Fortune Favors the Fish

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 23 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

Leave it to beavers: Live cameras offer glimpse into nature

The beaver dam live feed has gotten 10,625 views this year with people viewing from as far away as Poland, Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan. The average viewer watches the feed for nearly 10 minutes.

The U.S. Forest Service has run the camera from the Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center since 1995 and began live-streaming in 2009, according to Natural Resource Specialist Peter Schneider, who runs the feed.


Because of bandwidth limitations, the Forest Service can only stream one camera at a time; they switched their feed from the beaver den to an in-river sockeye feed Thursday.

That’s right, it doesn’t matter if folks were watching from Kazakhstan, because SALMON! SALMON! SALMON! Those beavers will just have to get out of the way and let the real stars have stage time.

And speaking of a Forest Service who’s willing to push beaver aside to save the ‘widdle fishy’, check out this story from Colorado.

Forest Service seeks public’s input on Fryingpan trout restoration plan

The U.S. Forest Service is eyeing an ambitious seven-year plan to restore native cutthroat trout to the upper Fryingpan River watershed and eradicate whirling disease, and the agency wants public input on the endeavor. In a lengthy statement released Friday details the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District’s plan, which includes constructing stream barriers and a 20-acre reservoir; the use of a “fish toxicant”; construction of a quarter-mile, temporary road; and possibly using explosives to remove beaver dams.

“Native cutthroat trout are no longer found in most of their historical range due to non-native fish invasion, habitat loss and disease,” the release says. “Recent research has revealed several lineages that were formally unknown in Colorado, including a lineage of Colorado River cutthroat trout native to the Roaring Fork watershed.”

The portion of the plan “to assure a complete eradication of non-native trout and whirling disease” would involve the administration of the chemical Rotenone by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Rotenone is an organic plant-derived pesticide and is the most commonly used fish toxicant in the nation, the statement says.

“Once complete elimination of trout from the entire watershed above the barriers is confirmed through sampling, the stream would need to remain fishless until it is confirmed that [whirling disease] has been eliminated from the system,” it says.

The second phase would include trapping beaver families or colonies and relocating them in Little Lime Creek “to the extent practical.”

Because you know how bad beaver dams are for trout. And how good pesticides are for them. I mean why shouldn’t the federal government spend our tax dollars poisoning fish and terrorizing beavers on the off chance that it will let them eliminate ‘whirling disease’ which was probably triggered as a response to some pesticide anyway? Makes perfect sense to me.

We’ll be planting trees this evening with some children and Suzi Eszterhas as part of a photo needed for the Ranger Rick article. (Of course it’s the worst possible time of year to plant trees, but Jon will probably rescue them afterwards and save them in the garden until winter rolls around again.)

Our friend at the Jeff Arnhorn nursery of Livermore chose some wonderful specimens and even delivered them himself. When he dropped them off he saw Mario’s Mural and was very curious because Mario happens to be doing construction work for his mother! (Mario told us earlier that painting doesn’t pay the bills and has to do construction as well.)

Is there a smaller world than the beaver world? I do not think so.


You will Thoreau-ly enjoy this story, I’m sure!

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 22 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

Yesterday was puppet day, and we got a lovely load of wildlife puppets from generous Folkmanis for the silent auction. Also the brochures are back from the printer and look lovely. We saved some money by trying out a new printer and are pretty happy with the results. Now there’s more good news, this time from Mike Callahan and Thoreau!

It’s nature vs. Thoreau at Fairyland Pond in Concord

There weren’t many beavers around back in Henry David Thoreau’s day. To the dismay of the great naturalist, though society proclaimed admiration for these brilliant and industrious creatures, beavers had been all but exterminated locally, for their luxurious pelts.

But bAR-160729572.jpg&MaxW=650eavers are back in Concord now, and their wonderful intelligence has put one specific beaver in direct conflict with Thoreau himself, or at least, with one of Henry David’s favorite spots.

hdtThe problem is, the stream being dammed is fed by Brister’s Spring, which is really just a trickle of water seeping out of the rocks of Brister’s Hill (part of Walden Woods. Some of that water, it is believed, originally seeped into the rocks from nearby Walden Pond itself.) The spring creates a little wetland and tiny stream that runs a few hundred yards and through a pipe under a trail in the town forest and then into the Fairyland Pond. The beaver built its dam just as the stream enters the pond, so when the water backs up, and it has already started to, it will flood the trail, the wetland, and Brister’s Spring. Anybody who’s walked around Fairyland Pond in the past few weeks knows that the trail is already flooded. The wetland and Brister’s Spring are next.

Luckily they are on good terms with Mike Callahan who’s coming out to help them meet this particular beaver challenge.

EP-160729572.jpg&MaxW=650&MaxH=650The third option is, fortunately, what the town’s Natural Resources Department is considering; running a narrow pipe at the bottom of the stream, entirely underwater, and literally through a hole drilled in the base of the beaver dam, so the water flows from the Brister’s Spring through the wetland, into the pipe at the bottom of the stream, through the dam, and finally into Fairyland Pond, without making any noise. That’s the key. The diverter lets the water flow through the underwater pipe silently. The noise of rushing water is like a “BUILD DAM HERE!” sign to beavers. It’s what attracts them in the first place.

That proposal comes from Mike Callahan of Beaver Solutions, Inc., who has helped Concord (and communities throughout southern New England) humanely resolve beaver/human conflicts for years. He built the diversion system at the open end of Fairyland Pond, where it drains, when another beaver started to dam that a few years ago, and has also installed “beaver deceivers” at Punkatasset Pond.

“I love doing this work,” Callahan said. “It’s humane. It allows the animal stay around, at least until its food supply runs out, and it preserves a lot of the beneficial aspects of their work for the environment.”

Fantastic! We here at beaver LOVE to read stories like this! Congratulations to Mike for using his good work to win over the local DNR, and congratulations to that young beaver who as crafted an expert pond in historic real estate. I’m sure Mr. Thoreau would be impressed! (But white pants to fix a beaver mud problem? Really?)

Speaking of impressed, I received a note from the Coyote Brush Visitors wednesday who stayed a little while after we left and happened to film this. Two beavers. Mom in the foreground and littler Dad on the right. Together again apparently!

Beaver Mania

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 21 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

Arriving at the beaver festival with all the parts in tact is no easy feat. It takes just about every skill I possess and the full help of every single person I can persuade to assist. August 6 becomes an end in itself. And there is no thought for August 7 beyond returning everything and taking back the truck. Certainly there is no thought for August 8.

But I’m inviting us all to see beyond that curtain and think of what comes next. A very special and unique event that’s part of this 10-day celebration of urban wildlife offered in conjunction with the Forestry Service and local businesses. Of course my favorite day will be this event on September 16th at the Empress Theater in Vallejo. As far as I can tell you don’t need to reserve a space and the event is free. The theater sits 400 or something so just SHOW UP and show your support for beavers.beaver mania



That’s right, a screening of our favorite Jari Osboure documentary,  a talk by Kate Lundquist of the OAEC and a presention by  myself of the Martinez Beavers.  Is there anything more exciting than THAT? So in August the beavers get a party and in September they get an onstage premiere. And in October there is a very good chance we’ll see kits.

Hold onto your hats ladies and gentlemen because this year the festival is just the beginning!

Not bad for a Tuesday

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 20 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

Last night, new members or the PRMCC were sworn in. I was worried to see our old supporters go until I noticed that they included Adrienne Ursino who was one of the beavers very first supporters and the aide to former congressman Miller. She explained to the other commissioners that I had come to Madison’s preschool and kindergarten to teach beavers to the children and she admired how I was always helping people learn about beavers.  I quickly reviewed the mural process and described how it was based on our own photos, fit organically with the creek and reflected the real mountainsides behind it. The commission chair even said he had seen one of the beavers down at the new dam! Then I made sure to add that we should all be so lucky as to swim under our own memorial and keep right on taking trees at Ward Street.

(Given how MUCH controversy the beaver caused initially it was truly special to see how happy this made them.)

Afterward the commissioner discussed how lovely the mural was, and how quickly and professionally the process had gone They were impressed with its swift completion and found thanked Worth A Dam and Mario for making it happen. I thanked them for their kind words and couldn’t help thinking, ‘swift?’ that was ‘swift???’ because it seemed to me that it took ages and required repeated onerous effort to honor the contract, get the insurance, meet the city requirements blah blah blah. But okay, I can believe it happened ‘swifter’ than other murals in town.

Afterwards we drove to Ward Street to tell the beavers the good news. And there met some youngsters from Lafayette who will be selling temporary wildlife tattoos at the festival this year. They were eager for beaver photos to help them with their designs.  The beavers liked them very much and were obviously pleased with our news because they decided to cooperate. As did 3 adorable raccoon kits in the blackberry bushes.

Farming Friends and Beavers

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 19 - 2016ADD COMMENTS

Oh the farmer and the beaver should be friends,
Oh the farmer and the beaver should be friends,
The beaver likes to build his dams
The farmer plants his corn and yams
But that’s no reason why they can’t be friends.

You know I already did a complete rendition of this song for the salmon in 2011, but I guess the beavers have lots of friends, (and don’t it’s not my fault if dam just naturally rhymes with yam, okay?)




Pond and Slower Streams created by Beaver Serve as Nitrogen Sinks

Beavers, once valued for their fur, may soon have more appreciation in the Northeastern United States. There they are helping prevent harmful levels of nitrogen from reaching the area’s vulnerable estuaries. By creating ponds that slow down the movement of water, they aid in removing nitrogen from the water.

Arthur Gold at the University of Rhode Island, along with his colleagues, studies how the presence of beavers affects nitrogen levels in these waters. “What motivated us initially to study this process was that we were aware of the fact that beaver ponds were increasing across the Northeast,” he said. “We observed in our other studies on nitrogen movement that when a beaver pond was upstream, it would confound our results.

Those darn confounding beavers, ruining Suzanne Fouty’s drought research and Glynnis Hood’s nine year study with their crafty, research ruining ways. Just look at our beavers in Martinez! Confounding their memorial by continuing to exist!

The researchers realized the water retention time and organic matter build up within beavers’ ponds lead to the creation of ideal conditions for nitrogen removal. They then wanted to see how effectively they can do this. The researchers tested the transformative power of the soil by taking sample cores and adding nitrogen to them. These samples, about the size of a large soda bottle, were large enough to incorporate the factors that generate chemical and biological processes that take place in the much larger pond. They were also small enough to be replicated, manageable and measured for numerous changes. Researchers then added a special type of nitrogen to the samples that allowed them to be able to tell if the nitrogen was transformed and how.

Bacteria in the organic matter and soil were able to transform nitrogen, specifically as nitrate, into nitrogen gas, removing it from the system. Thanks to the conditions brought about by the beaver ponds, this process can remove approximately 5-45% of the nitrogen in the water, depending on the pond and amount of nitrogen present.

“I think what was impressive to us was that the rates were so high,” Gold explained. “They were high enough and beavers are becoming common enough, so that when we started to scale up we realized that the ponds can make a notable difference in the amount of nitrate that flows from our streams to our estuaries.

Ahh those rascally beavers, fixing our nitrogen problems and saving our salmon. I’m sure farmers will be rushing to lay down their dynamite and welcome these flat-tailed eco-heroes, right? I won’t hold my breath. It takes a lot of effort on all sides to change hearts and minds about beavers – which we learned first hand in Martinez.

Speaking of which, the drama was apparently a big enough deal (even in Washington) that I’m allowed officially to say it will be recognized by our Congressman at the beaver festival with an award and visit, and some discussing of the slim possibility of adding the Martinez Beavers to the congressional record.

No really.


Beaver Mystery

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 18 - 2016Comments Off on Beaver Mystery

beaver mysteryYou would think, wouldn’t you, that after 10 frickin years of watching a single beaver family you would actually have a clue about what to expect. I mean after ten years of marriage there really aren’t many surprises, ten years as a parent you’re pretty much ready for anything, and after ten years at the office there really isn’t anything new under the sun.

But beavers, apparently, are an eternal mystery

We saw both Wayward Street beavers on Friday as you know and Jon saw them in the evening over the weekend a couple times. This morning we went down to see them again and say only one small cautious beaver. Where was mom? Was she hiding out? Then Moses drove up and said he had been filming mom working on the dam at the OTHER place down stream. (!!!) He showed me the footage, and thought she looked very pregnant, which I think she might be but can’t imagine it is late enough for her to show, since he just filmed them mating 5 weeks ago and she should be due until September.

Why didn’t dad go with her back to their old haunts? It was a very high tide last night, and will be again tomorrow. Will he move down to be with her eventually? Are they sick of each other? Are they taking a break? Has he met someone else? Or could this possibly be a whole NEW beaver?

We don’t know. We have no way of knowing, and the beavers obviously aren’t talking. Stay Tuned.

The Importance of being Ernst

   Posted by heidi08 On July - 17 - 2016Comments Off on The Importance of being Ernst

Sometimes even the back of the class earns a gold star. The Ernst trail  in Meadville PA lies in the upper left hand corner of the state near Ohio. Neither state has been particularly progressive on beaver management issues in the past, so I was thrilled to see this. Remember the trapper who said he was only going to take the ‘soldier beavers’?

ON THE ERNST TRAIL: Importance of beaver pond outweighs potential flooding

In the spring of 2015 the water, in the wetland, just south of Bean’s, on the west side of the Ernst Trail, began to rise precipitously up toward the trail. The water was also rising on the east side of the trail. We were concerned that the water might flow over the trail and perhaps damage the trail surface.

A short investigation revealed that beavers had dammed up the two culverts that drain from the west side of the trail to the east side and that there were many small dams on the east side as well. The board of directors decided to act.

In the course of trying to figure out what to do I visited the trail one June day last year at lunch with Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer Mark Allegro. He was busy with nuisance bear complaints and only had time at lunch to consider our beaver problem. Mark pointed out that there weren’t any good options; our best hope was to wait for trapping season and get a trapper to trap the beavers

Since it was a nice noon-time, many people were on the trail, several of them recognized Mark, who was in uniform, and commented on wildlife they had seen along the trail. One person pointed out a huge snapping turtle on a log in the beaver pond, about 30 feet from the trail. Another showed me a couple of snakes alongside the trail that I had walked right by. Others noted birds they had seen, signs of beaver activity and so on. Our beaver pond was generating quite a bit of interest for trail users.

To better understand what a beaver pond had to offer, I talked to Scott Wissinger, an ecology professor at Allegheny College. Here’s what he said: “Because beaver ponds create so many different types of sub habitats of different shallow depths, flow regimes, plant communities and invertebrate communities, they are considered hot beds of biological diversity. Even if people don’t really care about invertebrate and plant diversity, they might care because the invertebrates and plants (especially their seeds) are magnets for charismatic animals that people do care about — fish, waterfowl, songbirds, amphibians and reptiles.”

With all this life attracted to the beaver pond, our board of directors decided to let the beavers alone. We’ll take our chances on the flooding.

Yes, if you need advice on trapping, go to the Game Warden, but if you need advice on BEAVERS go to college. I’m so hopeful about this article and will be working hard to get in touch with the author so he can see how to prevent flooding AND keep beavers. I can’t tell you how impressed I am that the people on the trail got you thinking about the enormous impact a beaver pond has on wildlife. And so glad that you listened, and kept asking questions because that isn’t easy to do when a man in a uniform tells you to give up.

Shout out to Janet Thew who posted on FB about the beaver totem skins offered by Decalgal. Of course I wrote her WRITE AWAY and she said she’d be delighted to donate to the silent auction. How much do you love this?

Final gift from Moses Silva filmed at the noisy crane work station by the beaver home. I guess not everyone is intimidated by progress.