“Poppies will put them to sleep…”

   Posted by heidi08 On January - 18 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

I must be a very suspicious person. Because when city council members say their policy is to “relocate” beavers who are causing problems and not kill them I immediately think of parents telling their child the family pet went to “live on the farm”.

In other words: I don’t believe it.

They’re are extra delicate around the public in Langley, apparently. which is in British Columbia just between Washington and Vancouver.  Folks are primed there for beaver outrage and require a pretty detailed story to have their alarm buttons turned off.

Langley resident ‘appalled’ by beaver trapping in Gloucester wetland

Ted Lightfoot was walking his beagle, Homer, along the trails near 56 Avenue and 272 Street in Gloucester on Jan. 7, when Homer caught wind of something near West Creek.

The dog darted off the perimeter path toward the water, leading his owner to the scene of a large beaver, lying motionless inside a hunting trap, with a second unsprung trap close by, just inches below the water.

“I was just appalled to see this beautiful animal with its broken neck in a trap,” said Lightfoot’s wife, Lynda, who came out to see the beaver shortly after it was found.

“I mean this is — on top of everything else — this is the start of Canada’s 150th birthday, and what are we doing but killing these beavers? In my way of thinking, they are not a nuisance issue here. They’re not flooding a farmer’s field or a house or anything.

A typical opening to a beaver story. Man walking his dog is horrified to come across a dead beaver in a trap. A typical start to the ‘why do we need to use traps’ story. Cue the city worker who can explain how destructive beavers are and its the only way.

According to the Township, a professional trapper was called in after multiple beaver dams were discovered at the detention pond in December.

The dams were backing up the storm water system on 272 Street, and following “typical beaver management practices,” the Township first attempted to remove some of the dams by hand, said Aaron Ruhl, Township manager of engineering and construction services.

“We’ll monitor the site and then if things are being rebuilt fairly quickly, then we’ll look at maybe putting in pond levelers, which at this detention pond site isn’t feasible because of the size, the (number) of beaver dams in there and the importance to the storm water system,” he said.

You see we tried taking out the sticks but those darned beavers just kept putting them back. And we really, really need that pond for the storm water system. Because you know, it’s our concrete system for slowing water down and it doesn’t work well with a series of natural systems that would do the same thing. Understand?

There are two poem fragments I hear in my head when I read these kind of  stories. It is just the way my mind works. This is the first one from Dr. Seuss’s  Grinch:

His fib fooled the child, he patted her head
gave her a drink and then sent her to bed
And when cindy loo hoo went to bed with her cup
He went to the chimney and stuffed the tree up.

The second poem fragment actually bothers me more. Because its the”tearful response of the person who voted to cause harm in the first place”. I’m on the city council but I’m shocked! shocked to learn that we voted for beaver trapping! It’s from the Alice thru the Looking Glass and its just as apt.

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,

Councillor Petrina Arnason, who also witnessed the dead beaver, said she is very upset that the rodents are being trapped.

“I’m extremely unhappy. I think that on a number of levels that this is not something that the Township should be doing,” she said.

In particular, Arnason said she is upset because council recently passed her motion to have an integrated storm water management plan created for Gloucester.

“So the idea behind that is … prior to any further redevelopment in that area by Beedie — who’s the primary land holder there, which is why they are charged with doing this — they have to create a holistic approach to how it is that they are going to manage that area as a watershed,” she said.

That includes wildlife and the beavers, who are attracted to the wetland habitat of the area. Arnason believes trapping them now, prior to the storm water management plan being adopted, is premature.

“I’m just honestly incensed that in light of this, and in my expectation that this (storm water management plan) is being done in order that meets that commitment that council put forward, that we are now going out there and trapping beavers.

“They are what’s considered to be a keystone species, and there is lots of literature that indicates that they are very much a part of an integrated approach to how to manage wetlands, and that conflict resolution with beavers, a progressive approach, would not look at ‘let’s just exterminate them.’”

Even my wounded suspicious nature gets confused by that last paragraph. When I hear words like that I so want to see a potential beaver hero. What if she was outvoted and really wanted to use other means to control the problem?

She’s still a ‘walrus’. And I will tell you why. Because she uses words like ‘holistic’ instead of words like ‘pragmatic’ and ‘cost saving’. In this instance, holistic is a synonym for ‘bleeding heart’ and ‘don’t listen to me‘. If she wants to get their attention she should be talking about investing taxpayer dollars for a temporary solution.

The entire region is full of beaver polite doublespeak. Which just terrifies me.

Cute, hard-working and destructive: the beaver

In the Langleys, beaver-proofing can include installing metal mesh wraps around tree trunks, and modifying their dams to reduce flooding. When the beavers can’t be discouraged, sometimes they have to be relocated.

And that’s when licensed trappers are called in.

“Trapping is our last resort.” said Aaron Ruhl, the Township’s manager of engineering and construction services. “We prefer not to.”

Ruhl says at any given time, the Township is monitoring multiple beaver dams with the potential to cause problems. “We’ve got sites we visit weekly,” Ruhl told the Times.

Before a trapper is  called in, Township policy calls for trying alternative beaver management methods that can include installing fences and or barriers around culverts, drains, structures, and trees to keep beavers away as well as wrapping heavy gauge wire mesh around trees.

Arnason points to the SPCA best practices, which state that the organization “does not support killing beavers for nuisance reasons.”

Instead, the SPCA suggests methods such as relocation, putting up fences to deter them from building dams or running flexible corrugated pipe through existing dams to control water levels.

Kyle Simpson, Langley City manager of engineering operations, said a colony of beavers recently had to be rousted from the Baldi Creek area after alternative beaver-proofing methods failed.

“They (the beavers that get relocated) are treated very delicately,” Simpson says.“They will not be harmed at all.”

Right off the bat, when folks discuss relocation FIRST and installing a flow device SECOND they are just plain lying that the beavers are well treated. I’m sorry, but they just are. This isn’t Yakima or Sherri Tippie that comes in a relocates the entire family to safer ground. It’s Jake from ‘Critter gone’ who uses a snare to trap the single beaver and dump him into some bigger pond where he’ll have no family and no food cache for the winter and will likely die.

What worries me is that when the civic powers use flowery ecological language to describe what they’re doing they put to sleep the exact kind of public outrage that could be ignited to motivate real beaver action. That’s why they use it.

Also it just bugs me when they use Cheryl’s lovely photo (taken in an urban setting where beavers were successfully managed)  to do it.


Afancod for all!

   Posted by heidi08 On January - 17 - 2017ADD COMMENTS


Wales is on the beaver Warpath, and  something tells me they aren’t giving up on their quest to reintroduce beavers any time soon. When Scotland gave the all clear they were immediately lining up to be next. They will be presenting at the beaver conference next month in Oregon. It’s pretty generous them to all do this separately, so we get to prolong the discussion of beaver benefits as long as possible. After they succumb, we still get all of England to do the promoting! Then what?

Proposals to reintroduce beavers to parts of Wales

A SPECIAL talk is to be held next week over proposals to reintroduce beavers to parts of Wales.

Welsh beaver project officer Alicia Leow-Dyke will be opening up the elusive world of beavers at a free event at the Centre for Alternative Technology on 24 January.

Alicia, of the Radnorshire Wildlife Trust, will talk about beaver ecology, the history and future of beavers in Wales and the impacts that beavers have on ecosystems, looking at how this can benefit many species, including humans.

In a report by the WBAI they said: “Beavers are often considered a ‘keystone’ species in aquatic environments, with an ability to modify riverine and wetland habitats to the benefit of many other species, with few negative effects.”

That sentence makes me excited and nervous in exactly equal measures. Yes, beavers modify rivers and benefit species but oh they bring a few negative effects for humans. Or at lets call them ‘challenges’. Truly solvable and worth doing but unfortunately not all people are up for a challenge. I’ll let them know when I get to meet them (assuming the sled dogs can get us both there). Here they are listed on the agenda for the State of the beaver conference:

5:00 pm – 5:45 pm

The Long Road: Returning Beavers to Wales.”

 Adrian Lloyd Jones, Wildlife Trusts Wales. Alicia Leow-Dyke, Wildlife Trusts Wales

Nice photo published this morning from Jestephotography I thought deserved sharing. His description says:

While out at Elk Island National Park this fall I stopped to set up on a family of 5 beavers , mom n pop with 3 offspring doing what beavers do.  Most of the time they where at a mid distance but this fellow decided the log right in front of me needed a good chewing.  I was belly down in the mud with my lens poking out between the cat tails for this one.

Illustrating Beavers

   Posted by heidi08 On January - 16 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

Beaver by artist Heidi Snyder

Beaver, Boreal Toads, and Grazing

These dams transform shallow, narrow streams into deep ponds–incredible resources in the arid West. The benefits of these beaver dams are many, including creation of pond and wetland habitats and food webs for native trout, muskrat, voles, shorebirds, cavity-nesting birds, deer, raptors, and more. Beaver dams also raise the streambed level by capturing sediment, which allows water to replenish the adjacent floodplains. Leaked water subirrigates the valley below the dam, and the dams are physical roadbumps that reduce flood force which could otherwise  gouge the stream. And more.

And what are these miracle dams built of? Wood, often stripped by beaver of its bark, for food. Beavers’ favored food is the willow family–cottonwood, aspen, or willow—that has its own particular skill: resprouting after being eaten.  It’s a great match: beaver expand wetland areas that, in turn, grow more of the willow family, and the willow family provides renewable food and construction materials for the beavers’ dams and lodges.

Those willow family sprouts, however, are also favorite foods of cattle, elk, deer, and sheep. And here the conflict arises: Riparian areas are the favored hangout of cattle, for shade, water, and…willow, cottonwood and aspen.  And though these plants can sprout back after being eaten, they do require rest from being consumed in order to regrow. Aspen and cottonwood need their main stem to grow above browse height, and willow need to retain a majority of their multiple stems.  Thus, cattle can eat our water-master beavers out of house and home.

Since boreal toad reproduction is so tightly linked with higher-elevation beaver ponds, and since beaver are so tightly linked with abundant willow, cottonwood, and aspen, and since cattle in particular (but also elk) spend so much time eating in willow, cottonwood, and aspen stands, we begin to sense just how indirectly, but effectively, excessive grazing can interfere with species and habitats we know and love on the Colorado Plateau. 

So stop letting your cows graze the waterways. We would like our water to be ecoli free anyway, but it’s especially worth noting that they eat the shoots that would feed the beavers who would make the streams better. I believe this is the last in the series of 12 reasons enumerated by the Grand Canyon Trust with artist Heidi Snyder and hero Mary Obrien. This is the final of six reports on the topic and you can go here to see the others.

Heidi Snyder’s  paintings are wonderful and we are thrilled that they were commissioned to tell this story. And speaking of commissioned we’re working with the artist at Coyote Brush Studios to do an original painting of our ecosystem poster, so that we can share it far and wide without incurring copyright wrath. Tina Curiel is also doing watercolor tattoos for our beaver activity at this years festival, and I for one can’t wait.




Friends in High Country News Places

   Posted by heidi08 On January - 15 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

Well I’ll be gosh-darned. I just opened the nicest email from the beaver-savvy author of this High Country News review. It’s the kind of email that no girl deserves twice in her life, so I may as well just cancel the account now and hang up my ‘retired beaver tale-teller’ sign. You know, way back when I was a wee snip of a beaver advocate struggling to save our beavers from a conibear I was transfixed by a wondrous article in HCN that introduced me to the beaver shaman Mary Obrien who preached a whole new way of thinking about beavers and streams and ecology. The hair stood up on my arm to think that such wisdom existed in the world. And to get such a nice email from one of its reporters – well. You can see why I’m still tingling.

Apparently, he was prompted by reading our newsletter, which we had beautifully printed and received last week. (It came out pretty sharp, so if you would like your very own copy, email me an address and I’ll be happy to send one.)I asked his permission to share the delightful email  because it’s the kind of gratifying pipe you want to pass to your circle of friends,  but in the mean time here’s his awesome review of Frances Backhouse book. And some highlights so you can see that he really gets why all this beaver business matters.

The historical lifetime of the beaver

Our relationship with North America’s largest rodent is so complex that we can no longer classify beavers as simply as Horace T. Martin did in Castorologia, an 1892 zoological monograph written when beavers hovered on the brink of extinction. Frances Backhouse — formerly a seabird and grizzly biologist, now a University of Victoria-based writer/teacher — takes a new look at this landscape-changing critter in her book, Once They Were Hats: In Search of the Mighty Beaver. The book was a finalist for the Lane Anderson award for the best Canadian science book of 2015.

For last few centuries, we’ve regarded beavers as either nuisances or commodities. Now, we’re increasingly learning how they make our landscapes livable: not only by clearing a path for settled lands and farms, but by filtering, diversifying and storing the water on which we depend. Backhouse identifies beavers as “a classic keystone species — that is, the indispensable creator of ecosystems that support entire ecological communities; an unwitting faunal philanthropist.” As a Canadian, she surely has a particular affinity for her national animal, but the beavers’ watershed stewardship blurs political borders. In her final chapter, “Détente,” Backhouse shows that countries that once fought over fur are finding between beavers and humans can help provide a cooler future, too.

First of all, if you haven’t read the book yet, buy it NOW. Because you really need to support this kind of revisionist beaver thinking. And second of all, go read the whole review because it’s very well written and will make you eager to start flipping through pages. And third, I just heard from Mr. Rich that he is willing to let me share this so here’s the first paragraph that you can use please at my eulogy.

Dear Heidi,

As we start a new year, I want to thank you for your tireless coverage of all things beaver. After reading your recent post and newsletter on the decade you have honored this marvelous rodent, I realized what a small fraction of those 10,000 viewers/week probably reciprocate with the praise and support that Worth a Dam deserves. I know that I am guilty of this, having been a daily reader for at least the last two years without ever saying a word. I am so devoted to your site because there is no other nexus with such comprehensive insights into the beaver’s ecological benefits, and wisdom about their evolving relationship with us. There are many places to learn “facts” about beavers, but you connect them with humor and heart as you bring “distant leaders and particular regional blind spots” into conversation. So I hope I speak for many hundreds more when I say THANK YOU!

Rob Rich

I honestly have never read anything that makes me happier. Or ascribes better purpose to my weirdly addictive pastime. I frankly would be making it up if I ever tried to say why I post about beavers every day, or who I think reads and depends on it. But now I have the perfect answer, and suddenly it all makes sense.

I do it for Mr. Rich.

Beaver Benefits at the Big Boy Table

   Posted by heidi08 On January - 14 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

Didn’t I tell you that the quest for beavers in Marin would find answers quickly? Apparently there have already been discussions behind the scenes with the head of CDFG and now this article just magically appears in the SFGate. Mind you, and others have written them literally millions of time of the years about the important  relationship between beavers and salmon, but they obviously needed just the right motivation.

My mac is currently having issues so I can’t introduce the article the way I want but just go read it, and especially read the quotes about how important beavers are. Then set your watch for how long it takes to get them reintroduced in Marin. Maybe we should have a poll. I’m guessing they’ll be reintroduced before the first day of spring if the weather allows it.

California’s recent storms are devastating endangered salmon

Back in the North Bay, great efforts are underway to further restore the endangered coho salmon population. Ettinger hopes soon, beavers are re-introduced to the waterways.

“Beavers create the kind of habitat that really protect salmon in floods and drought by creating slow water ponds,” he said. “Coho salmon and beaver co-evolved for thousands of years and we lost beavers from trapping a long time ago. It would be really helpful to get that partnership re-established.”



It’s Raining Beavers!

   Posted by heidi08 On January - 13 - 2017Comments Off on It’s Raining Beavers!

Reach deep in your pockets and under that couch cushion. If you find anything there other than cheetos and lint you will want to donate it to the Lindsay wildlife hospital and thank them for treating two beavers in two days, which is more than they’ve seen in two years.

The Benicia Police Department posted this video yesterday after a beaver
was found disoriented on the campus of Joe Henderson Elementary School. That beaver is apparently on the mend this morning, and the papers have amused themselves with the story.

Walnut Creek: Injured beaver found outside Benicia school

20170112_134444WALNUT CREEK — A disoriented beaver that showed up outside a Benicia elementary school early Thursday morning is recuperating at the Lindsay Wildlife Experience.

School personnel discovered the 40-pound male beaver drooling at the front door of Joe Henderson Elementary School around 5:30 a.m. Animal control officers took the beaver to the Lindsay for treatment.

Other than abrasions on its tail and the soles of the feet, the beaver appeared to be healthy, according to Dr. Guthrum Purdin, director of veterinary services at the Lindsay.

This is the second injured beaver brought to the Lindsay this week. On Tuesday, two beavers were found near Mohr Lane in Concord. One had been struck by a vehicle and died at the scene. The second beaver suffered a broken tooth and a fractured skull, and was euthanized Wednesday.

We’ve known for years about the beavers near Lake Hermann in Benicia, which is not far from the school. Cheryl has even been out to photograph them. The odd thing is that their series of beaver dams are currently upsetting public works enough that they are complaining to anyone that will listen. A reporter for the Vallejo Herald wanted to talk to me about it yesterday and find out how we managed them in Martinez. Neither of us even knew about that local rescue until last night!

North American Beaver Castor canadensis Guthrum Purdin, Director of Veterinary Services at the Lindsay Wildlife Experience, examines six-week-old orphaned kit Lindsay Wildlife Experience, Walnut Creek, CA *Model release availableDr. Guthrum is the veterinarian who treated our sick kit. He came to the beaver festival that year and is a big supporter. We are grateful that there is a safe place for beavers to recover and that compassionate teachers and animal control officers made sure he got there. Please tell them you support their beaver rescue by donating to help keep their doors open. And if you write “This is for the next beaver” on your donation we’ll be even happier.

And there’s one more thing we’re grateful for, and that has to be the silver lining in these stories.

A beaver population in Concord, in Benicia, in Napa, in Hercules, in Sonoma. We are surrounded by beavers on every side. Ten years ago that would never, ever have been possible. Ten years ago it was unheard of for beavers to suddenly appear in a  city. Worth A Dam made sure that Martinez was safe harbor for the birth of 24 kits over a decade. Even if they haven’t found their way back to Marin, these lucky beaver have changed the population of beavers in the greater Bay area for evermore.

No matter what happens now, they’ll never put that particular genie back in that bottle again.  Happy New Year!


Bad news for beavers

   Posted by heidi08 On January - 12 - 2017Comments Off on Bad news for beavers

North American Beaver Castor canadensis Lodge in urban environment Napa, California

There is bad news a’plenty today for beavers. The puddles and buckets of rain that fell wreaked havoc on our flat-tailed friends. The beautiful lodge in Napa was flattened like adobe bricks under the ocean and while the well-built structure never washed away, it collapsed.  Robin went out in the morning to see the damage and Rusty sent these photos yesterday. I am stung with grief over the loss. He came back in the evening and saw one beaver hanging around in confusion. I’m guessing finding family members is job one after a displacement like this. Home is, after all, wherever your peeps are.


Flattened Lodge in Napa: Rusty Cohn

Worse still, It turns our that the beaver killed on Mohr Lane in Concord was the second one. The first was taken to Lindsay Wildlife Hospital an hour earlier. That one had a broken jaw and severe damage also and he died from his injuries. He was a smaller beaver, probably last summer’s kit. And obviously with his parent or sibling for safety. Both were killed.

The death was written about on the  the Claycord News and Talk website (the mayor is an old friend of the Martinez Beavers) and that earned a pretty interesting comments by readers.

Vehicle Hits, Kills Beaver on Mohr Lane Near Monument Blvd. in Concord

A beaver was struck and killed by a vehicle on Mohr Lane near Monument Blvd. in Concord on Tuesday night.

A ton of folks visit that sight, there have been 18 comments so far, but these two got all my attention:

Is this thing on?

I thought I saw a beaver dam on Walnut Creek between Monument and Willow Pass, upstream of the concrete drop structure. Anyone else see it from the Iron Horse this past fall? I’m guessing it’s gone with the high water.

Jojo Potato

@Is this… I guess you don’t remember this post of mine: riding along the Iron Horse trail this morning where it follows along the creek north of Monument, saw a really beautiful beaver dam across the stream. Overflow was cleverly directed around the east end and the dam solidly built with sticks and mud across the main channel. There is life in Concord! Great to see.

So there was a beaver dam and family along the Iron horse trail and we didn’t even know. Two (or maybe more) of that family were killed, and I’m sure the others are scattered and disoriented. They could easily be our offspring or descended from our offspring. I was so saddened yesterday by this news that I comforted myself by imagining starting a beaver clinic, like Mother Theresa – but for beavers.  Where lots and lots of beavers would be rescued, snugly wrapped in towels and fed cottonwood or apples until they regained their strength. Maybe you want to help?

North American Beaver Castor canadensis Danielle Mattos, Director of Animal Care at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, holding rescued beaver Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, Petaluma, CA

North American Beaver
Castor canadensis
Danielle Mattos, Director of Animal Care at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, holding rescued beaver
Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, Petaluma, CA