Beaver beginnings

   Posted by heidi08 On August - 29 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

Beaver Genome Project: ‘There is a lot of interest’

PORTLAND, Ore. — With an assist from Filbert — a furry, buck-toothed denizen of the Oregon Zoo’s Cascade Stream and Pond habitat — scientists at Oregon State University are preparing to sequence the genome of our state animal, the North American beaver.

 Researchers say results of the Beaver Genome Project could help us better understand population dynamics of this iconic Northwest animal, which has evolved to play a key role in maintaining the habitat complexity of wetland ecosystems.

 “This kind of research can tell us things like how many populations of beaver there used to be and even give us clues as to their size,” said Dr. David Shepherdson, the zoo’s deputy conservation manager. “It can also give some indication of how connected and genetically diverse our current wild populations are.”

 “Beavers are important to the ecology of the region, and understanding their genome is an important part of understanding their behaviors and role in the ecosystem,” added Dr. Stephen Ramsey, assistant professor of biomedical sciences at OSU. “There is a lot of interest in exploring the genetics of wild beaver populations throughout the Northwest, but we lack the reference genome that would really facilitate those kinds of studies.”

 Enter Filbert, a North American beaver at the OregonZoo. Since zoo veterinarians were conducting the animal’s routine physical exam and blood-work panel this month, they offered to set aside a small blood sample for OSU’s genome project.

This is the beaver in question in the Oregon zoo engaged in a daily pastime: it surely seems typical enough to make inferences on all members of the species.

Which is not to say this isn’t mildly interesting, but it’s certainly not the genetic research we need on beavers. Whagenomet we need to do is look at all the pretend subspecies (three supposedly in California: Golden, Shasta and & Sonora) and find out if they’re really any different or if they’re just different names because some naturalist wanted credit. In Europe they tested all the pretend subspecies and found there was an east version and a west version, and that was it. We need to do that in the US, and we haven’t. All we need is a couple of hairs from the pelts in a museum and we’re good to go. Unfortunately this news is about the kind of genetic testing you would do on yourself to learn that you had ancestors in Asia or were once related to tribal kings. Interesting, but not going to change our thinking much.

Yesterday afternoon Rusty Cohn of Napa had the random fortune to be walking past the pond and film this amazing interaction of the three young otter pups born in Tulocay creek this year.  This is the kind of moment that when you’re holding the camera you can’t believe you were lucky enough to get it on film. When I say enjoy. I know you will.


Anonymous restoration work

   Posted by heidi08 On August - 28 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

Where cutthroats swim and cattle roam

A watershed restoration project on private and public land near Elko, Nevada, is benefitting threatened Lahontan cutthroat and the cattle of the Heguy family. The Susie Creek project has been highlighted by the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association and the Elko District of the Bureau of Land Management in the first of a series of articles showcasing ranching conservation projects on Lahontan cutthroat trout streams in Nevada

Susie creek. Maybe you’re thinking, “Susie creek, Susie creek…I know that name….” and you’d be right. Because you do. Because it’s the remarkably restored creek filmed in this part of a certain documentary that we all watched last year.

(That initial clip is of susie creek NV being assessed by Suzanne Fouty and Carol Evans.)
Clearly they know what’s saving these trout and the stream. And the author Brent Prettyman is a major beaver benefit reporter from way back, so he knows what’s going on too. But this article definitely hides the beaver light under a bushel.

It’s like everyone is afraid of saying the B-word.

The Heguy family allotment includes 37,000 acres of public land and 13,000 acres of private. Restoration work was done on the entire allotment and included help reseeding native vegetation from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after a wildfire, water developments to draw cattle away from riparian areas and a pasture to manage timing and duration of grazing on the land.

Um okay, you got a lot of money to plant willow and build fences to keep the cows out. Yeah, that is a great start. Then what happened? Did the trout just magically appear? Did it rain trout? Or was there several middle steps. Actors that enriched the soil, increased the invertebrate community, and stored the water over time. HMMM? Speak up, I can’t hear you?

The benefit for the threatened trout is colder water and more of it, as well as critical streamside vegetation. The evaluation showed riparian vegetation in the entire Susie Creek Basin increased by more than 100 acres. There had been no beaver dams in the system and there were 139 when the evaluation was done. More water was visible on the landscape and well monitoring showed an increase in shallow aquifers.

Okay, so we kept out the cows and planted willow and then these fish and beaver dams just started magically appearing! We have no idea why! I mean there just HAPPENED to be 139 beaver dams by the time  the creek was restored? That’s soooooooo random.  What an incredible coincidence.

What a bunch of beaver sissies! They just can’t admit how important a role they played can they?

The most amazing part of this article is that Carol is able to work with this rancher and get him to keep the cows out of the creek and manage to get a grant for it. All the while knowing full well that she can’t say the name of the heroes responsible or she’ll raise hackles. Plus the feds would never fund a BEAVER project!

Carol Evans is a magician, a talented tight-rope walker and I salute her for that. Here’s her additions to this article from her response this morning,

Well, thanks for this. Is it great, but there are a few things I would like to clarify. The Heguy Allotment is at the top of the watershed above the area where beaver have colonized. The majority of the Susie Creek basin is grazed by Maggie Creek Ranch. Cattle were never removed from any portion of the watershed or stream; rather we just work with the ranchers to manage grazing (basically the magic formula is to reduce frequency and duration of hot season grazing over time; the recovery areas are still grazed spring, fall, summer – short duration, etc.). Also, willows were not planted; recovery just happens here when you remove the stressor (too much hot season grazing) and let nature do her thing! This is happening in many places in NE Nevada.

 On another note, myself and several ranchers have been invited to speak on the subject of livestock management=riparian plants=beaver=water (!) at a conference on Restoring the Water Cycle at Tuff’s University in Boston in October. Cool that this important story continues to gain attention!

 As a side note, in the Maggie Basin, where prescriptive grazing has been in place for about 25 years, active beaver dams went from 100 to 270 in four years (from 2006 to 2010)! We have some similar type info in another basin. Remote sensing is a great way to look at all of it. The next step would be to quantify the water storage. Some day . . .

 Thanks for your work in telling the story!

Carol Evans
Fishery Biologist,Tuscarora Field Office
Elko District, BLM
3900 E. Idaho St.
Elko, NV 89801




Fargo’s valuable cargo

   Posted by heidi08 On August - 27 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

KVRR:  Beaver Backers Won’t Back Down: Nearly 60,000 Sign Petition

This clip couldn’t be embedded so I had to get it on youtube as best I could. You recognize that’s BEAUTIFUL beaver photo over the reporters shoulder right? That the iconic photo by our own Cheryl Reynolds taken in 2008 of a truly handsome yearling grooming. (Youth are so focused on appearance!) What a fantastic way to start the newscast about citizens demanding to do beaver  things differently.

It’s all over the news today, and you have to think about the time the park district is spending answering calls and holding meetings and wonder whether trapping is REALLY less expensive.

costMartinez knows how this goes. Why not give our mayor a call? I’m sure he could share some memories. The truth is you had one chance to do this quietly, before everyone knew about the beavers. That chance has passed like morning mist on a hot day. It’s over. Now you have to do it the right way. You can protest as long as you want, like a child refusing a nap, but you know I’m right. Yes, it is 10% more work wrapping trees than paying a hitman. But after you finish adding up the amount of money you’re wasting to defend your ignorant decision to do this the wrong way it’s going to seem CHEAP by comparison. Honestly.

There’s religious music over my talking in this version for unknown reasons, but that doesn’t matter. all of Martinez was SO smart and well spoken at this meeting. nearly a decade ago. I realize that my input hardly mattered. And, in retrospect, to paraphrase Voltaire, if I didn’t exist, I surely would have been invented.

Do I look like a hat to you?

   Posted by heidi08 On August - 26 - 2015ADD COMMENTS

Yesterday I received an excellent surprise. An early copy of Frances Backhouse newest book “Once they were hats”. If her name sounds vaguely familiar it’s because she was the journalist responsible for that excellent article in the Canadian Geographic a couple years ago, “Rethinking beaver“.

rethinkingI wrote about that article in December of 2012 and said she did a stellar job of recounting the benefits but noted that since people were very lazy she needed to spend time focusing on how problems were solvable – because it didn’t matter how good they were if people thought their challenges couldn’t be fixed. She must have listened, because we crossed paths again at the Beaver Management Forum, and that’s how I received the early copy of this book.

Grey Owl would be happy to note that Canada’s beaver journey has taken a leap forward in the past 5 years, starting with Glynnis Hood’s Beaver Manifesto in 2011, then the Canadian Geographic article in 2012, Jari Osborne’s “Beaver Whisperer”  on the CBC 2013, and its American version on PBS in 2014. This year saw Michael Runtz book and now Frances’ arrival. It’s all been pretty exciting for a beaver-phile like me.

Here’s how the publisher describes her book, I will tell you my thoughts just as soon as I turn every page.

Discover deeper truths and quirky facts that cast new light on this keystone species

 Beavers, those icons of industriousness, have been gnawing down trees, building dams, shaping the land, and creating critical habitat in North America for at least a million years. Once one of the continent’s most ubiquitous mammals, they ranged from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Rio Grande to the edge of the northern tundra. Wherever there was wood and water, there were beavers — 60 million (or more) — and wherever there were beavers, there were intricate natural communities that depended on their activities. Then the European fur traders arrived.

 In Once They Were Hats, Frances Backhouse examines humanity’s 15,000-year relationship with Castor canadensis, and the beaver’s even older relationship with North American landscapes and ecosystems. From the waterlogged environs of the Beaver Capital of Canada to the wilderness cabin that controversial conservationist Grey Owl shared with pet beavers; from a bustling workshop where craftsmen make beaver-felt cowboy hats using century-old tools to a tidal marsh where an almost-lost link between beavers and salmon was recently found, Backhouse goes on a journey of discovery to find out what happened after we nearly wiped this essential animal off the map, and how we can learn to live with beavers now that they’re returning.

 If you have as little patience for all things beaver as I do, you can preorder your copy here or here.  I found a nice interview with Frances concerning one of the heroines from her previous book “Women of the Klondike” I think you’ll enjoy.

Now, you’re on your own because I have some important reading to do.


Excellent Forum for ‘em!

   Posted by heidi08 On August - 25 - 2015Comments Off

bb15th Annual Fish and Wildlife Committee Fall Forum

The CCCFWC is who gave the grant this year for our wildlife button activity (The K.E.Y.S.T.O.N.E. Project -Kids Explore! Youth Science Training on Natural Ecosystems). Because I’m never happier than when I think up a good acronym. We haven’t actually received the check yet, I had to send in receipts and a summary after the festival, but I’m sure it’s coming because they just invited me to do a poster session for their Fall Festival, to show off to fish and game  and other folks how cool the event was.

It’s on a night I have to be at the office so I can’t attend, Cheryl says she’ll see if she can go. In the meantime I’ve been working on the poster and thought I’d share it with you. I’m attaching the summary too. I can’t decide between this and an actual 3D collage with our beaver tail and buttons, but I’m thinking an actual graphic that shows them all would be easier for them to manage.


A little bit about the day….

120 Children completed the tail activity, and 60 finished all buttons and the post test. 98% of completed tests show they learned how beavers help other species and parents verbally reported they had a wonderful time doing it. All exhibitors completed the post test too and reports were very positive, with 98% reporting they also learned something by doing it .

I’m attaching some photos of the children with their finished tails and taking the post test with their parents so you can see it was enjoyed!

Thank you again for your support of this wonderful day of learning!

Heidi Perryman, Ph.D.
President & Founder
Worth A Dam

The children’s post tests were my very favorite part of the day. I loved them standing thoughtfully and circling the right answers at my booth. Most of the exhibitors were also very positive about the activity, but one charmer actually wrote in a comment that we should provide the exhibitors water because it was hot that day.  The feedback was anonymous which worked in their favor because otherwise it would have been too much to resist grabbing them by their lapels and saying, “Let me make sure I understand. So in addition to our organizing the event, paying for the insurance, the park, the restrooms, the music, the solar panel, the brochures, the advertising, and renting a U-haul to set everything up for you at 6 am this morning, you’d like us to bring you waters for you because you can’t  plan possibly ahead?”.

Don’t worry. I left that part off the poster.

A time to break down, and a time to build up;

   Posted by heidi08 On August - 24 - 2015Comments Off

This morning I learned that the kit brought to Lindsay was 2.25 grams (just under 5 lbs). Not even as heavy as a sack of flour.  The yearling was too decomposed to weigh but both beavers brought for necropsy were female.

Which shouldn’t be newly heartbreaking to me but strangely is, so I’m posting this video to give us some perspective. We’ve in the beaver business for a long time. I have to think  we aren’t finished yet.

Friends in USDA places

   Posted by heidi08 On August - 23 - 2015Comments Off

Learn about beaver at watershed meeting

COQUILLE — The Coquille Watershed Association will host Dr. Jimmy Taylor and Vanessa Petro from Oregon State University, who will present “Understanding Beaver in the Beaver State.”

 The presentation will start at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24 in the Owen Building at 201 North Adams in Coquille.

Taylor is a project leader for the USDA’s National Wildlife Research Center and a faculty member in OSU’s College of Forestry. His presentation will include an overview of past and active beaver research studies in Oregon, as well as recommendations for managing landscapes that include beavers.

Petro is a faculty research assistant at Oregon State University and conducts field research with the USDA’s National Wildlife Research Center. She will present the preliminary results for the Oregon Coast Range American Beaver Genetics Study.

USDA has a pretty bad rap when it comes to beavers, or any living creature whatsoever really, but Jimmy Taylor is an exception, who has worked from the inside to promote and research flow devices, and who a million years ago helped me in fine tuning what to say to our city to let our beavers stay. (I’m not sure he would appreciate being called an exception, but this is my website and I can say it if I want to.) I did an interview with him a while back, which you can listen to here.

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If Coquille is a little far off your beaten path, here’s a similar presentation from 2 years ago.