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Once upon a time a million years ago I was a volunteer youth day care teacher and spent most afternoons doing artwork with school aged children. There was a precious little manipulative snow queen of a girl who ruled the roost and made all the other little girls do everything she did immediately. And that afternoon we were playing with clay. I was amusing myself making little clay figures of animals. And was surprised that they were turning out cute. Very cute. Shoni was surprised too.
And not exactly happy about it.
She tolerated the giraffe. And smiled at the mouse. But when I started to work on the dog she frowned.
“Don’t you think you’re making too many little animals, Heidi?” She intoned crisply. And I swear if I had been six I would have felt horrible and stopped instantly. But as I was 16 I understand pretty clearly that she was jealous. And didn’t like the feeling very much. Because, who does?
And I mention that story this morning, for no real reason, but because, well, don’t you, think Napa is doing too many nice things for beavers?
Yesterday was the ribbon cutting ceremony for the beaver interpretive signs using Rusty’s artwork and explaining their role in the ecosystem. I will not exaggerate when I say they both made me swoon and roll my eyes while gritting my teeth in envy in equal measure.
See for yourself.
County Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht, Richard head of Napa Flood Control in beaver costume and current Mayor of Napa Scott at ribbon cutting for signs. The past Mayor of Napa was also there and a city council person showed up late with kid.
Nice signs. Good message. Beaver costume. Okay. That’s what you might expect. In all honesty, this is what sent me over the edge.
Now that the story of beavers is being told on a broader scale, it is more common than ever to cross paths with new believers who are staunch advocates of relocation. If beavers are causing problems in one place why not just move them to another place where they can do some good? Problem solved, right?
And since I am allegedly a staunch defender of the beaver I should be the biggest fan of that argument. Theoretically. So our biggest fight with CDFW should be over the RIGHT to relocate beavers. Shouldn’t it? California is the only western state that never allows it. So shouldn’t that be the front where all our battle equipment is directed?
I say no. And before your sensibilities are offended hear me out.
Aside from the fact that beaver relocation is a complicated and risky process that even when it works, and is only likely to produce temporary relief for the landowner, aside from the fact that beavers don’t obediently stay put after we move them, aside from the fact that it is never a guarantee lives will be saved, aside from all that…
Beaver relocation removes our most powerful weapon in the fight against beaver ignorance. The deadly weapon of distaste.
This recently crystalized in my mind when I was talking to a very high powered individual about beavers. It would be fair to say I talk about beavers a lot. A lot. I talk about beavers to people who are staunch believers. people who read Ben’s book and are ‘beaver-curious’, people who have just learned about the good things they do and people who have never in their life had more than a 2 minute conversation about wildlife in general. When I talk about depredation my dearest wish is that they would realize what a wasted resource a dead beaver is, a missed opportunity for biodiversity and water storage in a state that desperately needs both.
But if I’m lucky, the biggest reaction I invariably get is “DISTASTE”.
People don’t like the idea of killing beavers. Mothers and CEOs and Firemen and shop clerks share the same aversion. Killing beavers is icky. Not as bad as drowning puppies or clubbing baby seals but it leaves a bad flavor on one’s tongue and if there was a way to get rid of the problem and NOT have the bad taste they’d much rather do that.
And that’s what give me the space to talk about flow devices or culvert fences or wrapping trees. That little “Ew” is what makes the entire conversation possible. It turns out “Ew” is our best friend. It is the pause that allows solutions to be considered. It is a speed bump on the convenience highway which slows down traffic enough that people don’t just kill their way our of every problem without a second thought.
(Which is not to say that there aren’t people without any speed bumps whatsoever, or where killing beavers causes zero distaste or is even god forbid pleasant, but there is little hope for these types and I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them.)
I focus more energy on the casual beaver beholders, folks who only have a little bit of time for the subject before they move on to something much more important, like the grocery list or profit margins or EIR reports, folks who don’t really care about beavers but who don’t like the idea of killing them because its “ookey”.
That moment of DISTASTE is the ticking doorway which is begrudgingly opened through which I can carry flow devices or arguments and ecological discussions. Like the windmill hole in miniature golf its a fast moving opening. One of those revolving monstrosities in big city department stores. Or a portcullis dropping down to seal a caste. Time is limited. Tick Tick Tick. And if you’re lucky you can just block the doorway as closes with something DISTASTEFUL.
Like a dead beaver.
And If that wasn’t there – if the average person didn’t have to be even slightly uncomfortable with the idea of killing to get rid of an inconvenience – if the band-aid of relocation could be carelessly placed over every bump and contusion – if a dead beaver never even cluttered their busy thoughts, there would be no way to slow the door at all. Which means no reason to think about beaver benefits. Or lost opportunities for biodiversity or climate change.
There would be No story of Martinez and no joyful discovery of all the wildlife we saw in our urban creek.
And shh, don’t tell anyone, if I were the cigar smoking, boots on the desk head of CDFW and I really wanted to keep beavers out of public awareness, I would dearly want relocation. Because even if I secretly hated beavers, it would mostly still be lethal anyway and it would keep people from complaining about them all the time. Because preventing distaste and letting them get what they want without ever considering that beavers matter might just be safer in the long run than forcing them to really consider what we have lost every time a beaver family is removed and what CDFW permits have allowed to be stolen from our state for the past century.
But for now, we have DISTASTE. And it’s not enough to stop a train or turn the tide. But it’s not without its value, It’s the only precious brake we have on the out-of-control vehicle of unstoppable progress and rampant greed. It’s woefully inadequate, But it’s more powerful than we realize.
So this moment in time, uniquely flawed and inadequate, a moment where people are starting to learn why beavers matter and it is still slightly distasteful to get rid of them is a strike-while-the-iron-is-hot moment. It’s our best possible chance to make as much of an impact as we can and teach our state about flow devices and how they work and why beaver are worth the trouble. It might be out only between-a-rock and a hard-place stage where we can promote long term solutions.
It is finally Friday on what has been one helluva week, so I’m sure the thing we all need right now is cute baby beaver pictures – by which I mean baby beaver pictures – because they are all dam cute. It’s not like some photos ended up in a pile on the cutting room floor with directors saying, well your nose was just tooo round, and your fur just didn’t look squeezable enough.
Bored Panda must have had a hard week too because they aired this post last with an outstanding collection, including one that happened quite close to home literally last week from our own Lindsay museum that actually did the right thing and sent a baby back to the lodge to be with his family!
The North American beavers are nature’s hard-working architects. They have an innate ability to build structures that can rival even some ambitious human projects. These impressive skilled creatures also ended up becoming the main characters of a video game (it’s called Timberborn, if you want to look for it).
But this is not enough to explain what makes beavers so darn charming! With their big eyes and adorable teething, beavers are one of the cutest animals you could find out there. Known for building dams and lodges in rivers and lakes, they’re one of the six symbols of Canada. The trade of beaver fur used to be so profitable to the country that Canadians felt compelled to pay tribute to this buck-toothed animal. Canadians are not the only ones so obsessed with cute beavers. We are too, and that’s why we put together a collection of beaver pics that will build up your love for them, picture after picture!
Well I hate to argue with a known scholar like Bored Panda but in fact beavers of all ages have tiny beady eyes and that’s not what makes them so cute. See for yourself.
Luckily this little one had a saviour on a paddle board! When it was pulled from behind the rocks it had already been crying for three days, and had likely ventured out of the lodge after a few days of no parents returning. After almost a week alone, this baby was lucky to get into our centre. Beaver kits are born precocial with a fluffy coat and their eyes open. With both parents tending to the babies, they are never left alone and need constant attention in the unfortunate event they are alone without a family. This little one required extensive stabilization with rehydration every few hours, even through the night by our dedicated volunteers. Because we partner with other amazing wildlife centres across the province, we were able to get this little beaver into the best possible place it could grow up, (next to with its mom and dad of course). Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary has the largest beaver rehabilitation facilities in Canada, and another orphaned baby that needed a friend. After two years in care they will be old enough to be released into vacant ponds to claim, and hopefully start little beaver families of their own. Beavers are essential to our aquatic ecosystems—they are wildlife engineers and the ponds they make create habitat for hundreds of other species. We thank Tracy and all our finders for caring for Ontarios wildlife, helping us keep Kawartha wild!
Obviously the parents weren’t returning because they were KILLED not because they went on a gambling trip over state lines. Sheesh when I think of how many adorable orphan beavers we make EVERY single year it gives this article a whole new vibe.
Just so you know, It’s the beaver in the box. I have boxes like that. I want to know why mine don’t have a baby beaver in them.
Please fix this error right away. And if you want to read about the beaver rescue from Lindsay museum click on the header to follow the article.
What are you doing this Saturday? Why not make a pilgrimage to Napa and see ribbon cutting ceremony on the beaver interpretive signs? Yes you heard me right.
Celebration of Napa Creek’s Urban Beavers. Since the completion of the Napa Flood Protection plan, the American Beaver – once plentiful throughout California but hunted and trapped to near-extinction – have begun to return to Napa River tributaries. The Napa Creek colony is unique in that it is thriving right in the middle of downtown. New interpretive signs designed by the P4 Practicum Group of this year’s Leadership Napa Valley class will help locals and visitors alike to understand and appreciate this special animal and its habitat in the restored Napa Creek corridor.
I’m pretty sure they will feature the awesome photographs of one Rusty Cohn. How splendid to show them off and explain all the beavers good works. This was always my dream for Martinez. But the best laid plans of mice and men sometimes take a few generations to reach fruition. Let’s hope it will happen again soon.
I just love days like these. Yesterday I learned that our long time helper Erika will take over for Fro with the animal spirit flag painting, with Susan, April and Alana and Jon as her aides and to top it off this story aired on the NPR podcast “Short Wave”. You should definitely listen.
Oooh look what’s coming soon! And I have it on the very best authority that you can purchase a rare autographed copy from the silent auction at our own Beaver Festival because the author herself is a fan of the Martinez Beaver story!
BEAVERLAND reveals the natural wonder and unsung impact that beavers have had on American history and our landscape, and how they may be a keystone species to restoring balance and biodiversity during the coming climate crisis.
In the rich naturalist tradition of H is for Hawk and The Soul of an Octopus, BEAVERLAND tells the tumultuous, eye-opening story of how beavers and the beaver fur trade shaped America’s history, culture, and environment. Before the American empires of steel and coal and oil, before the railroads, there was the empire of fur. Beginning with the early trans-Atlantic trade in North America, Leila Philip traces the beaver’s profound influence on our nation’s early economy and feverish western expansion, its first corporations and multi-millionaires.
Okay, so Ben’s book is THE book but it’s a few years old and lord knows he inspired a few new authors to do their own thing. Is there anything left to write about? You bet your asked and answered!\
As Leila’s passion for this weird and wonderful rodent widens from her careful observation of its dams in her local pond, she chronicles the many characters she meets in her pursuit of the beaver: fur trappers and fur traders, biologists and fur auctioneers, wildlife managers, PETA activists, Native American environmental vigilantes, scientists, engineers and beaver enthusiasts. What emerges is a startling portrait of the secretive, largely hidden world of the contemporary fur trade and an immersive ecological and historical investigation of these animals that, once trapped to the point of extinction, have rebounded to become one of the greatest conservation stories of the 20th century. Now, beavers offer surprising solutions to some of the most urgent problems caused by climate change.
Beautifully written and filled with the many colorful characters—fur trappers and fur traders and fur auctioneers, wildlife managers and biologists, Native American environmental vigilantes. She meets a Harvard scientist from the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, using drones to create 3-dimensional images of beaver dams. She meets an environmental restoration consultant in the Chesapeake whose nickname is the beaver whisperer. BEAVERLAND transports readers into scenes of beavers in their ponds and the scientists and fur trappers in pursuit of them, widening arcs of information to reveal the profound ways in which beavers and the beaver trade shaped history, culture, and our environment.
Ooh doesn’t that sound wonderful? I can hardly wait to start quoting her on the website! Just in case you are forgetting who Leila is, she’s also the poet who gave us this.
Mt Diablo Audubon has been a good friend to the Martinez Beavers since the very beginning of the battle to keep them. They were only too willing to share some newsletter space with beavers too. Their May issue was just posted.
The new quail is online, not mailed to members, so they were more generous with space allotted for beavers and I made sure to take full advantage of their generosity.
Doesn’t that sound delightful? You better mark it on your calendar RIGHT NOW!!!
Tar Creek doesn’t seem like an inviting home for wildlife. For more than 70 years, miners blasted open the earth underneath the Oklahoma waterway in search of lead and zinc. Today, mountains of waste material from the mines tower above what is now classified by the EPA as a Superfund site. Groundwater that flows through the abandoned mines flushes toxic heavy metals, including cadmium and lead—both potent neurotoxins even at low concentrations—into the creek. The water runs bright orange.
One family of toothy critters didn’t seem to care. In 2014, the beavers set up shop in a nearby tributary. “At first, they were a nuisance,” said Nick Shepherd, an environmental consultant and research assistant at the University of Oklahoma. At the time, Shepherd was conducting research at Tar Creek, and the beaver’s dam-building was messing with his data. “We couldn’t get measurements because the beavers had totally transformed the stream from a three-foot-wide channel to an 80-foot-wide meandering wetland,” Shepherd said.
Wait. I can guess what happens next. Can you?
Shepherd and his colleagues kept collecting data when they could. Then, two years after the beavers moved in, a team visiting the site noticed something interesting—the water that spilled over the beaver dams was running clear. Water-quality measurements seemed to confirm what they were seeing: just above one of the beaver dams, cadmium concentrations were 57 percent lower than they were upstream, where the polluted stream flowed into the beaver-created wetland, according to results they recently published in the journal Science of the Total Environment. Iron concentrations were 63 percent lower. The beavers were cleaning up Tar Creek.
Yes it’s true. You make the messes. We clean the messes. That’s just the way it is. Any questions?
Beavers build dams because they’re safer in the water. On land, with their unwieldy tails and awkward waddle, they make easy pickings for coyotes and bobcats. These beaver refuges flood the landscape around waterways, turning tiny tributaries into sprawling wetlands, flush with life. “When we have beavers, there’s deep pools and shallow spots; fast water and slow water all mixed together,” said Emily Fairfax, an ecohydrologist at California State University Channel Islands. This variation in aquatic habitat not only creates habitat for a diversity of species, but it also supports a diversity of chemical processes—including those that can remove toxic contaminants from a Superfund site.
A stream without beaver dams “is like a firehose,” said Sarah Koeningburg, a researcher and filmmaker at conservation nonprofit the Beaver Coalition. Water rushes through, pulling any contaminants along with it. But as water slows down above a beaver dam, it interfaces with the air above it and the groundwater seeping in from below. “You can just watch the chemical reactions happening in front of you as the stream is flowing,” said Rachel Gabor, a watershed hydrologist at the Ohio State University. At the ponds created by the beavers of the Tar Creek Superfund site, oxygen mixed and mingled into the water column. As it did so, it reacted with the iron turning the water orange and created ferrous oxide—rust. In its pure elemental form, iron dissolves into water, but rust forms heavy particulates, which sank to the bottom of the pond. Cadmium likes to bind onto rust, and so it too wound up at the bottom of the beaver pond.
In the study they published, Shepherd and his colleagues didn’t measure a difference in lead concentrations. However, the beaver dams might still work their magic with lead levels too. The mucky bottoms of beaver ponds create the perfect conditions for anaerobic bacteria, which thrive without oxygen. Instead, these microbes breathe sulfate, kickstarting a complex series of chemical reactions that eventually transform dissolved elemental lead into iron ore. Like rust, iron ore sinks to the bottom of beaver ponds. As the beavers continue to engineer the riparian ecosystem, Shepherd hopes that bacteria will pull lead and zinc out of the water. Right now, the beaver pond is young, so the bottom of the pond hasn’t yet developed into the thick sludge of a mature wetland.” That happens with time, as plants and other organic matter sink to the bottom of the wetland and break down. “Right now, there isn’t much organic matter to create those anaerobic conditions,” Shepherd said. Plus, not much water makes its way through dense beaver-pond muck, which makes it a slow filter, Shepherd said. “But given a bigger wetland and more time, it’s possible.”
The Tar Creek beavers aren’t the only crew doing remediation work. At The Wilds, an Ohio site heavily polluted by coal mining, beavers succeeded in bringing dangerously acidic water, a common side-effect of mining, back to a healthy pH, Gabor said. It’s not entirely clear how the beavers are doing this, but Gabor thinks it has something to do with the interface between surface water and groundwater, which might dilute acidic surface water as it washes into the beaver-engineered wetland. That explanation doesn’t work for sites like Tar Creek, though, where groundwater is the source of pollution.
Well sure. And do we EVER say thank you? No of course not. We just kill them and trap them and call them names.
Beavers are doing us a favor by cleaning up these toxic sites. But doesn’t the pollution hurt them? “Would beavers prefer not to live in pollution? Sure!” Fairfax said. “But their habitat is really pinched, and they are going to build wherever they can. If they can live and thrive and create a colony in a polluted stream, they will.”
In the future, Shepherd and his colleagues plan to collect samples from the beavers from the Tar Creek site in order to analyze the heavy metal concentrations in their tissues. But the colony seems to be healthy and thriving; “It doesn’t seem to slow them down,” Shepherd said.
Introducing beavers to a toxic ecosystem would be an entirely different matter, Fairfax said. “If they don’t want to move in, it’s ethically questionable to put an animal into a known contamination site.” But, she said, scientists can get habitats ready for beavers by building human-made structures that resemble beaver dams, called beaver dam analogs (BDAs). These structures slow down water much like a beaver would, kickstarting the biochemical reactions that clean up waterways, and hopefully encouraging move in and take over the maintenance of those BDAs. “If beavers choose to come into those areas, that’s their prerogative as a creature that can make decisions,” Fairfax said. And who are we to object?
Tissue samples? That’s our reward for getting you out of this terrible jam? Nobody ever just says “thank you” anymore, do they?
You win some. You lose some. I heard yesterday that troop 429 will be helping us with the festival. 13 12-13 year olds. The troop’s leader is a pediatrician and she says her children have loved the festival for years and can’t wait to help. Another leader is a member of the CERT team so they are also volunteering our emergency plan for the festival to check another city requirement.
I suppose you’ve all read the old quote wrongly attributed to Gandhi? First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight with you, then you win. It’s a nice progression that feels good to say. But it forgets one KEY step.
Then they take credit for your work.
I mean that says it all doesn’t it? First they don’t mention you at all. Then they laugh at your ridiculous claims. Then they line up the big guns to insist what you say can’t possibly be true. Then your point of view triumphs and people accept what you said as true.
And then they argue they said it first and knew it all along.
Truly this article proves my point.
For many years, scientists were misinformed about the habitats and behaviors of beavers in Northern California and did not consider beavers native to the waterways that feed into the San Francisco Bay. Recently, historians and scientists with the California Department of Fish and Game presented evidence that challenged long held beliefs about where beavers belong, and ecologists are establishing important links between the presence of beavers and the health of our watersheds.
Really? Really? The closed minded pseudo scientists at CDFW achieved this momentous reordering of history? REALLY? They did that hard work all by themselves?The funny thing is I don’t see a single name from CDFW named on that paper. But I guess in the end it really comes down to this: Do you want to have your own way? Or do you want credit for your way?
I’ll settle for my own way, thank you very much.
The hard work of beavers can be seen all along the Napa River and its tributaries. Scientists and biologists working in our local waterways estimate there to be at least 20 different colonies (families of beavers) spotted as far up the valley as St. Helena. In Napa, the Tulocay Creek colony has grown popular among locals; mama beaver and her kits (babies) are regularly featured in the Napa Valley Register.
Evidence of beavers has been documented by white trappers and settlers in the Napa River as early as 1832. Many indigenous peoples in our area have a word for beaver in their native language, suggesting that the presence of beavers extends far beyond written records. White settlers widely considered beavers a nuisance; beavers that weren’t killed by trappers were later killed by landowners. Now that scientists are beginning to gain a better understanding of the critical role beavers play in maintaining healthy watersheds, they are looking to change the way people view beavers from pests to protectors of our waterways.
At the end of the day you have to admit that as much as it’s annoying, as much as it rankles your finer feels, it’s better that the powers that be take credit for the changes you worked so hard to make happen. I learned this first hand in Martinez, where we fought like hell to get the smallest accommodations from the city for the beavers and then had to stew quietly while the mayor got praised for it. I believe I said on Nov 11 2011
I am as happy with that paragraph as any single thing I have ever written on this website. It comforts me more than you can possibly imagine.
Beavers are best known for the impressive dams they can build across a waterway. Using their powerful teeth to chew down trees and branches, they skillfully intertwine these materials to build their dams. Next they scour the river bottom and shores to gather mud, rocks, leaves, and grasses to seal the barrier walls and slow down the water flow. As the water level rises, it covers the entrance to their home on the nearby riverbank, known as a lodge, to protect the beavers from predators. A colony of beavers may build several dams on a single stretch of waterway to create the ideal conditions for their home. Holding the water back, the dams forms deep pools where fish, amphibians, birds, and other mammals come to live.
Beavers are a keystone species in the wetland ecosystem. They play a critical role in providing beneficial habitat and food for a wide range of species, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to thrive in the Napa River. Dams form reservoirs that provide food and shelter for creatures of all sizes, keep water temperatures cooler throughout the warm summer months, and filter fine sediment in the water to improve water quality. This provides ideal conditions for the young of threatened species such as Chinook Salmon and Steelhead Trout to thrive. Visit a local beaver dam downtown or on Tulocay Creek, and you can see a wide range of animals, including turtles, otters, mink, and birds. Beavers transform our waterways from channels prone to erosion to oases of ecological diversity.
Fantastic article from the Napa Library crediting the beavers of Napa. I just wish every single city posted articles like this.
Aside from helping other animals, reservoirs created by beaver dams help the land by slowing the flow of water in the river. Rainfall has more time to be absorbed back into the watershed instead of rushing out to the sea, hydrating surrounding soils and keeping tributaries flowing longer into the dry season. Because of this, dams built by beavers make it more likely rivers and streams are able to rebound after a drought season. In addition to slowing down the water to recharge our water supplies, slower flow also helps prevent erosion. Ponds created by dams help support the growth of plants that stabilize riverbanks during high flows and reduce the amount of land lost. The debris also helps absorb the force of the water that would otherwise flow too fast and wash the land on the banks away.
In Napa County, we recognize the valuable contribution of the beavers to our watershed; government organizations including the Flood Control and Water Conservation District as well as the Resource Conservation District work to help beavers and people coexist. Engineers, scientists, and biologists work to make sure development in the valley doesn’t drive the beavers away from their homes, and work with local residents and businesses to prevent and mitigate damages done by beavers as they chew down trees and raise water levels in creeks.
Let’s have more like this please. And who cares who gets the credit.
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Let’s just say this couldn’t happen to a better county, or, as fate would have it, at a better time.
If you don’t hit play on this video you will be very lonely at the water cooler.
FOX Weather’s Max Gorden discusses how beavers are making land more resilient to extreme weather in The Golden State.
I don’t care if it’s as a person, a beaver, a possum or a slug. I just want to live in a world where she notices things and describes things and fixes things and makes them better. If that means moving to Vermont, fine. You probably want to come too.
Pumpkin has always had important things to do. Beavers’ lives depend upon creating and maintaining the watery world that keeps them safe. Because he is an orphan, however, his work has been stymied. How does one deepen a metal tank? How can one harvest building materials on the other side of a fence?(more…)
You might remember that the Nature Based Solutions team in California mentioned in passing that beavers were useful for climate change in their prior document asking for feedback. Well they got it, A host of signatories gathered by Bonnie Felix and myself as well as a massive OAEC campaign. On earth day they released their updated document and it has four magic words because of our efforts.
The four words are under the Wetlands section. I going to assume there was a ton of arguing and cajoling and whittling done at the policy level to get them included. I’m imagining members of CDFW actually tied themselves to railroad tracks in protest. (more…)
Yesterday was Earthday and beavers had their share of helpers. Safari West held an event and we Worth A Dam was represented by Susan Berg and her grandchildren, Alana and April Ludlow, who have grown up with the beavers at close quarters. Don’t believe me? Here’s a little slice.
And here they are on the beaver bridge after watching the PBS documentary “Leave it to Beavers” which inspired so many of us.