“Are you a good witch? Or a bad witch?”

   Posted by heidi08 On May - 23 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

The “Beaver Patrol” in Juneau understands how beavers are important to salmon. It was started by our friends Bob Armstrong and Mary Willson years ago. But obviously beaver beliefs are still forming and changing up there, because the forest service isn’t so sure about them. The reporter still thinks they live in the dam, and even one of their volunteers needs to look up the word “Destructive” in the dictionary, I think.

Coho habitat destroyed by beaver dam dismantler

Last summer was a great year for coho salmon returns to Dredge Creek. Unfortunately, salmon redds in the creek below Dredge Lake have been negatively impacted by someone it appears was trying to help them, says the Beaver Patrol.

The “Beaver Patrol” is a group of volunteer Juneau naturalists and concerned citizens who have been working in the Dredge Creek and Dredge Lake area — U.S. Forest Service Land — for about five years. They and the Forest Service manage the dams and have improved salmon habitat in the stream, said member Chuck Caldwell.

Another factor helping Dredge Creek’s coho rearing? Beavers.

Caldwell had taken note of three different redds — nests of pebbles where salmon deposit their eggs — just above a beaver dam. A fourth was outside the main channel and needed a nearby dam to maintain its water depth. The destruction of the dam lowered the water and this winter that area froze, he said.

“He was tearing (the dams) out once or twice a week. Clearly he just hated beavers. He also wanted to dig in the stream to make a nice, deep channel. He dug through two of the redds,” Caldwell said.

The digging and the dismantling of the dams destroyed all the salmon redds he had observed in that area, Caldwell said.

In the first half of November, Beaver Patrol member Jos Bakker ran into and confronted the man when he was in the process of destroying a dam. The man doesn’t appear to have come back after that, but the damage was already done, Caldwell said.

The Beaver Patrol emphasizes beavers’ positive impact on salmon rearing.

“If you look back a couple of decades, people used to think that if you got the dams out, the fish could move back easier,” Caldwell said. “That’s not the limiting factor in the coho population. The limiting factor is having a habitat the juvenile cohos can live in.”

“By and large, it’s a safe bet that beaver dams do provide excellent coho rearing habitat,” Schneider said. “They can cause major problems for adult cohos to access fish habitat, and that’s probably what gets most folks in the public tempted to tear out dams. It has to be a fine balance, like anything else … In a normal setting, you would have these major flood events on occasion. It would rearrange them and keep them in check. You’re not going to get that in Dredge. On top of that, there are not normal predator levels that you would find in a normal wild setting.”

Dams’ impact on adult salmon in a setting like Dredge is something about which the Beaver Patrol and the Forest Service are not in complete agreement. Member Mary Willson says 90 percent of the time beavers are actually helpful to coho populations. Schneider disagrees.

When he and the cub scouts notch the dens, they use specific techniques and tools to ensure muddy debris doesn’t end up covering redds.

Beaver management does require a balance, Miller said.

It’s one of those interesting situations,” he said. “It’s true that habitat is being created, but at the same time, beavers are very destructive.”

In areas where beavers might create an aesthetic issue, the patrol has put a cloth around the trees that will keep the beavers from gnawing them, Miller said.

In my old days back before my time as a psychologist we used to call that “they’re good, they’re bad, they’re really good, they’re really bad” kind of messaging ‘schizophrenogenic’.  Meaning if it kind of makes you crazy. Of course now they no longer think schizophrenia is caused by parenting BUT I would argue the term still applies to beavers. Just look at the dedication of folks in a very small area on both sides of the fence. Bob Armstrong even got the forest service to bring out Mike Callahan to talk about flow devices in 2009, but they never let him install one. The breadth of understanding of beaver benefits there is razor thin. But still a lot thicker than some places.

Here’s what Michael Pollock said to me in our podcast interview. “Does some particular beaver dam ever prevent some particular salmon from getting over at some particular time? Sure. But that’s asking the wrong question”.

Beaver dams are doing so much good for so many salmon it balances out.

Here’s my own unscientific variation: “Do people ever get hit by ambulances? Of course they do. Does that mean we shouldn’t have ambulances? Absolutely not.


Beaver Dam at Mendenhall Glacier: Bob Armstrong

Odds an ends OR lauds and friends?

   Posted by heidi08 On May - 22 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

I’ve been hard at work knitting together my video presentation for Marin Audubon next month. It’s coming along well enough, but the job gives me a chance for some odds and ends housekeeping. The first is showing you the lovely shout out from our friends at Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre in Canada. Director Donna Dubreuil has been a true beaver friend these past years, and she is a big friend of beavers. Nice to see Martinez discussed from 2881 miles away. It may take a moment to load, but believe me it’s worth waiting for. You can use the plus button to zoom closer and read the completely unnecessary praise. (Although I do like the part where she calls me a spark plug.) :-) Thanks Donna!

Yesterday I heard from author of the much anticipated (and yet untitled) beaver book Ben Goldfarb, who just finished a stay with Louise and Paul Ramsay in their lovely beaver retreat in Bamff! He snapped this  while he was their enjoying their hospitality and has lots big ideas for the European chapter. He says he also enjoyed hanging out with Derek Gow in Devon and exploring beaver sites on the river Otter, as well as visiting the Knapale trial.

Jealous yet?


Beaver through the Spotting Scope: Ben Goldfarb

Finally I heard from Chris Scarf, the very kind website wizard from San Francisco who helped us recently, and is back from his trip with the Dromedary Camels in Mongolia. For a change of pace he recently jaunted with his wife over to photograph some beavers in Napa. Here is the lovely photo he has to show for his efforts.

American Beaver. Natures engineers, this family lived downtown Napa. Right next to a hotel and main road, they built a small dam which cause a small pond to form. That pond provided life for all kinds of other birds, fish, turtles, otters, muskrats, mink and other critters. Napa, California May 2017

Rusty has been happy to see the pond get busier. Yesterday he captured another beautiful Great Blue heron photo at just the right moment as the bird took off in flight.


GBH leaving the beaver pond: Rusty Cohn

Artfully done

   Posted by heidi08 On May - 21 - 2017ADD COMMENTS

It’s Sunday, and there’s so much good news to share I’ll be choosy and just show you the very best for now. First there is a nice article following Mike Callahan’s beaver presentation Smyrski Farm owned by the Weatinoge Land Trust.

Maybe the fierce-eyed bald eagle is the national symbo, but beavers — those social, endlessly industrious homebodies — fired the exploration of North America more than any other creature. To get their pelts, traders and trappers moved across the continent years ahead of any settlers.

“They make drastic changes to the landscape,” said Mike Callahan of Beaver Solutions, a Massachusetts-based company dedicated to helping beavers and humans peacefully coexist. “Usually for the better.”

As with the other large mammals that have found the state to their liking — white-tailed deer, black bear, coyote — humans now have to learn to live with beaver. Gone from Connecticut for at least a century and a half, they’re back in force, slapping tails, damming streams, sometimes flooding back yards.

“Native Americans called them ‘little people’ because other than humans, no other animal changes the environment so much,” Callahan said.

When beavers build a dam, that makes a pond. That makes an open habitat in the middle of the woods, where aquatic plants, fish, waterfowl, muskrat and mink can all thrive.

“They’re really great at creating an awesome heterogeneous landscape with lots of biodiversity,” said Mike Jastremski, watershed conservation director for the Housatonic Valley Association.

Beaver ponds help regulate downstream flooding with the newly created wetlands soaking up rain water like a giant sponge.

After a time, when the beavers vacate the premises, the dam deteriorates, the pond flows away, and you’ve got a new habitat — a woodland meadow. A new set of species adapts to that. Eventually, when that meadows grows back to woods, beavers can return.

Callahan now makes his living installing systems to let people and beavers coexist. The only other option is trapping and killing them. There are too many beavers in the state to relocate them.

“They used to move them to somewhere else,” Josephson of the Naromi Land Trust said. “Now, there is nowhere else.”

“They’re sort of like mice,” said Marge Josephson, president of the Naromi Land Trust in Sherman. “If you see one mouse in your house, it means you’ve got a lot of mice. If you see one beaver, you’ve got more than one.”

Hurray for Mike, traveling between states to spread the beaver gospel with other land trusts.  Clearly Mr. Jamstremski did his homework on the topic and understands why all this all matters. We’re not so sure about Marge (who needs politely reminding that its not generally a good idea to remind listeners that beavers are like mice in their house!)


My mailbox has been ringing with donations all week for our silent auction at the beaver festival, but I’m going to start with the watercolor prints by Robert Mancini  of Melbourne Australia.

He is a truly talented artist  that works to capture the natural world with his prodigious gift. I still can’t believe how generous he was with us.  Obviously his beaver painting got my attention first, but I was thrilled to see the many others he included, of which these are just a sample., all signed and on quality paper. Go look at his website to see how talented he truly is. Thank you Rob, for your generous support of beavers!