conservancy really created something astounding when they undertook this massive art show. You know it got folks around the state talking and thinking about beavers in a new way.

An speaking of beavers and wetlands, here’s something to celebrate. Our own watershed wizard Igor Skaredoff gave the Stanislaus rescue crews something to do this sunday and after a misplaced night was very politely found the following morning. Igor has all the skills and insights of a lifetime of mountain climbing, so I can’t think of anyone more suited to the task. He was also the first member of the beaver subcommittee to see that I might actually be saying something worth listening to so, God bless him. And hurray for safe homecomings!

igor lariat