A much better story from Newton, CT

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 25 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

This is from the news roundup today “The top of the hill” in the Newtown Bee. Another wayward disperser, this time with a happy ending.

The Kneen family found quite a surprise in their garage, Tuesday morning: a large beaver. “We’re baffled where he came from,” said Liz Kneen. The family lives near Hattertown Pond, and she hates to think another territorial beaver booted “Mr B” out, but there he was, hiding in her garage, scared and confused. (As were they, initially!) She suspects Mr B wandered in when the garage door was left open earlier in the morning.


Adorable as he looks, a garage is hardly a good environment for a beaver. Several phone calls later, Liz found someone to set up a Hav-A-Hart trap in the evening, baited with luscious lettuce. By then, says Liz, Mr B had fallen asleep in the garage, using their lawn mower for a pillow.

Some people get all the luck! I’m sure we all want a beaver in our garage. But the Kneens were gracious hosts, and did everything right for this furry fugitive. Remember that dispersal is the most dangerous time in a beavers life. No family, no shelter, and often no food. And if Mom and Dad are downstream and another big beaver family is upstream there is only one direction to go: over land. And no beaver knows where that might take them.

During the night, sure enough, they heard a racket and ran down, expecting to find Mr B in the trap. But no. Instead, he was chewing on the garage cable. “I opened the garage door then, and he must have scooted out later in the night, because he was gone in the morning,” she says. The Kneens are positive that Mr B left, and was not hiding elsewhere in the garage. They had put a line of flour just outside the garage door, and tracks led away into the woods. At least he left with a full stomach.

“He ate all the lettuce around the trap, but didn’t go in,” says Liz.

I love this story with a fiery passion. And it is so very plucky of the little wanderer to take full advantage of the lettuce while never triggering the trap. You can practically hear him, picking his way past the springs to forage for the greens. “Nasty metal thing, but shame to let all this delicious lettuce go to waste”.

This rivals but does not beat my favorite disperser photo. The Dallas family was not nearly so kind to the visitor, but the picture is priceless:

beaver pool2Speaking of precious photos, guess when the Milford Daily News fixed their stolen lead problem yesterday? Never! The reporter got in touch and said the photo had run in 2012 in their paper. I pointed out that just because they had stolen it earlier did not make it there’s. The office assured me it would be changed. But it never was and now never will be. Grr.

I was so busy fussing about their robbery that I never got a chance to share this photo with you, taken by Lewis Kemper of two beavers grooming on the American River in Sacramento. It’s definitely something special.

11123773_488002488017382_1387794097_nGood excuse to re-post this. Footage by Moses Silva. Once upon a time it was set to Ella Fitzgerald washing that man outta her hair, but youtube couldn’t tolerate the infraction.

I love how there is really not distinction made between grooming one’s self and grooming your sibling.  To a beaver, either one feels terrific.

Three Strikes for beavers

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 24 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

Milford Daily News has covered interesting beaver stories in Massachusetts before. But this is far more surprising. Just look at the photo on their beaver story this morning.

stolenIf that photo looks familiar it should. It was taken by Cheryl Reynolds back in 2010. It is two of the three kits whose mom died. It’s not on wikipedia and not for common use. But the crime gets even more alarming when you see this: A little shopping cart which if you click on you can order copies of the photo! 40 dollars for a glossy 11 X 14!

CaptureI called the front desk and the editor and they assured me it will be changed. But it hasn’t yet. I’d be shocked if I wasn’t so very familiar with the common place theft that occurs on the internet. When I finally calmed down enough to read the article I identified the third outrage:

 Bellingham: Beaver dams in culverts a thorny issue

Beavers have dammed up several culverts in town. Daily News file photo (No its NOT)

by Matt Tota/Daily News Staff

BELLINGHAM — Department of Public Work crews on Wednesday started to demolish a beaver dam plugging a culvert on Whitehall Way, releasing a stream of water downstream that flooded five residential roadways.

 DPW Director Donald DiMartino, responding to the flooding, found himself mired in the high water on Newland Avenue, where his vehicle sat until rescued by a front-end loader.  Beavers had bested the department again.

 In recent months, the DPW started monitoring several culverts around town where beavers have taken to building their dams. The culvert dams are new, potentially costly maintenance issues for the department. 

And removing the dams usually requires heavy equipment.

 “They are dumb animals, but their instincts are fantastic,” DiMartino said.

I’m confused, Do you think he’s talking about DPW employees? Or photo editors?


Beaver War Room

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 23 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

Yesterday was supposed to be a languid Wednesday where I sat around and practiced my talk for SARSAS on Monday. Instead my little desk exploded into beaver central around 1 when someone who had been referred by Brock Dolman wrote me from Winters that they were trying to save a rare piebald beaver that was living in a section of creek going to be destroyed in the name of progress.

I assume you are like me and had never really heard the word “piebald” before, so you might need a short refresher course.  The Dictionary definition is “Spotted or patched, especially in black and Piebaldwhite.” A pinto horse is piebald. Rarely a hunter will get lucky enough to shoot a piebald deer. And very very rarely we have stories of piebald beaver.

Remember that before the fur trade we used to have all colorations of beaver. Blonde beaver. Redhead beaver. And Piebald beaver. After the population was nearly destroyed that variation vanished. Well almost vanished. Because apparently there is at least one colored beaver left in California.

CaptureAnd, there’s something else you shouldn’t wait to see, if you can see it at all. I’m outing a secret, and am gambling on the goodwill of humanity against stupidity (a big gamble, I know): There’s an extremely rare piebald beaver that frequents this area. Local nature photographer and wildlife expert, Alejandro Garcia, camped out for hours just to get a photo of it, which I’ve seen, and it’s pretty darn amazing. It’s a regular brown beaver in all ways, with a thick white stripe in its midsection like an ice cream sandwich.

 Alejandro told me there are only a handful of piebald beaver in existence. I googled it, and aside from some horrific trapping sites based in Arkansas, the only information I could find was from a book written in 1876 by John J. Bowman, entitled, “The Emigrant and Sportsman in Canada — Some Experiences of an Old Country Setter.” Bowman merely says, in a story about his experiences with wild beaver, “I saw one piebald beaver; his back was black, his sides white, and belly reddish.”

 That’s it. The sum total of all the information about piebald beavers, almost as rare as a dodo, and, by a miracle of nature, there’s one living in a little pocket of natural habitat along Putah Creek in Winters. What a great mascot this animal could be for our little creekside town. But no. We’re glibly forcing it to “move on.” If you want to get a glimpse of it before it’s gone, don’t wait. The bulldozers are coming.

An ice cream sandwich beaver! How could I not come to full attention! I conferred with the author, contacted some professors at UC Davis to see if we could get some interest,  swapped emails with Beth to see if there was anything that National Wildlife Federation could do, called Sarah Koenisberg to see if she might want to film it for her upcoming documentary, and talked with the director I knew at Fish and Game. He pointed me to his counterpart in Winters who, like everyone I talked to, was very interested but wasn’t sure that a beaver could be protected just for its coloration. I reminded him that it was kit season and that there was a good chance that at least one of the kits would have some coloration too. (OMG) And he was more interested.

Now here’s where the story gets very very fascinating.

In our amiable chat he reminded me that beaver were depredation-able and nuisance permits could be issued for their death. I said I understood that very well, and that in fact there were  no limits on how many beaver could be written into the permit for depredation. He said, that’s not true. And with no hesitation at all I said come on! I just reviewed all the permits in California for the last two years an there were 51 unlimited permits issued!

‘And he agreed that used to be true but two months ago there had been a meeting and they were told not to issue unlimited permits — then he stopped talking abruptly surprised  — maybe that was because of you!

I have zero idea whether it was because of me, but I do know that a third of the permits we reviewed were written for ‘unlimited’ numbers of beavers, and now according to him, none will be. NONE.

I was so focused on finding a way to save that piebald beaver it really didn’t sink in until later. No unlimited permits! I wish I’d asked about that meeting where they were told not to do it. Was it regional? Or with a higher up? Was it time limited? Was there any push back about it?

Of course there were more people to call about piebald beaver, so I had to stop feeling surprised and just feel like I might be able to help. Then there were several forwards about the Fargo beavers and the war room had to redirect. It’s always good to know your work matters. I did what I could for Piebald beaver. And maybe some one will share a photo soon.

Now it’s off to Fargo!

‘Is this the only way?’: Fargo Parks beaver cull draws criticism

Megan Bartholomay, an opponent of the Fargo Park Board’s decision to cull the beaver population to prevent damage to trees, stands near the Red River in Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

 FARGO—A growing chorus of animal rights supporters wants the Fargo Park Board to reconsider its plan to trap and kill beavers in city parks along the Red River.

 One of the leading voices is Megan Bartholomay, a 38-year-old Fargo resident who believes the board’s plan is barbaric.

 ”We’re a civilized community living in 2015,” she said. “Is this the only way? What else have we tried?”

One supporter of Megan tracked down Carol Evans from the PBS documentary (it’s always easier to find the emails of government employee!) and she forwarded it to me to see if I could help. I gave lots of thoughts and resources and am eager to see what happens in Fargo. It’s not an impossible battle because there is already lots of beaver intelligence in the state. Just look at this comment I highlighted in 2012 in Fargo from Game and Fish!

“Probably the most economical way of dealing with beaver is wrapping the trees, probably a couple three feet up as high as a beaver can stand off the ground, with chicken wire or some kind of wire mesh to keep the beavers in, they’ll leave it alone.” says Doug Leier with North Dakota Game and Fish.

Go team Fargo! It’s up to you now.

In Defense of Beavers

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 22 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

There is a great article from Ottawa on Michael Runtz, on whose new beaver book “Dam Builders” we are impatiently waiting.

 The tale of the tail: Ottawa beaver expert defends maligned creatures

People say unkind things about beavers: Stupid, destructive, smelly, and destructive again. But Michael Runtz is coming out in defence of Canada’s iconic creature, and the great things it does.

“Beavers ponds dot the landscape everywhere and surely if there hadn’t been beavers . . . we’d be lacking a lot of our so-called small lakes and certainly ponds.

 “And many larger animals would be less common, too. I dare say we’d have fewer moose in Ontario if we didn’t have beavers. (Moose love wetlands and eat water plants that are rich in sodium). And we would probably have fewer wolves.” Wolves often choose beaver meadows — abandoned ponds that drain and produce new meadows — as places to raise pups.

 “If we didn’t have beaver meadows we would probably have fewer Algonquin Park wolf howls,” because that is where wolves gather.

 “When beavers create a pond, trees drown, and dead tress are really important for the ecosystem. They themselves are individual habitats” — first for insects, then woodpeckers, then small animals (flying squirrels, saw-whet owls) that live in woodpecker holes, and finally for turtles and ducks that sit on fallen logs.

 “Every aspect of the pond cycles supports a wealth of different organisms.”

 “Honestly my favourite habitat is a beaver pond,” Runtz said. He suggests it is the best place to introduce young people to nature.

Runtz has been a great defender of beavers, and provided the still photos for Jari Osborne’s beaver documentary that aired on PBS last year. He is also a solid defender of wildlife in general and voluteers with the the Ottawa Carleton Wildlife centre to help raise  awareness. His comments make me realize that it would be an awesome thing to have a active beaver pond within 10 miles of every school in North America! I especially loved this image:

“Go to a beaver pond at daybreak. Its like going to a play at the National Arts Centre. The lights are turned down and the curtain is down and you can’t see what’s there. That’s what a pond before daybreak is like.

 “It’s dark and you hear some motion. You hear sounds. You sense these animals there but can’t see them.

 “And the when dawn breaks, it’s just like the lights going up gradually on a stage or the curtains being slowly raised. It doesn’t come as bright sunlight all of a sudden. It’s a gradual lifting of the darkness. It’s just a compelling natural experience and I just wish we had all our kids exposed to that.”

 Isn’t that beautiful?

Now on to Megan’s slightly less floral letter in beaver defense in Fargo, North Dakota.

Letter: Awful of humans to kill off beavers

There are few things that stun me in this world anymore, but I was completely disgusted with the Fargo Park Board’s decision to wipe out beaver populations along the Red River to “save trees.” This has to be one of the most egregious displays of nonsense veiled as a conservation act.

 “We’ve planted new trees, and then they’re gone,” said Roger Gress, executive director of the parks district. Then stop planting trees, Roger. Last time I checked, the banks of the Red were all set in terms of tree fulfillment. So, you’re going to just murder colonies of beavers every time you feel like too many trees disappear? And you’re going to kill the beavers by either drowning them or trapping them, both gross and inhumane acts.

 It seems like you’re treating the symptom and not the problem. What about beaver relocation? Or simply let the beavers have their trees because they’re an incredibly important part of a river ecosystem and that’s just how nature works. People love to see beavers down by the river. You are all awful human beings for doing this. Shame on you.

Wow. Don’t sugar coat things, Megan. Tell us how you really feel! I only wish she’d mentioned that Roger could EASILY protect the trees with wire instead of relying on murder. But that’s a pretty bold letter. You have to agree. I am very happy when other people defend beavers. It allows me to just sit on the sidelines and beam.

Speaking of beaming, I received word yesterday from the Contra Costa Fish and Wildlife commission that Worth A Dam received our grant for the KEYSTONE wildlife project at this year’s festival! We get the entire award, and I was especially happy to be able to use a little ‘psychology’ in my discussion. After (only?) 8 years the festival finally got support from both the county and the city. Bonus points: they also called my application “thoughtful” which is pretty much the nicest thing anyone could ever say to me. It was thoughtful too. I gave them an acronym. And even a logo!

It’s going to be an awesome festival this year.


Oh and if you haven’t already, celebrate Earth Day by taking the pledge!

Thickly Settled

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 21 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

P-22 threaten martinez beavers

This famous mountain lion who made a show Saturday of nibbling the Martinez beavers, has gone on to even greater things. Now he is in the New Yorker with Michelle Nijhuis new article on the stranded big cats of LA. Someone else we know is in the article too.

CaptureThis particular mountain lion is no stranger to Angelenos. Three years ago, in early 2012, he left his home in the Santa Monica Mountains, crossed two eight-lane freeways, and, after travelling at least twenty miles, dead-ended in Griffith Park, a former ostrich farm that is now one of the country’s largest municipal green spaces. Biologists tranquilized the lion and fitted him with a radio collar; he became popularly known by his tag number, P-22.

The most promising location for the first mountain-lion crossing in the Los Angeles Basin would span ten busy lanes of traffic, and it is by no means guaranteed to deliver the genetic variation that the lions need. Yet the project has momentum. Beth Pratt, an energetic campaigner for the National Wildlife Federation, has won support from congressional representatives and local governments for a crossing in the Santa Monicas, and earlier this year the California State Coastal Conservancy awarded a million-dollar grant to the department of transportation for the design and permitting of the crossing, with the goal of beginning construction by 2018.

Beth has been a tireless voice for wildlife crossings for big cats in particular. She will be making her way to Martinez this summer for our own beaver festival. I’m thrilled this story made the New Yorker but it has prompted me to reconsider for myself how many articles about beaver have made the magazine in the last 25 years. Hmm, let me count.

Oh, that’s right. NONE.  (Except cartoons. Beavers are funny.)

No single mention of beaver benefits or struggles in the New Yorker Magazine about salmon or water or even Scotland. Not even when the famous Jose was discovered in the Bronx river. Nothing since a 1991 article on Hope Buyukmihci and the formation of Beaver Defenders.  I realize of course, mountain lions are sleek, sexy and powerful. But the beaver is the state animal of New York fer cryingoutloud. Let’s get interested in them!

ecosystem working for youThe New Yorker is so far behind the times about beavers that they don’t even realize this cartoon isn’t comic at all. It’s just boring old prosaic truth. Like a telephone book. Beavers make the ecosystem work for them. And us.


Oh and the big beaver news of the day is that a beaver is being blamed for taking out power to thousands in Maine. I got ten alerts for it this morning, and now it’s made the Discovery News.

Beaver Knocks Down Tree, Thousands Lose Power


A beaver in Maine’s northern Aroostook County was doing what beavers do on Monday night — and chewed down a tree to help build its dam.

 The problem is the tree happened to fall on a power transmission line and soon nearly 3,000 residents 

“(The downed tree) is in a very remote, wooded area which has been challenging to reach, but workers will remain working to restore power by mid-morning,” Bob Potts, spokesperson for Emera, told the Bangor Daily Ne

No word yet on how, if they were able to get someone on site to identify the beaver-chewed culprit that caused the outage, they couldn’t get a crew there as well. Or how they know for certain it wasn’t the wind taking out a tree they should have trimmed years ago. But oh well. It’s a good beaver-blame anyway. In fact, this finger is pointed with such dexterity that the power company is even getting a news cycle boost out of it. Nicely done boys and girls.

I was a little confused about this though:

As often-cited W.T. Cox wrote in a 1940 article in American Forest, “Beavers do not belong in thickly-settled communities, since their flooding operations may become troublesome

Would you call Martinez “thickly settled”?

Beavers head for Belly of the Beast

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 20 - 2015Comments Off

CaptureNo rest for the beaver-y. Now I have 6 whole days to get ready for my upcoming talk at SARSAS  next monday. SARSAS stands for Save Auburn Ravine for Salmon and Steelhead. I met the founder/director Jack Sanchez at the Salmonid restoration conference in Santa Barbara last year, and he asked me to be part of the dynamic and packed  list of speakers they host. (In fact he mentioned that they already had a beaver expert but she wasn’t very positive about them, and I knew at ONCE who he meant.

highlighted permitsJack accompanied me to the meeting we had with CDFW last November after a review of depredation permits showed Placer issued 9 times more permits than anywhere else in the state. I am thrilled to be marching boldly into enemy lines to deliver the beaver gospel. We might even have a few friendly faces at the meeting as Sherry, Ted, and Janet aren’t far away.

 This is from the Placer County E-Newsletter:

April SARSAS Meeting

I’ll relax when we get the TIME CORRECTED. (Sheesh!) And if it’s not corrected I’ll just stay there and give the talk again to anyone who shows up! In the meantime I am busily working on graphics for the talk. I especially like this one. Don’t you? The background is the beloved drawing of a series of dams in a gorge from Morgan’s book. Overlaid with swirling column of fish.

salmondsNice video from Rusty this morning of beavers eating their spring diet. Enjoy!

John Muir Birthday Earth Day in the sunshine!

   Posted by heidi08 On April - 19 - 2015Comments Off

Yesterday was a bright sunny blur of Earth Day fun. Rusty from Napa started out by coming to our house bothat 8 am to help unload the car, and we were settled in our comfy spot hardby nine. Our first totem makers were an entire family that each made a figure for one totem they were going to give to Grandma later. The day just got more inspiring from there, as kids chose a favorite animal or design to embellish highly personal totems. Throughout the day and everywhere in the park they were visible. And one creative soul even taped the tube upright on her hat!

One of the best things about a project like this was the look of deep concentration visible on the children’s faces as they worked on their vision. They seemed to shut out all the disruptions and just work on their ideas. No computer screens or watching their neighbor. Just deeply meditative art. The biggest obstacle was always time, as parents wanted them to hurry up and finish. But you can see their concentration was unhurried, and deeply powerful. As always Chery’s lovely photos treat those moments with the deep respect they deserve. See for yourself.

workingtotemstotemartist 1

There were lots of appreciative comments about winning the beaver battle, questions about the current family and sympathetic voices about wildlife in general. I even found a few good ears to listen to our tree drama, including our newest city council member who was very alarmed. (I figure if the city didn’t want me to talk about this with 2000 people they wouldn’t have done it right before Earth day, am I wrong?)Beth Pratt-Bergstom of the National Wildlife Federation was the keynote speaker and she and her husband stopped by to swap appreciations and friendly wildlife banter. She will be at the beaver festival this year and he will dress up in a Ranger Rick costume. We even discussed his alternating as a beaver! She had a life size cutout of the famous LA mountain lion P-22 and we couldn’t help but do this.

P-22 threaten martinez beaversMegan Isador of the River Otters dropped by soon after, getting ready for her award. She introduced me to a wonderful volunteer who had baked 600 cookies for their welcome back otter event. I told her to be very careful because there was a powerful magnet under the table and we just happened to have a beaver cookie cutter. Megan laughingly scolded me and  pulled her  away to safety!

The totem project was a great success and at least 100 children managed to craft their own tribal vision of wildlife. Each one came out perfectly, as you can see here:

owlbeaver  nativeeaglry eagle   regard

We sold many wildlife scarves and offered beaver solutions to folks as far away as Lincoln, but my very favorite part of the day was when John Muir stopped by at the end to chat about beavers and Enos Mills.  I managed to bring up our tree story and he told me that for years upon years he has visited classrooms at Earth Day and planted giant sequoias with children. In nearly every instance those trees had been pulled up by administers shortly thereafter who had redwood-phobia. Only one such tree had survived but was still standing after 40 years!

I guess if it even happens to John Muir too, we shouldn’t feel so bad.