Saturday, March 30, 2019

The First Beaver Kit Sighting

On April 22, Mike Callahan will replace the aging culvert cage I installed in 2011. With the weather being so nice today, I decided to fire up the $20 flea market lawn mover I bought 4 years ago to attack the weeds along the trail.

Before doing that I decided to inspect the lower pond. As I reached the culvert cage, the first kit of the season showed his/her hide. We took each other by surprise and I only got about 7 seconds of shaky video, but it was obvious the little critter was only a few weeks old.

The situation at the far end of the lower pond is status quo. Jeff has his trail cam out and tells me that there has been inspection by the beavers, but not damming activity. There is a constant flow through the dam and the pond level won't get higher until they secure the dam. I'm confident that they will do just that.

As I think about it it's not surprising they are not working at the far end. Since they moved to the upper pond after last year's dam breach, their focus in the spring will be the upper pond. They will make sure that dam is secure first. Once that is done, they may head toward the lower dam.

The ducks are loving the lower pond. The shallow water makes food easier to reach.

We've has at least three otter sightings. That's good news and bad news. It's good news because they are fun to watch and are a sign of a healthy pond ecosystem. It's bad news because a hungry otter could easily see a baby beaver as a meal.

I hate the gym, but love working out in nature. It felt great to get out and do some physical work, because I just can't "become one" with a treadmill.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Beaver Update 11-3-18

Much has transpired since the dam breach in August.  The beavers from the lower pond have moved to the upper pond, but have been working to restore the breached dam while they prepare to winter in a previously abandoned lodge at the far end of the upper pond.

The lower pond has been recovering nicely, but the excessive rain is once again threatening to cause a breach.  Even the upper pond is stressed water is flowing over the dam in a half dozen places and water is flowing through the culvert faster than ever.

Here are some videos taken over the past two months.

This is the condition of the dam and the lower end of the pond on 11/3/18.  There is quite a bit of flow and it is early in the day. Hopefully the beavers will get to work on it tonight along with repairing the much smaller breaches in the main dam, which are not shown here. 


This is the lower pond as it looked on 10/29/18.

Since the breach of the lower dam, the water flowing through the culvert has been driving the beavers crazy and they are doing everything they can to get into the culvert cage and access the culvert pipes. The only good part about the substantial flow is that it is too fast for them to try to block the outflow. The inflow is protected by the culvert cage and it's 6"x6" steel mesh. However the beavers have put their youngster to work.  He or she is small enough to fit through the 6"x6" mesh. The videos below document some of this activity.

This is what transpired the week of 10/11/18.

On a different topic. Critters around the pond continue to prepare for winter.  As I was walking the trail to check the dam at the end of the lower pond, I came across this little guy.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed in hopes that the beavers fortify both dams in the coming week and that we have a dry November, followed by a good freeze that will take us to spring and the installation of a new culvert protection cage. 

Watch for more updates as the beaver continue to do their thing.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

It's a Waiting Game

Beavers need about three feet water around the lodge in order to be safe against predators, survive freezing, and to be able to cache enough food to survive the winter. It seems obvious that even if the beavers repaired the dam immediately, there is little or no chance of that happening before winter. I suspect the beavers knew that long before I did, because there seems to be no further efforts to seal the breach.  They have either moved on, or retreated to an unused lodge in the upper pond.

However, that hasn't stopped the activity of the beavers in the upper pond.  They do not like to flow of water through the culvert after a rain and were working to try to breach the cages. Their persistence and ingenuity never cease to amaze me.  They managed to burrow under the culvert cage enough to get their teeth into the culvert pipe, chew it away and make their way into the culvert. Then mouthful, by mouthful, they dragged pond grass and mud all the way through to begin damming the other side.

Because of the tight fit, they are not able to get any sticks inside the culvert and the work they have done so far will be washed away with coming rains, as long as I prevent further excursions into the culvert.

UPDATE 6-27-18 - A picture is worth a thousand words, so here's a thousand word update on what I have done to stop further culvert clogs.

I suspect that if they do get through this, we have Arnold Schwartzenbeaver living on our pond.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Dam Breach and Repair Update 8-20-18

Here's a short video update on the work being done by the beavers to repair the breached dam.  In it,
I make reference to the fact that they are not repairing the breached area and are working under and behind the tree they bought down. This actually not a new work area.  They were actively building back there in 2015. I blogged about it then. You can find that blog entry here.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Beavers and Murphy's Law

Because of heavy rains we've had this month, the lower pond was growing faster than expected. So yesterday, I contacted the NH Wildlife Society to make sure I could apply for another grant to put in a pond leveler at the far end. They said that they would be happy to accept the application, but during the night Murphy's Law kicked in, and the dam at the far end breached, draining the lower pond.  The good news is there was no damage to common areas or condo units and thanks to the pond leveler, the upper pond is in no danger.

The beavers have already begun to rebuild, but there are still questions and concerns that will have to be answered in the days to come. 

How long will it take the pond to recover? Were their damming efforts taking place during the breach and now that the pond is drained, will they continue to dam or will they abandon their efforts?

The pond leveler in the upper pond is functioning perfectly and thanks to heavy rains this week, it is feeding the lower pond water that it would not be getting otherwise. Also, the fact that we had the pond leveler installed was, is, and will be added protection against breach of the main dam.  

However, the water is flowing through the culvert pipes at a rate that would normally attract beavers to the outflow culvert cage installed this spring. Will they concentrate efforts on the breached dam at the far end? Will they try damming the culvert? 

We certainly won't be needing another pond leveler for a while, but we may have to modify the outflow protection, if the beavers try to dam it. I guess we are going to have to watch and leave it to the beavers.

The only immediate action that is required has been taken.  I left a message with mosquito control and am awaiting a call back.  A few years ago, I had contacted them to see if we had anything to be concerned about.  At that time, they said the pond itself was no problem, but they put us on their watch list and check us during normal inspections.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Last Night's Storm and the Beavers

In the beginning of the month, I notice that for the first time since the installation of the culvert protection fence in 2011, the beavers made headway on blocking the outflow side of the culvert and they broke through cage the one weak spot in the inflow side.

The broken cage was a 5 minute fix and the outflow blockage didn't concern me, because I knew that a significant rain would break through and wash it away. Murray Scott help with the repair and unblocked one of the pipes knowing that the beavers would do their thing overnight.

I figured that the situation could be handled in spring with the construction of protection cage on the outflow side and was prepared to wait until then to do more detailed assessment of what was needed. Enter Mother Nature!

Yesterday and last night we were under a weather alert for high winds and heavy rains. While many here were watching with concern, I have to admit that I was watching with optimistic anticipation. I knew that my theory about the outflow blockage would either be confirmed of proven wrong. I'm happy to say my prediction was confirmed. Not only that, to partial blockages that were previously unable to deal with, were broken free.

This morning I donned my hip boots and cleared some of the debris to make it difficult for the beavers to do any more blocking of the outflow side.  I don't have a BEFORE picture, but I have and AFTER picture that I doctored to simulate the BEFORE.

On the other side of the pond, there the pond level rose considerably, but the pond leveler is doing its job perfectly. When I checked it this morning water was flowing over the dam in two places. The first is the pond leveler and the second is the Beaver Highway. The beavers will continue to be unaware of the flow through the leveler, but they will definitely notice the flow over their by-way.  It's entirely possible the flow will stop by this evening, but if not, I'm curious to see if they leave it or try to repair it.

(Click the Images to Enlarge)

Monday, April 17, 2017

An Entertaining, Amusing, and Disappointing Podcast

Sam Evans Brown's NPRNH Outside/In podcast, Leave it to Beavers, just aired. For many, it was entertaining, but I was disappointed. Oh, it's not that Sam wasn't engaging, charming, and amusing. Rather, it was because of the way the information was edited and presented was not what I expected from NPR.

You might expect that kind of common to be coming from a beaver lover, but that's not the perspective from which I am writing.  My observations are as someone who was posting online in 1980, long before the blogging was a word, and someone who spent 25 years teaching people about educational technology integration and effective online communication, including blogging, podcasts, vlogs, wikis, web sites, digital story telling, propaganda, advertising and so on.

So you see, I know a few things about the editing process and telling a story, but was also interviewed for the podcast. So I know what I said, the context in which it was said, and what ended up on the editing floor.  So with apologies, to Liam Neeson, I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. 

But don't worry, I'm not going to track down or kill anyone, and I'm not going to rant and rave.  I will however, point out how I think Sam unintentionally set a trap for himself that resulted in what should have been a balanced presentation, turning into a distinctly unbalanced one.

In his introduction, Sam tells us, "Humans and beavers have a long history together because they like to live in the same places, but the way we've built our infrastructure has almost guaranteed our two species will be locked in eternal conflict. We have created a trap for ourselves. A trap that ensures that we will come into conflict with nature’s most industrious rodent." He then goes on to introduce Carol Leonard of Maine, who wanted to build her dream house, but beavers on her property had other plans for the land.  I thought that was a great introduction to what was going to be a thoughtful and informative discussion of how we can resolve that kind of conflict, but it turns out I was wrong, and ironically, I think think this is where Same unknowingly set a trap for himself.

Up next, is a short Beaver 101 course and some history of how we wore them on our heads, nearly wiped them off the face of the continent, built over their habits, and then brought them back, because they are good for the ecosystem and because some of us enjoy hunting them.

This is where some of the disappointment begins. There are inaccuracies that one could argue, have little or no bearing on resolving conflict though co-existence, but none-the-less, they are inaccuracies, and I'm going to nit-picking facts in this blog.  Others have done that and if you are interested, you can check out Heidi Perryman's response to the podcast, along with her fact checking.  I'll warn you in advance. Point a fan at the monitor. Otherwise, your monitor might burst into flames. Heidi was considerably more upset than I.

Next we move to Pat Tate, of NH Fish and Game, who make a case for why we have to trap and kill beavers, because of the carrying capacity of the ecosystem and killing some beavers is good for other beavers. Whether I agree or disagree is not as important as the fact that we are now 17 minutes into the podcast and still haven't talked about resolving conflict through co-existence. We're ecosystem carrying capacity and beavers in conflict with other beavers. I think its off topic.

Eventually, Sam begins to speak with Skip Lisle. Skip is the nations top expert on co-existing with beavers. He has designed and installed thousands of flow control devices, has studies and statistics that prove they work amazingly well, are cost effective, and beneficial the ecosystem, but wait! Sam introduces us to Skip, only for a short rebuttal of Pat's opinion.

Here's a time-lapse of Mike Callahan of, building and installing a pond leveling flow control device on our pond two years ago.  It took 3 hours from beginning to end and has been working perfectly with zero maintenance.

That brings us to Sam's visit to Sherwood Glen. Again, I won't nit pick. Let's just say that Sam misunderstood my position on trapping. Sure, I don't like it, but I'm not anti-trapping.  However, I am dead set against killing beavers out of convenience. What we did here at Sherwood Glen had absolutely NOTHING to do with the morality of trapping, carrying capacity, or helping beavers who are bullied by other beavers.

We did this as a community, for the community, the ecosystem, and the birds and wildlife they support.  We had a conflict, we studied, contacted experts, discussed solutions, and decided co-existing would be a win-win situation. We did it because of what they do FOR us, not what they do TO us. Here's a presentation that will give you a better idea of what we did and why we did it.

The success, effectiveness, and benefits to the ecosystem were most important factors in determining  a solution to our conflict. We did it right and it worked the first time. That was six years ago.  I think that's important to mention when discussing how to co-exist. Unfortunately, our reasons for choosing that path and the success we achieved are not part of the podcast. That is a disappointment.

All of what I have said so far is predicated on my belief that NPR holds itself to a higher standard of information than typical commercial programming, and that when a social issue or controversial topic is covered, the information is balanced and fair.  If I'm wrong in this, then in the words of Emily Latella, "Never mind..."  On the other hand, if I'm correct, let's finish up with the evaluation.

I don't think Sam was successful at achieving a balance between entertainment and journalism.  It's something he addresses in Episode 35 of Outside/In, where he talks about faking scenes in nature documentaries. Sam says, "But nature documentaries, rooted in science as they may appear, are not bound by the same ethical considerations that science or journalism are."

I believe the science and journalism aspects of Leave it to Beavers, suffered at the expense of entertainment. Now there's nothing fake in the podcast, but there is one technique Sam used that compounded the omissions and inaccuracies. It started at the very beginning with the introduction of Carol Leonard story and the choice to end with her. It was a good choice from an entertainment and engagement standpoint, but a poor one in terms of balance and what the conclusion of a podcast should do.

The conclusion of the podcast, blog, or any story should tie everything together.  By starting and ending with Carol, everything in between becomes part of her story.  While I respect her feelings about trapping and hunting, terms of co-existing with beavers, her efforts to co-exist were an epic failure.

If Sam had chosen to tell Carol's story of a seven-year failure, and opposed it with our six years of success, a different picture would have been presented to the listeners.   In the introduction she says,  “For seven years I said, you can’t kill them, you have to outwit them,”  I  can point to thousands of examples where they WERE outwitted, on the first attempt, had Sam included Skip or I making that point, it would have achieved some balance, but instead it planted a seed in the listener's mind that you can't outwith them and you can't win.  That seed bears fruit in the conclusion.

She goes on to say, “In my naivete, I said oh well we’ll try these beaver deceivers and these beaver bafflers and all these do-hickers,”  and that the beaver carried off and hid the last one she tried. To this, Sam adds that Skip would say she did it wrong. I'm sorry, Sam, that disclaimer is worse than fine print. You saw what works and why it works. Only a family of 400 pound beavers would be able to move our culvert protection or pond leveler. 

Another point that needed to be made, and that would have achieved some sort of balance is the fact that what Carol did would be the equivalent of a trapper spending 7 years trying to kill a beaver with a mousetrap. If you want to trap a beaver, either bring in a pro or get the information and equipment you need to do it right the first time.  If you want to co-exist with beavers, you call a pro or get the information and equipment need to do it right the first time.  We did and our community and ecosystem are reaping the benefits.

This blog, I'm sorry to say, is not a story of how, why, or if we should co-exist with beavers. The message conveyed to the listener, in the words of Heidi Perryman was, "If you can't beat 'em, eat 'em."

4/17/2017 ADDENDUM - This morning, Laura Knoy did a live follow up on to Leave it to Beavers, on  her NPRNH show, The Exchange. The show was, in my opinion, much more balanced.  Had it aired with or immediately following the podcast, this blog might have been different. Then again, if Carol Leonard had contacted Skip Lisle when she encountered her problem, her story and Sam's podcast might have been different.

4/20/2017 ADDENDUM - Every cloud has a silver lining. As I pointed out in my blog, I think one or two key points I made when Sam visited me, were left out. My displeasure and that of other "beaver believers" resulted in a bit of friction.

The interview follow up on The Exchange the following Monday, went a long way to smooth over concerns. The sliver lining here is that in this case, the controversy wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I think it ultimately resulted in my message is getting out. My Sherwood Glen Beaver blog and the time-lapse video of the pond leveler installation have both seen bumps in readership and viewers.
If I was still teaching college courses in online communication, this whole situation would have made for a dynamite two weeks worth of lessons.

I just got off the phone with Sam, where we discuss all of the above and considerably more. Our conversation was cordial, constructive, and productive. I think he's talented and entertaining, and it's a credit to the NPR listeners who are following up by visiting my blog and video to balance things out. All things considered, I think both sides are being seen and the listeners, readers, and viewers a getting all sides of the issues and they can come to their own conclusions. I can't really ask for much more that that.