Friends of the Salmon

   Posted by heidi08 On June - 28 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

Yesterday was sneak peek into how a deeply intelligent and committed organization functions. The folk are SARSAS were among the brightest and most ecologically attuned folk I had ever addressed. Many of them were steadfast beaver fans and mentioned to me that the ‘woman who had come last time seemed a little misinformed’.  (Ya think?) Jack Sanchez the president who was the brightest and most eager of the bunch, had a million ideas and contacts and wanted to introduce me to all of them. But the single best part about yesterday was when he started out the day by saying:

“I was reading my favorite book this morning, Moby Dick, and came across a favorite quote that reminded me of how folk feel about beavers”

“Ignorance is the parent of fear”

No kidding.

Apparently he used to be an English teacher and Melville is his go-to reread. Of course I told him I had just finished listening to the Big Read of every chapter, and told him how fun it was to hear those word read by folks like Tilda Swinton and David Attenborough. Also how the chapters on faulty representation in art or history reminded me so much about beavers. He very much agreed and was excited to listen on his own.

Small World with beavers in it!

Since they got to hear from Mary Tappel last month I started out by saying our talks would be fairly different. And then mentioned her obliquely a couple times in the story, like saying a ‘beaver expert’ whom you know came to Martinez and said ‘flow devices never work’ but ours worked for a decade. Ahh that was fun.

But the VERY best part was when I got to the end and talked about reviewing the depredation permits and how one county had issued 7 times more than any other. As soon as they saw the map they were murmuring with annoyance. After the talk they arranged for me to come address the county supervisors and the AG commission and record something that could go to every class room. Jack has already picked the day that I should come back next year.

If a single thing has a chance of opening the eyes of placer county, it was in that room yesterday.

Onto some nice beaver news, first a beautiful column from Tom Venesky in Ohio who wrote a trapping column about beavers a few years back  called ‘Stepping it up for beavers’ and defending their role as ecosystem engineers that I regard as one of the useful things ever written about beaver benefits. This column is about canoeing a beaver swap, and it’s just nice to read. Especially as they combine two of my favorite things ever: watching beavers and being in a canoe.

Outdoors with Tom Venesky: The silent swamp

 From my seat in the canoe I watched in amazement.

I was exploring a beaver pond and ventured into the flooded trees, a section the beavers had recently dammed around their lodge. The water was too shallow for even the canoe, but open trails through the floating weeds hinted at beaver trails leading to the lodge, and I knew they would provide deeper travel lanes.

As I neared the edge of the swamp, I spotted an object parting the still water on the surface.

It was an enormous beaver with a head like a concrete block. I was mesmerized at the stealth in which it maneuvered through the tangle of brush, trees and weeds. The beaver was only several yards away and it was aware of my presence as it glided away from the edge of the swamp toward it’s lodge. The beaver swam in silence, parting the thick aquatic vegetation with ease, deftly curling its body to dive under a limb and, for a brief moment, climbing out of the water to cross a log.

Despite all of the obstacles and it’s enormous size, the beaver didn’t make a sound as it moved. It barely stirred the surface and, even though I was nearby, never slapped it’s tail. The beaver never disrupted the solitude of the swamp.

After watching for a few moments, I lost the beaver as it ventured farther into the swamp and closer to the safety of it’s lodge. After watching the beaver expertly swim through the swamp, I went back to my “clumsy” routine of pushing the canoe with an oar and moving face-slapping limbs out of the way.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIsn’t that lovely? Go read his fine description of beaver habitat in full. You know the first beaver I ever saw was from a canoe. I might not have the balance for it any more, but I still have lots of these mornings tucked inside me to remember. Nothing like coffee with the dawn in a canoe.

Another nice plug for the Methow project in Washington, who gets a summer intern worth writing about!

Summer Jobs: Two Students Study, Protect Beavers and Whales

Rising sophomore Satya Kent received a Strong/Gault Social Advancement grant to work for the Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation, which is working to restore habitat for fish and wildlife in eastern Washington state. One of its projects is to establish new beaver colonies at high elevations to help alleviate drought conditions in the Methow River watershed, an area of about 2,000 square miles that drains the North Cascade mountains.

Beaver wetlands can be helpful to the surrounding area because they filter sediments and pollutants from streams, and spread rivers across floodplains, allowing water to percolate into aquifers. Beaver-made wetlands also provide rearing grounds for young fish, limit flooding, and keep small creeks flowing year-round.

It’s a nice article about the good work Methow has been doing since 2008. Good luck Satya! Have a wonderful summer! Many years ago a student working for Methow gave  me this footage as a thankyou for loaning him equipment to present at the conference. It remains some of my favorite.

Beaver revolutionary

   Posted by heidi08 On June - 27 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

Up at the crack of not-dawn this morning because we’re off to Auburn today to give a beaver talk to our salmon friends at SARSAS. Last month they had speaker Mary Tappel come and lie at them, so my job ia to be the “great undoing”,

In the mean time my niece tipped us off yesterday about the fact that our founding father Benjamin Franklin had designed a 6 dollar bill with a beaver on it and we had to go hunting for it immediately. Apparently the tree was the encroaching English and the beaver was the noble persevering Americans!

Just in time for Independence day.

AmeribeaverIn case you want to listen yourself, beaver at 2.40.

Of course we had to act on this news right away!


Missing Pieces

   Posted by heidi08 On June - 26 - 20162 COMMENTS

What do you think? Will people be able to guess what is missing from this picture?

It’s June 26 and our festival map is almost complete. We asked that people register by the end of the month, so what do you think the odds are that some last minute stragglers will want to add in the next four days? We left one open just in case.  I like that Mario’s booth will be right next to his mural, so he can present his artwork naturally. Theoretically the promo has been slotted and approved to air on the city channel, so keep an eye out and let me know if you see it!map2016

“The beaver ate my homework”

   Posted by heidi08 On June - 25 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

And on the day the phase ‘flimsy excuse’ were reinvented,  we stood in awe and watched.

No solution for beaver activity

MOUNTAIN HOUSE — As activity by a family of Mountain House beavers increases along the banks of the community creek, local officials say the animals are not yet in jeopardy of being exterminated.

According to Doug Louie, superintendent of operations and maintenance, it’s going to be two to three years before officials can take any type of action regarding the beavers.

“We understand beavers will always be there,” he said Tuesday, days after residents began posting photos of a few beaver-damaged trees in the Altamont Village area of the Mountain House Creek.

The response to the beavers on a Mountain House community Facebook page appears to be split between those who like them and those who want them removed. Other residents are questioning why community officials can’t protect trees with wire cages.

“There are nearly 1,000 trees on the creek,” Louie said. “It cost $50 to $60 per cage. We have to be careful how we proceed. First we have to get the (state) permits to put cages near the lower creek area.”

facepalm50 or 60 dollars a TREE? Are you kidding me? What are you wrapping these trees with, gold wire?  Jon and I puzzled over this and concluded that what’s actually happening is that he’s unsure how tall beavers are and thinks he has to wrap the entire 40 foot tree.

And  in what dystopian universe do you need STATE PERMITS to wrap trees?  I could like that beaver controlled universe were you need permission to protect your property from beavers. But it’s about as true as when your son says he had to watch cartoons for the English assignment, or the apartment couldn’t refund your deposit because you had stepped on the carpet.

Later when I complained about this obviously bogus bogusity on the facebook page an ‘anonymous citizen’ with a fake profile posted back that people were too focused on these beavers and didn’t care about things like park benches. When someone called them out on their fake profile they slinked away and were silent.

Later Caitlin explained that he wouldn’t permit them to sand paint trees because the EPA hadn’t approved it.


Let’s face it, Mountain House has decided to lie and make excuses and drag their unaccountably large feet until the problem is so dire they can justify killing these beavers. Caitlin has been unwaiveringly polite and accommodating. Now Louie is asking her to meet with him alone without those unmannerly loudmouths who call him out on his BS.

(It makes me remember the days when Dave Scola asked that I would come to the meeting alone because he didn’t feel comfortable when Jon scowled at him.)

These public works trolls are used to working without an audience and hate criticism of any kind. They are used to elegantly sucking up to a single power source, and can’t stand having more than one patron to keep happy.

Well, I called Mr. Louie’s bluff: wrote him privately and posted on the MH public page that Worth A Dam would come teach how we’ve been wrapping trees according to our public works requirements for a decade, film the training for future teaching and even give then a scholarship to wrap the first ten.

He’s been pretty quiet since then.

Oh Canada!

   Posted by heidi08 On June - 24 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

News this morning out of Canada that puts the “Find your park” campaign of the US National Parks 100 anniversary to shame. Lets start here.

Parks Canada helping dam beavers with technology

Beavers are regarded as ecological engineering wonders – and now Banff National Park is relying on some manmade engineering solutions to retain vital beaver habitat in the Bow Valley.

Parks Canada is embarking on a $26 million project to replace an aging wildlife exclusion fence along the busy Trans-Canada Highway, but the fence runs through several areas that beavers have turned into impressive wetlands.

Officials say there are two beaver dam areas that are causing particular concern – one along the Legacy Trail and the other by the Norquay interchange where culverts beneath the highway are being affected.

“Where we’re able to, we’re going to re-route the fence design to keep out of the wetlands beavers have created,said Bill Hunt, resource conservation manager for Banff National Park.

26 million dollar project? Did I read this right? Culvert Protection along the entire TransCanada highway – all 5ooo miles from sea to shining sea? The mind reels. The jaw drops.

Beavers are known for unprecedented feats of ecological engineering – building dams, ponds and wetlands that can flood and damage human infrastructure – and are persecuted by humans as a result.

But they are also considered a keystone species, creating ponds that consistently have higher waterfowl diversity, more complex invertebrate communities, and provide critical habitats for amphibians. The buck-toothed creatures also create habitats that provide flood mitigation and resilience to extreme drought.

Hunt said when beavers cause problems for human infrastructure, the traditional go-to solution has long been to live trap or kill beavers, or go in with heavy equipment to destroy their dams.

“None of those historic remedies are very appropriate these days,” said Hunt. “We’d like to come up with solutions that work to ensure water flows through the culverts, but also preserves the habitat for the beavers.”

Beavers probably see a culvert beneath a road as a hole in an otherwise good dam, so they try to plug the hole. Parks is using flow devices, which are relatively cost-effective, low-maintenance solutions that regulate the water level of beaver dams and keep culverts open.

It talks about trapezoidal culvert fences AND beaver deceivers, pond levelers and clemsons. It even goes into how and why they work. Then after truly blowing our minds for several paragraphs it interviews Dr. Glynnis Hood to check that all this is true.

Glynnis Hood, author of the Beaver Manifesto and an associate professor of environmental science at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus in Camrose, said she was pleased to hear about the work that Parks Canada is doing.

She said she has installed 29 flow devices since 2011 in various places, including at Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, as well as in the rural municipality of Beaver County.

“I think what Parks Canada is doing is great, especially in a national park,” she said. “I’ve installed many of these devices in various places and the success rate has been very high. There’s been minimal to no maintenance on most.”

Hood, who studies wetland ecology as it relates to wildlife habitat and management, said she started to look into some of these flow devices because she was tired of seeing beaver habitat destroyed.

“I’m an ecologist, but over time I’ve turned into a wetland plumber because I was tired of seeing these wetlands, and specifically ones that are occupied and modified and transformed by beavers, with the highest biodiversity, disappear,” she said.

“I would be at a beautiful pond, with nesting songbirds, tadpole, frogs and waterfowl and then the next day I would go back and it would be drained because of management concerns. I thought ‘there’s got to be a better way.’ ”

Beavers play a vital role in the environment and are referred to as a keystone species.

“When beavers are in areas, it ends up supporting many other species that otherwise wouldn’t have habitat,” said Hood. “They do remarkable things.”

Parks Canada is hoping to showcase the work to be done at the beaver dam by the Legacy Trail to educate how important beaver habitat can be saved instead of destroyed.

“It’s one of the best beaver dam viewing opportunities in Banff National Park, and it’s completely and totally accessible,” said Hunt. “It’s like a demonstration project. We really want to show there are ways to allow beavers on the landscape without having the detrimental effects people often associate with them.”

This article just calls for this anthem. Timely because Jon and I are still reeling from Brexit which kinda symbolically unmarries us (we met in Germany where he was working as a British citizen, lo these many years ago).

Maybe we should all move to Canada.


It never rains but it pours…

   Posted by heidi08 On June - 23 - 2016Comments Off on It never rains but it pours…

 O Gertrude, Gertrude,

When sorrows come, they come not single spies

But in battalions.

Hamlet: Act IV Scene 5

I guess the world waits eagerly until beaver kits are born before deciding to wage war on the families and ‘solve’ their beaver problems. There were so many trapping stories yesterday that I might have lost count. It made me wish that I had been keeping a big war room chart and I could identify if this was part of a solstice pattern. I take real comfort from the fact that in almost every story there is some public outcry about trapping. The world has certainly become a little more protective of beavers than it was when I stepped into the fray. I’m sure the PBS documentary has a lot to do with it (Thanks Jari!) although fans might not have gotten it all down straight…

Resident Carol Carnovale said that she lives on the lake, and while she has noticed the water level rising, she said she is “very much opposed to any trapping and killing” of the creatures she said are “a benefit to the biodiversity of the area.”

beaver micShe added, “They’re a KEYNOTE species, which means a lot of the other plants and animals in the area are dependent on them.”

Mendon residents approve beaver trapping, killing

MENDON – Residents voted to approve all but one article at Special Town Meeting Tuesday, including one to trap and kill beavers at Lake Nipmuc.

Just more than 40 residents who appeared at the Miscoe Hill Middle School auditorium voted to reject only one article, but others raised some opposition.The most contentious article was centered around the trapping and killing of beavers who are reportedly causing flooding on Lake Nipmuc.

Resident Patrice Murphy, who organized the article, said that beavers are flooding yards and causing damage in the neighborhood. She added that a neighbor had regularly been breaking the dam up, but the beavers keep rebuilding.

There are an estimated 15 to 18 beavers in the pond, Patrice said, which are about 70 pounds and live for 20 years.

Land Use Committee Chairwoman Anne Mazar said officials looked into installing a flow device that would run the water under the dam, but it was not suitable for the lake.

Ah there but for the grace of Everyone…That could have been Martinez, you know, imagine crowding into that high school meeting in November and voting unanimously to trap our beavers! Apparently, that’s what Mendon did after a conversation with Mike Callahan who told there was no alternative. What if Skip Lisle talked that way to our city council and said a flow device probably wouldn’t help? The beavers would have been killed, Martinez would still be best known for refinery explosions,  the tile bridge or mural wouldn’t exist and I could have spent the last decade pursuing some other interest.

No beaver festival! What a weird version of the “it’s a wonderful life” story that would be.

Onto some beaver pressure in North Carolina…

Fayetteville PWC says it will coordinate more with state on beaver dams

The general manager of the Fayetteville Public Works Commission says the utility will better coordinate with the state when beaver dams block access to pipes.

On Wednesday morning, two Fayetteville residents who live off Country Club Drive aired their complaints to the PWC board during a public hearing on the utility’s $341 million budget for fiscal 2017. They are unhappy the PWC breached a sprawling beaver dam in their neighborhood and shot several beavers.

The beaver dam had flooded a state-designated wetlands called Tarlton Swamp. The 23-acre site is north of Country Club Drive. The breach left a muddy mess, residents said, plus affected fish, turtles, Canada geese and other animals.

“I’m begging you, to please respect the true, natural state and not to throw good money after bad,” said one of the residents, Wendy Banks. “Please do whatever maintenance you need to do now and then leave it alone, so more beavers can move in and fix the mess.

A fervent plea from North Carolina, and this still isn’t the urban story I was called about! Folks are getting the message, at least some of them. Of course PWC promised only to check with DNR next time who will STILL give them permission to kill beavers, but it’s a start! And I’m impressed.

One final story from Canada which proves that even when public pressure fails in one instance, it can have a lasting impact nonetheless.

University tries to live peacefully with resident beavers

WATERLOO — Officials at the University of Waterloo say they’re aware of a beaver that has taken up residence on Columbia Lake and they will break up its dam if it poses a risk to people or property.

“We’re generally aware of it,” said university spokesperson Nick Manning. “I don’t know whether they plan to go out and break up the dam. We know it’s there.”  

The university suffered a public relations black eye a decade ago after a public outcry over the trapping and killing of four beavers that had been felling trees near campus walkways. Hundreds of people wrote letters to the editor about the issue, and some alumni threatened to stop donating to the university.

In the wake of the controversy, the university created a wildlife management task force to ensure similar incidents didn’t recur.

Now THAT is a legacy worth paying attention too. Let’s hope that other universities saw this happen and took note as well! The sentence about alumni threats make me happier than I can express. I’m sure our friends at FurbearerDefenders had a lot to do with that.

In festival news, I designed this yesterday for the membership booth, to handout with every donation. I’m thinking I can add their names to the video about the mural with a thank you!


‘Inane justice’

   Posted by heidi08 On June - 22 - 2016Comments Off on ‘Inane justice’

“It’s a beaver. Or it might be an otter. I can’t quite tell,” Boone says.

Is there a more fitting quote to capture the scrupulous care involved in beaver trapping? I sure never saw one. Here’s some more beaver ignorance from Illinois, which has never seen a furbearer it couldn’t shoot.

At war with the beavers

LODA — Wearing rubber boots and armed with a hand-held cultivator tool, Jon Boone ventures out into a heavily forested area just south of the township road that the locals call the Loda Slab. The 63-year-old, tall, gray-bearded man leads the way through 6-foot-high prairie grass, using his tool to create a path for a trailing reporter.

“When you come out here, this is not a hike through a park,” Boone warns. “This is what Illinois looks like at its best.”

“There he is!” Boone says, pointing to an animal that had just popped its head out of the 4-foot-deep water in front of him, part of the meandering Spring Creek.

“It’s a beaver. Or it might be an otter. I can’t quite tell,” Boone says.

He makes regular visits to the spot in Spring Creek just west of Loda where the large dam is located. He usually visits first during the daytime, using hand tools like cultivators, rakes or picks to break up a few spots in the dam to create a flow of rushing water. As long as his nuisance permit is valid, he then returns to the scene that night, armed with a shotgun, ready to shoot any beavers he sees.

“The sound of the rushing water makes them want to fix the dam,” Boone says. “Sometimes, I’ve been out here for hours and never seen a thing. Those are the boring nights. The last time I was out here, the only thing I saw was a shooting star, and I sat here for an hour or two.”

In the past three months, Boone shot two beavers, and three more were trapped. But the beavers — which could number more than 10, he says — remain, and so does the big dam, along with another smaller dam just downstream.

Beavers, otters, toddlers…  who really can tell the difference? What I see – I shoot and just to be on the careful side I only shoot if its in the water or on the dam. (Or within striking distance.) I’m a responsible man you know.  A trustee. They write articles about me.

Boone says he recently tried to buy some dynamite to blow up the beaver dams, but an area store refused to sell it to him. He said there is a person in the area who is licensed to use dynamite, and it remains a possibility that the village could use that person’s services, but Boone says “we probably will never do that.”

Who knew that dynamite regulations were stronger than those for assault rifles? We’ll ,he’s at least getting solid advice from the very top;

“The conservation guy (at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources) goes, ‘You know, as much as they’ve spent paying you to come out here and do this, you should hire a professional trapper,'” Boone recalls. “I said, ‘Well, first of all, they’re not paying me anything, because I’m a trustee.'”

Aww you men you kill furbearers for nothing in your spare time? That’s mighty white of you, really. Loved this quote

“I have an inane  [sic] sense of direction,” says Boone, whose great-great-great-great-great-grandfather was the brother of Daniel Boone, an American pioneer, explorer, woodsman and frontiersman. “I never get lost.

“I get confused a lot, but I always find my way back.”

Is this reporter really really stupid or really really smart? “INANE” means silly or stupid. The noble trustee was really trying to say “INNATE” to convey that his unique ancestral heritage gave him this ability. Now did the man get it wrong and Will the reporter didn’t know the difference so just wrote it down? Or did Will just mistype or auto-correct his way into trouble? Or (and this makes me the happiest to think of) did Will hear the mistake, and just think that it was a fitting description for this old loon and leave it in?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Yesterday we finished the 150th and last pendant necklace. They are all lovingly tucked into individual bags and arranged by ‘letter’ to be ready for the beaver festival. Jon wanted to know how all this kind of thing got done when we were both working?

finished pendntsabout tiles corrected

I made the Gessner otter for our friends at ROEP and mildly asked when the ‘otter festival’ is coming? They said they might plan something for their 5th year, and Cindy Margulis on facebook suggested that they could get the Oakland Zoo TO HOST IT for them.

That seems fair. Martinez can slog away while they descend to earth on a fluffy cloud. Because otters live a charmed life. It’s true.

Konrad Gesner Woodcutting: 1558

Konrad Gesner Woodcutting: 1558