The chair heard round the world…

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 26 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

coverageThankfully the Furbearer Defenders letter got the attention of the Canadian Press (like the AP) which allowed the story to be published several more times yesterday. Not as many as I might like but a good number including the respectable Globe and Mail. Let’s hope that several people are feeling very uncomfortable this morning. And that the three men who watched (‘chairleaders’) are starting to think about naming the fourth. The town is really small and just over the American border from North Dakota. Near as I can tell there is only one bar and one bakery so everyone knows who did this. I don’t think they should be able to use chairs at all in the meantime. Everyone should be forced to stand until someone comes forward.

In the time we need hopeful things. Yesterday I was invited to meet with the junior high principal to talk about the way teachers and students might be involved with their new flat-tailed neighbors. This was made possible by former Worth A Dam member Kathi McGlaughlin who’s on the school board and made the introductions.

It turns out it really is true after all. It’s not WHAT you know but WHO you know that matters.


Kathi teaches youngsters about beavers at the Flyway Fiesta.

In the mean time we purchased a very cheap efficient camcorder that we’re loaning to the kindly resident who’s deck overlooks our wayward beavers. She has seen something little hanging out with them in the shadows and we’re hopeful we can guess what that is. Fingers crossed we will see soon.

And something else to restore our faith in Canadian men in the vicinity of beavers. A lovely article from naturalist Michael Runtz (author of the beautiful “Dam Builders“) about beavers getting ready for winter.

Beavers are busy preparing for winter

If anyone has recently visited a beaver pond – the masterpiece creation of these remarkable rodents – two things would be apparent. One is that the beaver lodge has undergone a noticeable change in appearance. Plenty of fresh mud adorns its outer surface. Another is that a fallen forest had sprung up next to the lodge.

The mud is a sure sign that freezing temperatures are in the not-too-distant future. Starting in late September, beavers begin plastering mud over their lodges. This serves as insulation during winter. As the days get shorter and nights colder, beavers continue to add material during the day, especially on overcast days in November.

Mud is dug up from the pond’s bottom, likely not far from the two underwater entrances. Mud is carried with both front hands holding it against the chest, much in the way that we carry a load of firewood. But beavers seldom carry just a load of mud to the top of the lodge. They inevitably carry a stick or two as well, which are clenched between its teeth.

This double carry amazes me because it is done while a beaver waddles up its lodge with its head in the air, chin pressing down on the mud load it is carrying. It cannot see its feet, which are stepping across protruding sticks surrounded by slippery mud. Despite walking up a slope replete with trip hazards, I’ve never seen a beaver stumble.

The “fallen forest” is the beavers’ winter pantry. Beavers don’t hibernate and so eat every day. During the autumn they fell trees and cut off branches, which are dragged to the pond and piled up next to the lodge. The huge pile, which extends from the surface down to the bottom, contains branches that will be pulled into the lodge where their bark will be eaten. If you examine a food pile from its top to the bottom, you would see a change in the type of branches it contains.

Near the bottom you would likely find Trembling Aspen, Willow, and White Birch branches for these are beavers favourite foods. But on the top you would likely see alder, cedar, and fir branches, items usually deemed inedible. These are placed on top because the ice renders them inaccessible during winter. Their role is to hold down the best foods under the ice where they remain accessible all winter.

Ahh articles like this are good for the chair-battered spirit. Do you think the appearance of this the day after such horrors is just a coincidence or is their a National Beaver Board in Canada that ordered this just in time? Either way, I’m grateful When I read his paragraph about the ‘waddle’ I think always of this famous video. Another feel good moment between beavers and humans.

Cruel and Unusual

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 25 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

Remind me never, ever to say October is a great month for beavers again. That was a  stupid thing to say.There is no great month for beavers.

captureSo the little Hamlet of Wolseley Saskatchewan is reeling today after the surveillance camera outside a bakery found footage of four men beating a beaver to death with a chair.  If you can stand it go watch the news report above and if you can’t stand it at least read this and write a letter.

Many people in the small community of Wolseley are disgusted and disappointed after hearing word that a beaver was brutally beaten to death Friday.

“I’m sad to think we have people that would do that sort of thing,” said local resident Joselyn Linnell.

Residents of the community say surveillance video from a local bakery showed four men leaving the local bar, then grabbing a chair to beat the beaver.

“The beaver hissed at them and they beat it to death with a chair,” said Linnell. Many residents in the town are upset that the incident took place.

“Very ashamed, this is a good town with good people in it,” said Candice Malo of Wolseley. “Doing that to an animal is disgusting.”

Linnell said the beaver has been wandering around the community for about a year.

“We have beavers in town because we have a lake and a dam,” said Linnell. “They are here naturally, so he was seen as a friendly guy.”

RCMP say they’re investigating. According to Animal Protection Services, if any animal is inhumanly killed, the guilty party could see a maximum penalty of 18 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $25,000.

chairYou won’t be at all surprised to lean that Wolseley is in Saskatchewan- the region most notoriously ignorant about beavers in the entire hemisphere and a place that for the last five years has held bounties and kill contests to eliminate them.  Four drunken men don’t swing a single chair, and if there was an ounce of social decency or pressure in the entire community the other three would turn him in. But of course that won’t happen because beavers are ‘pests’. And why not kill a pest with a chair?

I started my day by writing the town administrator, the environmental minister of Saskatchewan and the head of the region. Maybe you should to? At the moment there are only TWO news stories about this horrific event on the entire internet, and I think that needs to change right away.


Here’s the open letter our friends at Furbearer Defenders just sent.

Dear Premier Wall,

It was with sickening sadness that we read the news of a group of men using a chair to beat to death a beaver late last week.

We have no doubt that your government will work with police to ensure that those involved in this deplorable act of animal cruelty will be swiftly identified, charged, and convicted for their crimes. The Fur-Bearers, a national organization with more than 70,000 supporters, is today contacting the RCMP detachment investigating to put forward an offer of a reward to assist their efforts to identify the culprits.

Although your government would never condone such actions, we fear that attitudes leading toward such behaviour is endorsed by policy.

Beavers are a keystone species that are essential to healthy ecosystems. They are sentient, family-oriented animals that create and maintain habitats that encourage biodiversity and provide invaluable ecological services to a country that, in many ways, idolizes their hard work and perseverance. But promotion of ongoing beaver culls, and a lack of humane education or compassionate planning options have, even if subconsciously to the public, encouraged the idea that beavers are disposable pests or commodities.

We urge you, Premier Wall, to speak out against these actions, and show the rest of Canada – and the world – that the people of Saskatchewan are compassionate and believe in co-existence.

The Fur-Bearers would be proud to work with you or your office in developing educational materials at no cost on co-existence, compassionate conservation, and science-based policy.


Lesley Fox

Executive Director

The Fur-Bearers

Thank goodness their letter was picked up by Yorktown this week and they are offering a reward for information on the assailants. Help the out by donating here:

I’ll be more outraged tomorrow, but this morning I’m just heartbroken. I hope that little unlucky beaver died right away.

Spooky Beaver Boo

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 24 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

It’s getting to be my favorite time of year! No, not halloween. But Boo at the ZOO day! In San Francisco they let you in free if you’re wearing a costume, and they feed the animals inside pumpkins!

Apparently it’s even happen in Detroit, Michigan.

Early Halloween at Zoo Boo


A beaver passes and four kids cheer Sunday, October 23 at the Detroit  Zoo for the annual Zoo Boo celebration.

636128523018422727-2016-1023-fl-ec-zooboo-004Looks like a lot of fun. And we all know how much beavers love Halloween.


Beaver Public Radio

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 23 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

Now new  Hampshire Public Radio reports on beavers!

Something Wild: West End Farm Trail

 Over another small hill, Knight leads us to a beaver complex, pointing out the three ponds these rodents have constructed. Chris explains how each of the ponds are formed by beavers channeling water and flooding forest land. And if we come back in another year or two there could be a fourth pond. “You build another dam, flood another forest and presto you’ve got a fourth pond.”

Eventually this first pond drains, and shrubs and trees return to what is now a clearing. Dave explains those first plants to colonize after the water has drained are actually primary food source for beavers. “So they’ll move back up to the top of the drainage and they start all over again. So they cycle in and out, and up and down the watershed.” Flooding a forest seems like extreme behavior, but it creates habitat for fish, frogs, turtles and water birds. And all inside the city limits.

captureAfter 9 years of covering beaver news I’m starting to see a pattern.  September is full of beaver problem reports because the animals are busy taking trees and making food stores for the winter. But come late October we’re treated to an assortment of beaver benefits as people either start noticing the wildlife, water storage or upcoming beaver moon. I might like late October the best of all the year!

In the meantime, lets just appreciate the harvest.

loggly celebrate

How the West was Watered: The next chapter.

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 22 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

These are the golden days of beaver news. Yesterday a glowing report on VPR and today a glowing report on NHPR. But we’ll talk about that later, because this article from New Scientist Magazine has earned top billing.

captureHow beavers could help save the western US from a dry future

By MacGregor Campbell

How fortunes change. The fur rush drove the North American beaver, Castor canadensis, to near-extinction. Then, after a remarkable comeback last century, the once-prized rodent became a pest. Now, some say it could be on the cusp of a fresh rebranding: not as a prize or a pest, but as a prodigy.

Known as nature’s engineers, beavers seem to magic water out of nowhere. Crucially, their dams also help to store that water. At a time when California faces endless water shortages and long-standing drought, could beavers be part of a more natural solution?

Shrubs swallow the rocks, bulrushes stand in a wide expanse of clear, still
water, and cottonwood trees tower over the landscape. In the speckled
shadows, yellow butterflies dip and soar while finger-sized blue dragonflies
perch on reeds. Translucent baby fish take cover under waterlogged sticks.
Beavers and humans have been busy. “We’re building an ecosystem here,
says Michael Pollock, a researcher with the National Oceanographic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), based in Seattle, Washington state.

Ohlala! Curl up with your saturday morning cuppa and settle in for the best read of the entire week. Any article that starts out with Pollock is going to go places we want to be. We’re all in at this point. Unfortunately that’s all the preview the magazine gives for free but we are old friends right? They didn’t mean to keep us out.

In 2010, local landowner Betsy Stapleton got in touch with Pollock after
reading about some of his research. Pollock was interested in something
called beaver dam analogues. Typically consisting of a line of posts set
across a stream bed and interwoven with willow and cottonwood branches,
these faux dams slow water down and widen out a stream to form a pond.
The goal? To attract beavers. Putting one up is like prepping beaver real
estate for sale.

scotts-riverIn Sugar Creek, much to Stapleton’s delight, the faux dams worked. As she wades through soft muck into surprisingly pristine pond water, she points out evidence of beavers all around. Sticks with chew marks are strewn across the pond bottom. A scent-mound of dried mud stands guard telling interlopers that the pond is spoken for. Vegetation has been stuffed into both dam analogues. “They like to plug every little hole,” says Stapleton.

For Pollock, Sugar Creek was a test case for a new way to manage water.
When Stapleton first contacted him, the site had just a trickle of water. It felt
symptomatic of the wider issues facing California, namely persistent
drought and dwindling groundwater resources, neither of which is likely to
be eased by climate change. Traditionally, the answer has been to build
more channels, reservoirs and other artificial water infrastructure. Pollock
believes beavers are a better solution.

At Sugar Creek, on the other hand, the water gets stuck. Beneath it isn’t just
rock but rich soil too. NOAA hydrologist Brian Cluer points out sand and fine
dirt that has come from further upstream. In the still waters of the ponds, it
settles. Grasses, reeds and other plants take root in the stuff, locking it and
its moisture in place. With time, a thick base of rich, moist soil builds up,
helping to raise the water table.

Cluer says that all this has a huge knock-on effect. The water seeps down
into the ground, recharging underground aquifers. That matters because
California is depleting its groundwater at an alarming rate. It is now tapping
into “fossil” water that has been underground for tens of thousands of
years. Farmland is sinking as aquifers collapse. This is the price you pay for
an intensive water management system predicated on drained wetlands
and artificial channels, says Cluer.

Oh my goodness, creating biodiversity AND recharging our bone- dry collapsed aquifers. That’s got to sound pretty good to a lot of bureaucrats out there. Hope the aide to the governor is reading this. We’re at the part of the article where they talk about the ‘buts’ though. But here’s the bad news. I’m braced. Give it your best shot MacGregor.

It’s not all sweetness and light, however. Humans and beavers working in
harmony to restore degraded ecosystems is an alluring dream, but the
reality is somewhat more complicated. For one, there’s a reason why
beavers are considered a nuisance: they don’t always do what you want
them to. Introduce them in the wrong area and they can wreak havoc.
Chewed trees, plugged culverts, flooded fields and roads – the same
behaviours that make beavers excellent engineers are often at odds with
human infrastructure. Across the US, that means damage costing tens of
millions of dollars each year.

Introducing beavers to an area doesn’t always go well for the animals either,
says Jimmy Taylor, a wildlife biologist with the US Department of
Agriculture, based in Corvallis, Oregon. Dropping them into a new area can
leave them vulnerable to predators and without enough food while they
build their infrastructure.

Alright if the most negative voice you got is Jimmy Taylor, I can handle it.It’s funny how this article is turning into a ‘Who’s who’ of beavers and my beaver podcasts isn’t it? You really should go listen to them again just to make sure you know what’s going on. Yes, beavers don’t always survive reintroduction and beavers block culverts. Can we go back to the good news now? No we have to fret about fish first.

Minimising conflict between beavers and humans is a good start, but not
the whole story. Some fish and wildlife managers are concerned that the
dams obstruct fish and so will harm stocks. Pollock doesn’t buy the
argument. Together with Wheaton and others, he has recently completed a
large-scale study of the effect beaver dams have on steelhead trout
numbers at Bridge Creek in Oregon. In 2008, the team started building
beaver dam analogues along a 32-kilometre stretch of the watershed,
eventually completing 121 by 2012. The resident beavers chipped in,
building on top of the artificial dams and creating new ones too. By 2013,
there were 236.

Before the experiment, the density of fish living in Bridge Creek was the
same as at nearby Murderer’s Creek, but by 2013 it was nearly double. It
seems that far from being harmed by the dams, fish were benefiting from
the wetter, more protected environment. What’s more, so far as the team
could tell, there was no change in the number of adult fish heading
upstream to spawn. They seemed to have no trouble hopping over the

“Beavers and salmon have been evolving together since at least the
Pliocene, 3 million years ago,” Pollock points out. He says preliminary
results at Sugar Creek tell a similar story. Before the beaver dam analogues,
they counted tens or hundreds of baby fish in a typical summer. After?
Thousands. “There’s way more than we can count,” says Pollock.

Ohhh yes, that’s the kind of research I like best! The snappy ‘take that’ kind of research! If I didn’t know better I’d think that maybe this would change the way people looked at beavers. I’d think that this article would open eyes, and minds. But  I’ve been in the beaver biz a long time. People are very, very stubborn. I guess I should be happy if it changes a few minds and gives some others pause.

Oddly enough, this article does a lot of heavy lifting for the rodents but makes the decision to end on an appreciation of their anal scent glands. Hmm? Not the note I would have ended on, but the rest is wonderful so we’ll let this slide.

babyHow could you not love beavers? They are intensely social and form lifelong pairs. Each family – or colony – splits its duties: while one animal gathers
building material, another excavates the pond and yet another watches the kits (that’s a baby beaver to me and you), keeping an eye out for predators
or rival colonies.

A single family can create and maintain tens of square kilometres of water infrastructure. They thin local forests, both for building material and bark – their preferred food – and store it in underwater caches of sticks and small logs that also provide homes to baby fish.

Perhaps the beaver’s most surprising attribute is its anal scent glands. They
produce a substance called castoreum, which beavers use as a calling card.
Humans use it in perfumes and occasionally as a flavouring additive,
typically in substitutes for vanilla.

Lets give MacGregor the benefit of the doubt and lets assume that he wanted to finish the article on some grand sweeping note about beaver benefits or how society misunderstands the gift it was given, and his small minded editor in gaberdine made the article end on anal scent glands, because ew!  People will tell their friends!

Overall this is a fantastic read and just in case you want to pass it along to your friends or senators I will risk  the long arm of the law and link to it here. Shhh,

On a local note, I heard from Leslie this morning that our wayward beavers have nearly finished the tree they took down and she had fun watching them all evening. I also heard back from the grounds  keeper at the junior high that he is grateful for the information and loves nature and will keep my number handy. So that’s about the best we could hope for.

You do everything you can to raise your children right, and get the right information out there,  but at some point they go out in the world and you just have to trust things will work out.



The good news and the bad news…

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 21 - 2016Comments Off on The good news and the bad news…

We haven’t seen our wayWard™ street beavers since the last week of September. Jon has been down faithfully in the evenings and we have looked all over in the mornings from Green street to the corp yard. I was starting to feel like they had left us and getting a little sad.

Then I got an email yesterday from “Leslie” who wondered how to discourage beavers from chewing her trees. I get these kind of queries all the time from the web site so I thought nothing of it. I wrote back about how to wrap them and asked her as an afterthought what part of the country she was in just in case I had a local contact that could help her more.

MARTINEZ, she answered.

img_1587Turns out she lives around the junior high where our AWOL beavers have been hanging out for the last week.  Jon went to check out the damage. The beavers had taken two rough barked willow trees from the bank near her house. Meanwhile I scrambled to contact the maintenance crew there and get something out  to the neighbors about protecting trees.

Here is what I sent out as post cards yesterday.


Our two beavers were there last night and this morning again. Our friendly beaver-spotter volunteer can watch them from her deck. While we’re happy they’re still around we aren’t exactly thrilled about the odds of getting every single resident in the area excited about having beavers, and there is really nothing we can do to make them move down stream where its safer. She said they took the trees 5 days ago which would have been during the heavy rain when it must have been easy for them to swim up far.

Lets hope the next big rain doesn’t leave them at Arch street!

In the mean time I assume this means they didn’t have offspring because I can’t imagine they’d go exploring with kits. I’ve racked my brain to think how to get them down here and can’t think of anything yet. I guess they might try building a dam up there because the walls are so narrow and steep it will seem easy, but the first big rain will blow it out because there’s just too much water pressure up there. And that might eventually convince them its a bad idea.

That’s about all we have in our favor at the moment.

In the meantime if you have any friends or contacts in the area please give them a heads up and we’ll cross our fingers.  And I’ll keep trying to make friends with the Junior High.

Really nice beaver reporting from Vermont Public Radio, the home state of Skip Lisle. You really should find time to listen.

Outdoor Radio: Inside A Beaver Lodge capture

Praise beavers from sea to shining sea

   Posted by heidi08 On October - 20 - 2016Comments Off on Praise beavers from sea to shining sea

Nice description from Ruth Grierson of the Mount Desert Island in Maine. Even though they’re east coast and not very far from solutions they aren’t exactly floating in beaver wisdom and coexistence up there, so this is nice to read.

Eager beavers help selves, others

Many have noticed lately that the water level in island beaver ponds is way down. Someone asked me what the beavers will do this winter if we don’t get more rain before winter starts. This could be a problem for them. I know my pond is quite low at the moment. The beaver ponds are interesting to see now, for you really can check out their lodges and dams and realize what wonderful structures they have made. They are excellent engineers. The term “busy as a beaver” has real meaning.

Beavers are the largest living rodents in North America and among the mammals living on this island that are easy to see and observe as they live their lives. Other wildlife benefit considerably by their presence, for they create an excellent habit supplying food, shelter and water, the requirements for life. Plants also benefit from their presence. Migrants find the many beaver ponds excellent places to stop, rest and eat on their long journeys. You sometimes even come across geese or ducks nesting on the top of a beaver lodge, for it makes a safe place for a home. The trees that have died because of the flooding of an area provide great nesting places for many birds and mammals.

Well said, Ruth. It’s a good point that is never made often enough. In fact I think it deserves a poster. What do you think?

posterJeanette Carroll from Redding has some similar thoughts. Here’s a recent letter she published in the Record Searchlight which is part of USA today. Redding is famously beaver danger zone, so we are thrilled about this.

Please help the salmon.

Thousands of dollars are spent restoring salmon habitat and pouring suitable sized gravel into the Sacramento River for the salmon to use as they migrate upriver to spawn. All efforts to increase the salmon species are very worthwhile.

I sincerely hope the Department of Fish and Wildlife will provide some guidance to the Department of the Interior so the waters from Shasta and Keswick dams are not abruptly curtailed as was the case in 2014 and 2015. The salmon no sooner completed their spawning efforts and their depleted and decaying bodies began to wash downstream in the Sacramento River when the water flow stopped so abruptly that not enough water was left to allow their eggs to hatch.

Their nicely cleaned gravel spawn beds were exposed to the elements and their eggs would have never hatched into tiny fry had not our local pair of beavers quickly rebuilt their dam just in time to inundate the salmon eggs in their redd. So, the 2014 and 2015 eggs did hatch but there are not enough beaver and suitable sloughs in the Sacramento River to save other vulnerable spawning grounds. If the same thing occurs this year, will the beaver come to the rescue again and save the 2016 salmon eggs?

This is a fine reminder of what NOAA fisheries research has been pointing out for 20 years. Beaver ponds are salmon nurseries. And ripping out beaver ponds is salmon genocide. If you’re going to save one, you have to cooperate with the other. Shorter column: When Jeanette writes “Please help save the salmon’ what she is really asking is “Please help save the beavers”.