Thankful for Beavers

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 27 - 2014ADD COMMENTS


We all have impossibly many things to do today but I thought Worth A Dam would take a moment to say what we’re thankful for this year, the ninth in which the most famous beaver family in the world has, against all odds, lived to celebrate it’s 20th birth. Since we’ll do a countdown at new years of significant events, I thought today would be limited to JUST things I’m grateful for, that I didn’t expect, and never made happen. If you think of some I forgotten send them email me and I’ll add to the list.

  • Tom Russert recommending us to Loren Cole of ISI and our new fiscal sponsor.
  • Robert Rust’s tail-slapping beaver at the festival.
  • Deidre independently organizing the train trip from Oakland to the festival and Chris Richards doing the lecture for free.
  • New Beaver friends from Napa helping with the festival, including helping Jon lift the heavy stage.
  • Inheriting the stage after NPS retired it.
  • The Environmental Scientist from Phillips 66 contacting me regarding a flow device and staying on the case until it was installed to protect Rodeo’s beavers.
  • Hank and Paula donating a case of wine for the silent auction.
  • The generosity of Etsy craftsmen and women from all over the world donating to the silent auction.
  • Pam from ISI working at the festival in membership and auction.
  • Robin indepently getting a PRA records request on every  depredation permit issued in California, and grimly helping me log them into a massive spread sheet. Three times.
  • My friend Michelle from grad school getting her stats friend to analyze the data for us because he loves beavers!
  • Beavers coming back to 4 Seasons and advocates at the ready protecting them.
  • The Kit coming home to live with both parents again!
  • Beaver benefits in the New York Times at last!

Have a great day with loved ones, and thanks for making miracles happen from all of us at Worth A Dam. Save room for dessert.

From our friend Rusty in Napa:

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Beavers in the Danube

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 26 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Starting high in the Black Forest of Germany, the Danube is the longest river in the European Union and makes its way through nine countries (Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine) before emptying into the Black Sea. Just before it filters into salt water it branches out into a expansive delta, where they are happily seeing beavers for the first time in 200 years.

 Busy as a beaver: Monitoring beavers in the Danube Delta


Back in June 2014, the first video footage from a camera trap confirmed that beavers are again breeding in the Danube Delta after an absence of almost 200 years. The beaver had disappeared during the early nineteenth century from most of Europe. In Romania, the Forestry Research Institute (ICAS Braşov) initiated a first reintroduction project in 1998 on the rivers Olt, Mureş and Ialomiţa. Once a population was established there, beavers then started to migrate without any human intervention and in 2010 there began their presence in the upper parts of the delta. Now, four years later, in June 2014, we recorded their activity in the Somova-Parcheș area.

 Later footage confirmed that the beavers’ comeback to the Danube Delta is now a fact. The local institutions and NGOs, like the Danube Delta Reserve Authority and the Forestry Research Institute, WWF Romania and Rewilding Europe have worked together observing their activities since late 2011. The beaver, strictly protected in Romania, is now in great need of a conservation plan.

“We are proud to work with eight interns who are travelling by canoe in the middle of the night or day, facing the harsh winds, but also see and hear the beavers’ fascinating activities in the area. And not only! We will soon show you also who else is inhabiting the wetland areas around their lodge”, says Alexandra Panait, team leader of the Danube Delta rewilding team.

You can see below some of their latest findings:

Well, maybe you have to go all the way to Romania to find them, but at least someone is excited about beavers!  Hurray for the intrepid interns canoeing off in frigid or wet conditions to study beavers!  We are so lucky here in Martinez that we barely have to get out of the warm car to see the family. Still, even in the lap of luxury, it takes a kind of in intrepid spirit to leave your winter living room after dark and bundle up to go see beavers who may or may not want to see you. Trust me.

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Friendly Gestures

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 25 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Mom, Dad and kit emerged from the bank hole at the lodge last night and heartily enjoyed some willow. Our visitors from Berkeley got the complete audience, thanked us with a donation and headed off to Lemon Grass Bistro for dinner.  I was happy to see the beaver family together and to see the kit back in close quarters with his parents where he belonged.

Apparently, in Napa our beaver friends had a kind of reunion as well. Rusty, Robin and Hank all showed up at the dam at the same time to look for elusive beavers and were treated to a long and rare (in recent weeks) sighting, Apparently this yearling was hungry for willowbark and nothing – I mean NOTHING – else would do. About two thirds in he even climbs up into the tule bank to retrieve another one. I guess we have our answer to the question of beaver memory.

There was also a donation waiting for us when we got back from the beaver dam. This one from an attorney who tried the famous beaver case back in 2000. It was won at the appellate level where he showed that removing beaver from Lake Skinner caused such a dramatic impact that it required a CEQA exemption. The Department and Fish and Game and the Metropolitan Water District got to pay for that trial. Including his fees and the expense of bringing in Donald Hey from Chicago and Sherri Tippie from Colorado. (You can see why this case is popular with me.)  I learned about it when he wrote our mayor way back during the initial bruhaha of 2007. Here’s some of my favorite parts but you should really plan on reading the whole thing.

Lake Skinner1He successfully argued (the court says “albeit over-dramatically”- Hrmph!)  that getting rid of beavers at Lake Skinner was a DISCRETIONARY decision rather than a ministerial one. And therefore subject to CEQA. In addition, he argued that removing beavers from Lake Skinner might even eliminate them from Southern California entirely. Which, if you consider depredation permits as a good indicator of population, it did. See those big white counties at the bottom? Where there were no beaver to kill? Riverside is the long thin straight one that goes across the state.

Ca depredation permitsCan Southern California really afford to eliminate its “water-savers”?

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The Sound and the Furry

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 24 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

The beavers have visitors tonight,from Berkeley and possibly San Francisco. Both became beaver adorers when they watched Jari Osborne’s incredible documentary on PBS. You can be sure we’ll do what we can to increase their admiration. In the meantime I think we all need a healthy dose of this, because it is wonderful to me in the way few sounds are.

CaptureI worked very hard to steal this off the Western Soundscape Archive. I would have preferred to just share the link, but they are too worried about people stealing to allow such things. There is a moral somewhere in this story.

two and adult

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No Problem a little Explosives can’t Cure.

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 23 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Silly me, all these years I’ve been working to ‘solve problems’ when I could have just blown them up instead!


Dam Bustin – Country Style

Woodlands County offers a service to it’s ratepayers with explosive results. The beaver flood control program provided by the county uses dynamite to blast away beaver dams that are flooding resident’s properties.

Dawn Fortin, Woodlands County manager of agricultural services, says that the intention of the service is to relieve flooding on private property and near roads to protect infrastructure. “We call it our beaver flood control program,” Fortin said. “We’ll remove the dam using dynamite or sometimes we use mechanical means like a backhoe.”

Ahh yes, no one is happier than a technician with explosives at a beaver dam. Sure it destroys wetlands for fish, birds and wildlife, does nothing to prevent flooding, destroys creek channels and will need to be repeated next year, but at least the price is right:

Glen Renfert, agricultural services technician, performs the service and is an employee of the county. The service costs only $70 and according to Renfert, just covers the cost of materials.”We don’t want to make a profit on it,” Fortin said. “If you get a whole bunch of dams on the property and there are some that are not causing an issue. We don’t just blow them up just because. If we only need to remove two or three out of five, we’re going to save them that much money. We don’t want to incur more costs for them unnecessarily.”

Of course you know that beavers would just rebuild right? And that all those materials from the blown up dam might still snag and cause flooding.

Prior to blasting, the county sends trappers out to the location to trap the beavers. Once the beavers are removed, then the removal of the dam can begin. “Our trapper is a licensed trapper so he can harvest the beaver for its pelt,” Fortin said. “Other trappers use the animal for bait, the pelts aren’t worth much in the summer.”Woodlands County has a permit from AESRD to be able to perform the service during the off-season for trappers. Starting on May 1, and until Oct. 31, the county can perform the service for residents.

Well at least you’re thorough.

A story this funny needs a punchline. And I have one. The article is from Alberta, Canada. Which puts them around two hours from the top beaver researcher in the world. In fact, Dr. Glynnis Hood is currently doing research to establish the effectiveness of flow devices to regulate flooding. She might even be willing to send some students down to install a flow device for free. But go ahead, spend the 70 bucks.

And speaking of willfully misguided beaver decisions that don’t work anyway, guess who I heard from last night? Our old friends at the 4 seasons senior complex outside El Dorado Hills. Where neighbors got together to protect some beavers in 2012. They were eventually thwarted by the Orwellian HOA who hired USDA to kill the beavers and swing the dead bodies dramatically past the protesters. Blood under the bridge. Guess what’s back not two years later?

We have a new beaver population that has just moved into four seasons.Their fate is up in the air even though we have a new HOA board.They have tentatively agreed to work with us on the issue but I am not convinced of this. Would you be willing to send and email to HOA board telling them of your success and expertise in this area? Let me know. 

What do you think? Would I be willing?

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A Call to Action

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 22 - 2014Comments Off
Rett Davis
Published: Friday, November 21, 2014 at 05:28 PM.

Question: Coyotes howl, ducks quack, and deer snort. What sounds do beavers make?

Answer: The only sounds I have heard from a beaver are when they slap the water with their tail. It is a rare day that you walk up on beavers unnoticed. They have a keen sense of either hearing or sight. Your question prompted me to contact my wildlife biologist friends.  Both Harlan Hall and Jason Allen agreed they do not have a distinct call. When caught in a trap they will growl and hiss. But most animals do that. They did comment that puppy like sounds can be heard coming from their lodge. A lodge is where a beaver family dries out and sleeps. It is there that they are protected from the weather and their predators.  Swamps and all the animals that inhabit them surround their lodges.  You are welcome to pursue this answer. Let me know what you find out.

Raise your hand if you think Mr. Davis is correct? Well the poor man only talked to trappers for research so we probably shouldn’t blame him. We should invite him to come to Martinez from North Carolina and have a listen around June, when kits are whining away and yearlings are starting to get jealous. Then he will find out how very wrong this answer is.

Once upon a time, an entire age ago, I didn’t know beavers made noise either. And I thought they might possibly eat fish. I remember standing at Starbucks looking into the creek just after the city said they should be killed and thinking, do the people who want them dead even know about that noise? Have they ever heard it?

And then, if I let these beavers die, when will I ever hear that sound again?

So that plaintive whining became my call to action.  I thought, well I’d give the issue a weekend and try to save them. Then a week. And then, well you know the rest.

For beaver, though it hath no tongue, will speak

With most miraculous organ

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Reports are in…

   Posted by heidi08 On November - 21 - 2014Comments Off

New reports released on Knapdale Scottish Beaver Trial

Six new reports examining the Scottish Beaver Trial in Argyll have been published. The studies will help the Scottish government in considering any future reintroductions of the animals.

 The first Norwegian beavers were released in Knapdale in 2009 after six months of quarantine at the Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore.

 The reports cover the health and diet of the mammals and their impact on the landscape and local economy.Researchers noted that the beavers changed the shape of woodland close to loch shores and increased the water level of one loch after building a dam on it.

 The presence of the animals at Knapdale boosted visits to the area by “beaver tourists” and volunteers to the project, according to one of the reports. The same research suggested the benefit to local businesses was “modest”.

The only beavers in the world more famous than Martinez beavers. They’ve been studied, observed, weighed, poked and prodded. The water they backed up has been counted and the very trees they chewed have been measured for regrowth. The trial was finally concluded and the data is in. Now they only need to prepare summaries for the government and recommend Aye or Nay. I can’t seem to find the reports online, but I’ll keep looking. This part made me smile.

Martin Gaywood, who leads the independent scientific monitoring of the trial for Scottish Natural Heritage, said it was essential that any species reintroduction project was properly managed and monitored.

He said: “The independent monitoring of the Scottish Beaver Trial has helped us understand how they behave in a Scottish environment.

Umm very like they behave in any other environment?

il_570xN.555130119_noadI couldn’t resist. These adorable buttons and many others are being donated to our silent auction by Tevah and Jody Platt from Michigan. They were so excited when I asked them to think about donating that they designed buttons just for us! It turns out they grew up in the Bay Area and their mom was a HIV/AIDS counselor in Martinez. (Small beaver world.)  They had never heard the beaver story and were thrilled to learn about it. They have many fantastic designs, but I sent these right away to our friends of the Tay beavers. You can go check out their creative buttons here:

Our sponsor ISI was kind enough to update our profile page with the recent radio appearance. They describe it as a National Public Radio show, which it was, but thank goodness I only thought of it as limited to CT.



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