Because the beaver isn't just an animal; it's an ecosystem!

The Martinez Beavers

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More lovely reporting on the big beaver decision out of the UK this month, this time for all too see in the Guardian!

UK to bring back beavers in first government flood reduction scheme of its kind

A valley in the Forest of Dean will echo to the sound of herbivorous munching next spring when a family of beavers are released into a fenced enclosure to stop a village from flooding, in the first ever such scheme funded by the government.

Chris McFarling, a cabinet member of Forest of Dean district council, said: “Beavers are the most natural water engineers we could ask for. They’re inexpensive, environmentally friendly and contribute to sustainable water and flood management.

“They slow the release of storm water with their semi-porous dams, decreasing the flooding potential downstream. Water quality is improved as a result of their activities. They also allow water to flow during drought conditions. Financially they are so much more cost-effective than traditional flood defence works so it makes sense to use this great value-for-money opportunity.”

The plan for the village of Lydbrook, Gloucestershire, may soon be joined by other schemes. The environment secretary, Michael Gove, has indicated that the government may support other schemes to restore the beaver four centuries after it was driven to extinction in England and Wales.

Well, how about that for re-branding! Instead of whining that beavers can cause flooding get an entire country to broadcast that they actually can prevent flooding. And some great data to back up that claim. We are all thrilled to see the excitement accompanying this new release. The value of beavers is being shouted from the the rooftops and you know that always makes me happy.

The Forestry Commission will monitor the impact on wildlife – shown to be hugely beneficial – as well as recording the water flow in the brook. “The beaver has a special place in English heritage and the Forest of Dean proposal is a fantastic opportunity to help bring this iconic species back to the countryside,” said Gove. “The community of Lydbrook has shown tremendous support for this proposal and the beavers are widely believed to be a welcome addition to local wildlife.”

Ahhh that’s so wonderful. I’m almost jealous thinking what it would be like to start here, with the science behind you, the papers and public support, and almost everyone on your side. Can you imagine what a wonderful beaver festival they could pull off? Folks all over the country could come, there could be deals with the local B&B’s. With tours that teach proper beaver watching – maybe you could earn a badge that says your a qualified beaver observer – and everywhere wildlife education, music, beaver games. Maybe include local crafts, beer and sausage rolls? Jon would be in heaven.

Closer to home, our own beaver research has changed at least ONE mind in the Sierras. Thanks to Sherry Guzzi who sent this article yesterday that I somehow missed. The article mostly talks about how beavers make their way in the winter, but as you can see,it starts by covering the sierra nativity of everyone’s favorite topic.

Getting Ready for Winter

The beaver has long been thought to be non-native to the Sierra, but new evidence proves otherwise. As winter approaches, we will be working right alongside this “native” resident as it too gets ready for the cold, hard season.

ARE THEY, OR AREN’T THEY?!

First, let’s get the controversy out of the way. Despite the claim that the beaver is non-native to the Sierra, 2012 research proves otherwise.

“The beaver was trapped out a long, long time ago, which lead to early naturalists erroneously assuming that beavers weren’t native to the Sierra,” said Will Richardson, co-founder and executive director of Tahoe Institute for Natural Science. “This got passed down as dogma among agency personnel.”

However, in a California Fish and Game article authors Richard Lanman and Charles D. James debate the assumption that beavers are not native with evidence from 1988 when several beaver dams were re-exposed at Red Clover Creek, approximately 60 miles north of Truckee.

“Radiocarbon dates from the different portions of the remnant beaver dam were AD 580, first construction; AD 1730, dam was reused; and AD 1850, repair of a significant breach occurred,” Lanman and James reported. “After 1850, the dam was abandoned and buried beneath sediment. In 2011, another beaver dam was exposed in Red Clover Creek; its radiocarbon analysis dating at AD 182.”

Sherry Guzzi of the Sierra Wildlife Coalition summarizes the results of the study: “This is not to say that today’s Tahoe beaver is from the original Sierra Nevada population, but there were beavers in Nevada’s Humboldt River and other locations in Nevada from where they could have migrated. Some of today’s beavers are definitely descended from when beavers were re-introduced to Sierra Creeks by California Fish and Game in the ’30s and ’40s, specifically to restore watersheds.”

Hurray for beavers! Hurray for Rick and Chuck and hurray for Sherry! It’s so nice to see that our research actually stuck to some of those more stubborn minds like one of those burrs you get in your socks in the summertime. I love to think of these things falling into place over the years. It feels like a eons ago we were working on the Sierra paper, but I guess its very much still news to some.

Lanman et al. The historical range of beaver in the Sierra Nevada Calif Fish Game 2012 98(2)

 

 


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I must be getting easier to please because this whimsical article from National Geographic mostly satisfies me. Asde from the silly headline and a few wise cracks, its mostly accurate. I especially like the part when they say that beavers have a special grooming PAW on their back foot.. heh heh heh A Five footed beaver?

Beavers Have Vanilla-Scented Butts And More Odd Facts

“Beavers can change the landscape like almost no species other than humans,” says Glynnis Hood, wildlife ecologist at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus and author of The Beaver Manifesto.

The famously busy mammals build elaborate homes, which are called lodges when they are in open water and very visible, says Jimmy Taylor, research wildlife biologist with USDA’s National Wildlife Research Centre and Oregon State University.

They’ll also literally dam rivers. The largest beaver dam ever found was a half-mile long in Alberta’s Wood Buffalo Park—quite a feat for 27-kilogram animals. Hood and colleagues have also found that open water increases ninefold in areas where beavers were present.

Beaver activity can be good for the environment—increasing open water can lessen drought and also widen wetlands—in some cases by nearly 600 percent.

No kidding! Beavers are actually good for the environment? Get out!

It may be surprising to some, but “not all beavers build dams,” says Taylor. Beavers can live wherever there is persistent water, but sometimes their native river is too big to dam.

But they’re fine as long as they have an area to build their lodge, like a riverbank, food, access to mates, and water that allows them to escape from predators—the reason they build dams in the first place.

These family-loving animals were thought to be monogamous, but a 2009 genetic study of two populations in Illinois suggests the species “may be opportunistically promiscuous.”

“The pair bond is still there, but that male is sharing his genes with other females as well,” Taylor says, so they’re “socially monogamous but sexually polygamous.”

Sounds like something you’d hear in “divorce court,” he quips. Family bonds are strong, though, and male and female beavers will fight unrelated beavers to the death over territory.

Beavers are tramps! Who knew? At least you took the time to go and talk to the experts like Glynnis and Jimmy. Next time call ME and I’ll tell you the truth about that ‘special paw’ beavers have. Bwahahaha,,,,

Their tails don’t need maintenance, but their fur is another story. In doing so, the mammals keep air spaces in their warm undercoat and distribute their outer fur with castoreum oil, which they produce to scent mark and waterproof themselves.

“They have a special grooming paw on their hind foot, like a little split toenail,” Hood says, and they “spend almost 20 percent of their time grooming” themselves and each other.

Ohhh I wish I was at the PC because I would deadly LOVE to make a graphic of a beaver with a special grooming PAW that comes out of his back foot….Maybe one of you with photo shop talents can fill in for me for now.

Still, we have to give Liz Langley a B- for an article that is mostly accurate. The video isn’t bad either. Enjoy!

 


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Just because it’s the Christmas season doesn’t mean there isn’t time for glorious beaver inacuracies. Bob Kobres of Georgia wrote yesterday pointing our that the article from Buzzfeed had a whopper.

North American beavers, which live in the dams themselves rather than holes in the riverbank, create dams in much bigger rivers.

Ha! We all know that beavers don’t live IN the dam. I guess maybe they want to allay worries about that record-breaking dam in the Canadian wilderness discovered a few years ago that you can see from space. Don’t worry about those American monstrosities! Our beavers will build dainty, flood-preventing kind of dams only. Not the other kind.

Now this morning on the annual published list of Christmas lights written by Rob Hedelt in the state of Virginia there is a description of a highly unusual display in Stafford County:

Rob Hedelt’s 2017 “Grand Holiday Displays” lights list

It was 28 years ago when a Spotsylvania County Christmas lover called to suggest I do a story on his “tacky lights.” That feature very quickly morphed into my annual list of holiday lights.

I suggest you waste no time. Grab Aunt Edna, some ice-cold Yoo–hoo and pile into your ride to cruise out and see some of these holiday lights and displays, all nominated by readers. Ho Ho Ho!

12 Falling Water Court (From White Oak, take Meadow to left on Falling Water.) New additions include a Santa plane taking off on a candy cane runway and a beaver fishing from a pond, with lights and neat figures on the house.

A beaver fishing from a pond? Aside from the fact that beavers don’t fish I don’t even know what that means? Why “from” and not “in”? Do you think they mean this particular beaver is using a fishing poll?

Now Worth A Dam has beaver friends that live in Virginia and I have begged all three to send us a photo of this creation. There’s none online. but I’m hopeful.

To be honest, I don’t know why Virginia even bothers really. Because Martinez all ready won Christmas beaver display and has been reigning champion for years.


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Mymymy, yesterday was a wonderkin for beavers. The news just kept coming all day from a great article on Buzzfeed to a podcast about visiting beavers to the SINGLE best video moment I have ever seen.  (This from acclaimed photographer Jim Brandenburg and unrelated to the UK news but believe me when I say you have to watch it.)

This Is Why Beavers Being Reintroduced In Britain Is A Good And Important Thing

And in 2011, a small group was introduced in a fenced-off part of west Devon. Then, in 2015, some more were let loose in the River Otter, also Devon, as part of a five-year trial. And, basically, it’s been a huge success! Beavers create natural wetlands, improve local wildlife, probably reduce the risk of flooding, and improve water quality.

That’s because in small streams, they create dams, which in turn create ponds. (Eurasian beavers only do this in smaller streams, so that they have deep water. In bigger rivers, they don’t need to. North American beavers, which live in the dams themselves rather than holes in the riverbank, create dams in much bigger rivers.) They also dig channels and sluices to connect ponds and generally manage the waterways.

“A beaver is what is called a keystone species,” George Monbiot, the writer, environmentalist and “rewilding” advocate, told BuzzFeed News. “An animal that has a far bigger impact on its environment than its numbers alone would suggest. And the impact of beavers on other wildlife is entirely positive.

Ahhh the beaver defenders of the UK have SUCH a deep bench! With players like Monbiot and entire wildlife trusts to defend them. I honestly can’t decide whether I’m more envious or impressed!

A spokesperson for the Devon Wildlife Trust told BuzzFeed News that while it was too soon to have strong evidence from the River Otter trial, the enclosed west Devon experience was very positive. “You can literally see the improvements in water quality,” he said. “A bottle of water from upstream is brown; from downstream, filtered through the dams, it’s clear.”

And they’ve created a network of dams and ponds, which retains water in heavy rain and releases it gradually. “It’s a much greater capacity to store water,” said the spokesperson, “so it should reduce flooding downstream.”

And in the wetland areas that the beavers have created, they’ve seen “a big increase in aquatic invertebrates, a 1,000% increase in frogspawn, which is great for things that eat frogspawn. The height of vegetation has increased. The number of bat species has increased because there are loads more insects for them to feed on.”

And people really like having beavers in their local area. They’re just really cool, big, exciting animals, and you don’t see many like them in Britain.

Me too! I like having them around too! Let’s face it: beavers ARE cool. It says it right there in Buzzfeed so it must be true. If this aren’t hasn’t convinced you of the real excitement that these flat-tailed wonders create, listen to this podcast from Scotland Outside where the announcer actually gets to visit for himself.

It’s a delightful bit of banter, but if you don’t have time for the full discussion (which touches on pargeting historic homes and the invasion of non-native pink salmon), go straight to the beaver parts at 26.12 and 48.00 for the actual sighting. I’m thinking you’ll get the hang of the Scottish brogue after you listen for a bit. Enjoy!

Wasn’t that a delight? I love listening to people discover how very magical it can be to wait in the stillness for a glimpse of beavers. Because I spent so much time doing just that and it changed my life forever.

And if all those wonders aren’t wonderful enough, hold onto your hats and your very socks because THIS video from National Geographic famed Jim Brandenburg will blow you away. Every single one of the 60 seconds is breathtakingly beautiful, but the last five will warm the cockles of your heart for the next three months to come.

Trust me.


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Now that’s what I call a good beaver news day! Sunday Times, Yahoo, Huffington Post and Politico. All with headlines about how beavers help the environment. I’m pretty ambitious, and am reminded of a very old joke that went something like this

“What do you call 50 politicians at the bottom of the ocean?”

“A good START,”

If all this news follows the decision to reintroduce a single family of beaver back into the Forest Dean, I can only hope the success is trickled out over decades city by city, farm by farm so that we have this news cycle every month. Don’t rush into anything England. We in the beaver community want this to last a good long time!

Beavers returned to Forest of Dean as solution to flooding

Beavers are to return to the Forest of Dean after an absence of 400 years under a plan to use their dam-building abilities to reduce flood risk. Michael Gove, the environment secretary, has approved plans to release a family of two adult beavers and two kits into a 16-acre enclosure on Greathough Brook near the village of Lydbrook in the spring.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that many more beavers could be reintroduced in other areas. It is publishing guidance today to help organisations to make applications for “further trial releases across England”.

Scientists have said that the beavers could help to protect Lydbrook in a “nature-based solution” to the flooding. In 2012 Lydbrook’s town centre was flooded up to 4ft deep, despite being almost half a mile from the River Wye.

A pair released a few years ago into a stream in Devon built 13 dams that increased the amount of water stored behind them by more than 200,000 gallons. Beavers build dams to create ponds in which they feel safe from predators.

This is not only great news for beavers, its pretty dam good news for science. Researchers at Exeter studied the issue closely, published their findings and the right people listened. How often does that happen honestly? Imagine how proud you would be if you were the grad student working on this research!

Derek Gow, a beaver expert who has worked on other reintroduction trials, said that water took ten times longer to flow through beaver-generated wetlands than in rivers and streams without them. “Beaver-generated environments therefore not only regulate flows reducing flood peaks but also function as storage facilities for water, which can also assist in the alleviation of drought,” he said.

They also help to restore other wildlife, including insects and amphibians, by creating new wetland habitat, he added. “Reintroducing the beaver is therefore a very good idea from an ecological perspective at a time when many studies demonstrate life in intensively farmed western European landscapes dissipating at a bewildering speed.”

Wonderful Derek! This is a great day for beavers, and your work on their behalf has done good in places you might not even consider. Headlines are still pouring into my mailbox as I type this. I know we’re supposed to root for the final decision to be made, like waking up on Christmas morning with everything glistening and in place – but eeking it out is sooo good.

Let’s stay ‘Beaver Eve” for ever, okay?