Beavers with Benefits

   Posted by heidi08 On December - 21 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

Someone has finally got the beavers and water story right. And it’s about time.

Leave it to beavers: California joins other states in embracing the rodent


A beaver dam spans the length of Los Gatos Creek. (Thomas Mendoza — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

LOS GATOS >> Californians are crossing their fingers for more rain after three punishing years of drought have left streams, rivers and wetland parched.

One animal has the potential to restore these dry landscapes.

Go ahead, guess which one. I’ll wait.

Isn’t this a fabulous start to an article? Before you do anything click on the link so they get to count hits for the report. It will convince them that this interests people. We met the reporter Samantha Clark before when she covered the beavers in San Jose for the campus paper. Now she has landed a gig with the Santa Crus Sentinel. Turns out she used to go to school with my neice so maybe osmosis has something to do with her remarkably being the first reporter in the state to get the water story right.

“This state has lost more of its wetlands than all other states, and beavers can rebuild those wetlands,” said Rick Lanman of the Institute for Historical Ecology in Los Altos. “Knowing that it is native should help guide restoration efforts.”

This article reads like a who’s who in beaver doxology honestly, just wait.

Beaver dams bestow benefits to the environment that we humans can’t easily copy. They turn land into a sponge for water. Their gnawing and nesting promotes richer soil and slows down water, improving imperiled fish habitat. Their dams raise water tables, nourishing shrubbery alongside streams that stabilize eroding banks and add habitat for birds and deer. They also help the endangered California Red-legged frog.

“There’s a growing interest in using beaver as a habitat restoration tool,” said Michael M. Pollock, an ecosystems analyst with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Seattle. “They create good wetland habitat much more cheaply than other restoration methods.”

Samantha did her homework, tracking down Rick,  and Michael. They are busy men but the generally make time to talk about beavers, I’ve been very impressed.

“It would be great if we could recognize the benefit of the beaver and to resolve conflict nonlethally and manage them to continue receiving those benefits,” said Kate Lundquist, director of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center’s Water Institute, a group that is drafting beaver policy recommendations for state Fish and Wildlife.

I am so happy to read an article that’s actually promoting beaver benefits in California! (And not complaining about methane emissions.) But there seems to be one voice missing. Rick, Michael, Kate, hmmm now who could it be?

Since beavers moved to the Alhambra Creek in downtown Martinez, the area has seen new species flourish. By moving mud, the beavers create a haven for bugs.

 “Because we have an insect bloom, we have a bloom of all the different fish and animals up the food chain,” said Heidi Perryman, founder of the beaver advocacy group Worth a Dam and who led the effort to save a Martinez beaver family from extermination. “We’ve identified three new species of fish and seven species of bird. And we see more otter and mink than we ever saw before.”

Ohhh that’s who was missing! Someone whose learned how to live with beavers and seen it first hand! Not bad. Samantha doesn’t do enough to talk about HOW to live with beavers, but she nails WHY.

In San Jose, a beaver has taken refuge in the dry Guadalupe River. The critter’s dam outside a dripping storm drain created a tiny oasis.

“They can get by with very little,” Pollock said. “In a number of cases, they’ve built on streams that have run dry and because they have built the dams, water flows again.”

Because beavers are so good at recharging ground water, they can make streams flow when they would otherwise run dry such as during the summer months.

If I were a state facing drought for the past 3 three years, I’d be thinking about this article and these plucky rodents and re-examing my policies. Wouldn’t you?


Happy Solstice Everyone! Beavers get easier to see after today!


Mendenhall of Fame

   Posted by heidi08 On December - 20 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

I first became aware of Bob Armstrong of Juneau, Alaska when I read about his ‘beaver team’ back in 2008. He was using volunteers to wipe out the troublesome beaver dams that flooded the trails at the state park so the beavers wouldn’t need to be trapped. (Very frustrated but lucky beavers!) I was able to introduce Bob to Mike and he was able to get the rangers to pay for him to come out and do a complete assessment of the situation. Along the way Bob and his colleague Mary Wilson published a beautiful book of the Mendenhall Glacier Beavers, which he was kind enough to donate to the auction at the festival many times.

Suffice to say that because of Mike’s advice Bob’s beaver team finally got a break, the trails were protected and those hard working beavers finally got to have a dam. Lory actually met Bob when she went to Alaska and we’ve been in touch all along. Yesterday he sent me word that his book was going up online as a pdf and sent me the link. You can imagine how excited I was to hear it! I put a  permanent link on the left margin but you should really go check it out now.

Screen shot 2014-12-19 at 3.08.14 PM

Click to view

We were eager to study all the details like what the beavers ate and how they lived. I love his photo of the beaver dam at the glacier so much it has been my screen saver for 5 years, and I don’t think I will part with it ever. It looks to me like those beavers know even when things are hard that with a little effort anything is possible.


Mendenhall Glaciar Beaver Dam – Bob Armstrong

He also has been working with an underwater cam and recently found the perfect spot to install it. This is a beaver entering the lodge under the ice. Just think how lucky our beavers are!

Beaver Entering Lodge Under the Ice from Bob Armstrong on Vimeo.

Ottawa Sun Shines above the rest

   Posted by heidi08 On December - 19 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

CaptureGive it up for the Ottawa Sun, who is the ONLY paper on the entire planet to put the methane emissions nonsense in context. Just look at this:

 Beavers make a comeback, study finds

“We found global beaver numbers have grown dramatically on the three continents they currently inhabit, North America, Eurasia and South America, to a population of over 10 million,” researcher Colin Whitfield said.

 But could all these beavers be bad for the environment? Beaver activities contribute some 800 million kg of methane to the atmosphere each year. That’s 200 times more than they produced in 1900.

Fear not, Whitfield said.

“The magnitude of this methane source is lower than many other natural sources and unlikely to be a dominant climate-change driver,” Whitfield said.

 Plus, he said, the beavers’ handiwork provides habitat for birds and other creatures, fostering increased biodiversity.

About friggin time is all I can say, Colin.

Now I’m off to the mountains where I hope I’ll have internet but if the site’s dark tomorrow you’ll know why. Wish me snow.

Burocrat Beaver Believers

   Posted by heidi08 On December - 18 - 20142 COMMENTS

wb'Yesterday’s important feel started with the airport security we had to go through to reach our towering destination. Riley lead us to the 15th floor conference room, where I set up the presentation, some books and our brochures and water-saver stickers. Members trickled in from three doors at corners of the room, starting with two young environmental scientists who had come just for the talk, a woman from the SF EPA who wanted to catch it, the woman who reviewed all the huge water grants for the northern rivers, the woman next to me who handled all the mercury work for the streams,  a man who worked with Napa flood control and new all about their beavers, and a woman who was especially interested in species predation at the pond and wondered whether all the wildlife we drew meant the fish were unprotected because of the beaver dams. There were about 20 in all and they took up the entire table and were a rapt audience, bursting at the seams with questions that I could barely contain to get through my material.

800px-Skip_Lisle_Preparing_to_install_flow_device_on_Alhambra_CreekI knew things were going our way though, when the fellow involved with Napa Flood Control interrupted after the part about Skip installing a flow device that has controlled pond height since 2008 and said “how much did it cost?” I answered at that time there were no experts trained in this on the west coast, no  DVD’s or books to teach us how to do it, so we had to pay to bring in an expert from Vermont which was costly. But that materials cost us around 500 dollars. He loudly scoffed, that’s NOTHING! and clearly meant, why doesn’t every city do this? Which I took as a very good sign so early in the presentation.

threeThere was laughter in the right places and awwws where we’ve come to expect them. And more questions when the whole thing was over. One question in particular about my child psychology background and did that play out in our work at the festival. Whose clever idea was the Keystone Charm Bracelet for instance? (beam)  The mood was very appreciative and the talk well-received. They spoke among themselves that they needed to add beaver policy to their new stream plan for the area, so that when beavers arrived they would already have policy in place.Ca depredation permits There was special interest in the depredation map and what it could tell us about population in general. Someone suggested if growth rate could be analyzed so that the time of their expansion into San Francisco could be predicted. Afterwards Riley said privately it was the best presentation they had had all year, but more importantly she could see the folks she knew to be skeptics at the beginning were smiling beaver believers at the end. She said it was exactly what she hoped for.

It was a very successful day. Jon stalwartly carried materials and shuttled the car back and forth in downtown Oakland. He defended us in the downpour, and gallantly gave me champagne at the end of the day. He said it felt like the most important talk I had given yet.

News in the broader beaver world seems impervious to our success: a mountain of articles saying beavers (and ground squirrels, seriously?) cause global warming, another tail bounty offered in North Carolina, and a New Jersey man on the water who wants the city to pay to wrap his trees because all that nature is ruining his view. But lets not get bogged down in these relatively unimportant stories. And less focus instead on success at spreading the beaver gospel to particularly powerful ears.

Great footage this morning from beaver friends in Holland. If you don’t think beaver lives are dangerous just watch this narrow escape.


   Posted by heidi08 On December - 17 - 2014ADD COMMENTS

wb'I’m off this morning to the state building to talk to the SF waterboard about beavers. Do I feel ready? I reworked the address to include our historic prevalence papers like Riley asked. I made new slides to talk about the research on beavers and water. I practiced everything until I was able to get it down to 43 minutes. (I was told 45 with 15 minutes for questions, so I assume 43  with pauses for laughter or disbelief should be about right.) Jon will be handling the driving and carrying things up for me. So that’s it. I can’t get any more ready than I am now. And having driven home in a TORRENT yesterday with all the visibility of the inside of a cow, allow me to use the metaphor that floats to mind:

It’s sink or swim now.

There were 40 gleeful articles about beavers and greenhouse gases in the last 24 hours but we knew it was coming. Those researchers sure have a lot to answer for. Since you might need to argue with someone about it in the next day or so, I’ll give you Eli Asarian’s (Riverbend Sciences) sage thoughts on the matter.

Yes, its generally true that wetlands generate methane due to low oxygen conditions in their sediments. They also sequester carbon (build peat soils), which should partially offset the climate effect of the methane. Methane (CH4) lasts only a few years in the atmosphere, whereas CO2 lasts decades. So methane emissions are important in the short-term because they will affect how fast we reach runaway climate “tipping points” (for example, melting artic permafrost), but in the long-term, the more long-lived molecules such as CO2 and nitrous oxides will have a much greater effect on climate decades and centuries forward. It is also important to keep the historical condition in perspective: many centuries ago, we had a lot more wetland area and a lot less fossil fuel burning than we have today, so it seems a somewhat unfair to say we shouldn’t restore wetlands because of their climate effect.

- Eli

 So there. I’m off to the salt mines. Wish beavers luck.

You otter see this…

   Posted by heidi08 On December - 16 - 2014Comments Off

Our beaver-watching friends in Napa are keeping a close eye on the pond to see what the rain does to the beavers. I got this yesterday from Rusty.

I was checking on the Beaver Pond today around 2 p.m. and was excited to see what at first I thought were two beavers. Turned out to be two river otters which wasn’t so bad,

otter Rusty

River otter fishing Napa beaver pond.: Photo Rusty Cohn 12-14

I told him our mantra and suggested he send it to the paper.

Beaver ponds increase invertebrates
More Bugs mean more fish
More Fish mean more otters and mink

I also told him to make an otter spotter report since he caught this video:

This morning our retired librarian friend from Georgia sent me new research for the “Blame the Beaver Campaign”. This one about Methan Emmissions.

Beaver-mediated methane emission: The effects of population growth in Eurasia and the Americas


Globally, greenhouse gas budgets are dominated by natural sources, and aquatic ecosystems are a prominent source of methane (CH4) to the atmosphere. Beaver (Castor canadensis and Castor fiber) populations have experienced human-driven change, and CH4 emissions associated with their habitat remain uncertain. This study reports the effect of near extinction and recovery of beavers globally on aquatic CH4 emissions and habitat. Resurgence of native beaver populations and their introduction in other regions accounts for emission of 0.18–0.80 Tg CH4 year−1 (year 2000). This flux is approximately 200 times larger than emissions from the same systems (ponds and flowing waters that became ponds) circa 1900. Beaver population recovery was estimated to have led to the creation of 9500–42 000 km2 of ponded water, and increased riparian interface length of >200 000 km. Continued range expansion and population growth in South America and Europe could further increase CH4 emissions.

Did you catch that? By recovering after we killed them earlier, the rebounding population of beavers are making dams and creating wetlands that emit CH4. Methane is the most prevalent Green house gas.  Greenhouse gases cause global warning Because lord knows its not the cows, or the landfills or the cars or the power companies that are causing global warming.

It’s the beavers!

Above and Beyond

   Posted by heidi08 On December - 15 - 20141 COMMENT

Lake Elmo beavers: Cute, yes, but something of a nuisance


It might look like the middle of the wilderness, but this beaver was photographed after a recent snowfall on the west side of Lake Elmo in the Heights. Photographer John Warner has been taking pictures of this beaver and two others this fall.

  Three or four beavers—one or two adults and two kits—have built themselves a home on the shores of Lake Elmo in the Heights.

Their bank den is on the west side of the 64-acre reservoir, near the boat launch and right alongside a culvert that feeds the lake with water from the Billings Bench Water Association canal. A bank den is similar to a lodge but incorporates the bank surface into the structure.

Only three beavers at a time have been spotted so far, but Dave Pauli, with the Humane Society of the United States, said beavers mate for life, so there is most likely another adult in the den.

Terri Walters, who manages Lake Elmo State Park, of which the reservoir is part, for the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the beavers apparently migrated to Lake Elmo from the nearby irrigation canal sometime this fall.

 The beavers have already felled two small cottonwood trees, a willow and a Russian olive, and they have been working their way through a willow stump thick with dozens of shoots, including a few large ones. They have stacked the top of their lodge with branches, which they will feed on throughout the winter.

 Walters said she had to wrap 10 other trees with wire so they beavers wouldn’t gnaw on them.


Don’t tell me you actually had to take such extreme measures to fend off these marauders! Actually wrapping trees? That’s like having to put your car in the garage or your wallet in your pocket! I mean it’s not quite as bad as wearing a condom or keeping a receipt, but my God, how much can one woman take?

beaver and kits in snow

An adult beaver and two kits swim in open water. John Warner

Pauli also said he’d like to work with FWP on a plan that would allow the beavers to stay at the lake. The adults could be spayed and neutered, and the kits could be as well if they stayed on. Lake Elmo State Park is often visited by groups of schoolchildren, Pauli said, so it would be good learning experience to have a family of beavers living where they are so easily accessible.

The article was going along pretty much like I expected but this was a coffee-spitter. HSUS Dave Pauli thinks the beavers should be neutered? You do realize that kits disperse and move away on their own, right? I mean here in Martinez we’ve had 20 born in 7 years and our population is still 6. I hope you don’t think that beavers can get neutered as easily as cats. Males and females have internal sex organs, and they might not survive the stress of capture even if it were possible.

What a very scary thought. It might well mean that sadly, sometimes the Human Society of the United States has absolutely no idea what its talking about. I always thought of them as smarter  and better than me. Like Jane Goodall,  Gandhi or Mother Theresa.

But even more importantly, let me just say that John Warner’s remarkable photographs of this beaver family are among the most beautiful images I have ever seen. And that’s saying something. Why not use these urban beavers and remarkable visuals to promote the first ever beaver festival in Billings Montana? It would teach locals how and why to work with the animals, and improve water, hunting, and fishing in the area.

beaver reaching snow

A beaver stands on its hind legs to get at snow-covered branches. John Warner

Now this came yesterday from our friend Lee Ann Carver, the wildlife photographer in Canada. You will of course appreciate what happens on the twelfth day of Christmas, but the fifth is pretty clever too. Pass this along to your friends. See it you can spot Grey Owl and if we can top 1000 views by tomorrow.

Oh and a sad correction from our retired librarian friend in Georgia, who pointed out that beavers might not actually get to heaven after all. Dam it.

Pope Francis turns out not to have made pets in heaven comment