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Posts Tagged ‘Wildlife’

This week, I am attending the Localizing California Waters conference that is being held just outside Yosemite National Park and is organized by a group called Watershed Progressive. It is a great event and I have been learning a lot and meeting some really passionate people in the water world of California.

One of the talks I attended was about beavers and their role in ecosystems and habitat restoration (which is huge!). But one part of that talk was a particularly crazy story that I wanted to share. It is about parachuting beavers! And yes, this is a true story!

As humans expanded into new areas in the 1940s they began to run into beaver conflicts. One growing community in Idaho had a problem with a particular community of beavers that were routinely damaging houses and other property. These humans complained about this beaver community, and eventually it came to the attention of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Beavers are native to the western USA, but they had been largely hunted out during the 1700s and 1800s for their fur. Therefore, there were large areas of the Idaho wilderness that had been beaver habitat, but had no beavers. This gave the Idaho Department of Fish and Game an idea for a solution to the human-beaver conflict. Take the beavers, and move them into some remote wilderness areas. But, this raised a problem: how were they going to get beavers into these remote areas? The answer? Drop them out of planes!

Crates, each containing a single beaver, dropped with parachutes into the Idaho Wilderness. Photo: Boise State Public Radio.

That’s right, in 1948, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game constructed a bunch of specially designed crates that would hold a beaver and protect it as it dropped through the air, and then would break open when they hit the ground. The crates also had parachutes attached to them.

A beaver emerging from its opened crate after a parachute-assisted landing. Photo: KTVB 7.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game then safely trapped the beavers that were causing problem for those humans. The result was a total of 76 captured beavers. These beavers were loaded into the specially designed crates, the crates were loaded on to planes, the planes were flown out over remote areas of the Idaho wilderness, and then the crates with their beaver passengers were dropped out of the planes and allowed to float down to the ground below! The first beaver to be dropped in such a manner was named Geronimo, and he and the rest of his beaver companions all but one survived their skydiving experience, and, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, went on to live their beaver-y lives.

I found this story to be so hilarious and absurd! Such a huge amount of effort to protect the property of a small group of humans that had moved into an area where the beavers were already living!

I am glad that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game decided to move the beavers instead of kill them, and I will say that the beavers probably ended up in a pretty good place, far from humans and in areas that were likely to make for good beaver homes. Since the beaver had been so decimated by over hunting, these beavers may have helped recolonize some of their former range.

The story gets crazier because in the 1950s, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife decided to emulate Idaho and also air dropped beavers into remote areas of wilderness. In California, the reason for parachuting beavers into the wilderness had nothing to do with beaver-human conflicts, but instead was to help reintroduce beavers to their historic range

So, all in all, a good story. But still a hilarious and absurd one as well.

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A couple of months ago, I created a video for my A Birding Naturalist YouTube channel titled Conservation Through Duck Stamps, where I talked about the Federal and California State duck stamps and the funding that the sale of duck stamps generate for the protection and restoration of wildlife and their habitats.

This is a subject that I think is important. Buying duck stamps is an established and successful way to get funding that will protect the natural environments of this country. Everyone who enjoys and appreciates wildlife (hunters and non-hunters alike) should seriously consider buying these stamps.

Given that, I am sure you can imagine how pleased I was when John Oliver released a segment on duck stamps on his show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver! It is a very informative and amusing piece (as are so many of the segments in that show), and it also discussed what an important source of money that duck stamp funds are. It also delved into how the art for these stamps is selected. The show went so far as to commission five different pieces of art that they entered into the duck stamp selection competition. Very funny move, and some very funny pieces. None of these five were selected by the judges. In fact, all five were eliminated in the very first selection round with none of the entries getting even a single vote. But that was not the point, anyway.

Image 1 - Last Week Tonight with John Oliver "Duck Hunt" by Eric Joyner
One of the pieces commissioned by Last Week Tonight by artist Eric Joyner titled “Duck Hunt.”

However, partly as a result of not having their art selected to appear on the next duck stamp, Last Week Tonight decided to do something else with the artwork that would still benefit wildlife. The show set up online auctions on ebay, and sold the five pieces of art. The proceeds from these auctions were contributed to the Federal Duck Stamp Fund.

Now these auctions have ended, and they were really successful! In total the auctions of the five pieces of art raised nearly $100,000 for the Federal Duck Stamp Fund!

Image 1 - Last Week Tonight with John Oliver "Duck with a Pearl Earring" by Omar Rayyan
One of the pieces commissioned by Last Week Tonight by artist Omar Rayyan titled “Duck with a Pearl Earring.”

I am thrilled that a topic like duck stamps got this boost of public exposure and attention! I definitely think it is something that more people should know about. And the donation of almost $100,000 is a wonderful outcome of this segment!

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I have a new job! After over five years working for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy as an Environmental Scientist, I have accepted a promotion and changed agencies. I am now a Senior Environmental Scientist (Specialist) managing the Stream Flow Enhancement Program at the Wildlife Conservation Board.

Wildlife Conservation Board - Home | Facebook

The mission statement of the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) is: The Wildlife Conservation Board protects, restores and enhances California’s spectacular natural resources for wildlife and for the public’s use and enjoyment in partnership with conservation groups, government agencies and the people of California. The WCB was founded in 1947. The Board itself is comprised of seven members including: the President of the Fish and Game Commission, the Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Director of the Department of Finance, and four public members, two appointed by the legislature and two by the Governor. The primary roles of the WCB are to select, authorize and allocate funds for the purchase of land and waters suitable for recreation purposes and the preservation, protection and restoration of wildlife habitat. To these ends, WCB has numerous grant programs that focus on various different aspects of California’s landscape and the needs of the people and other species who call this state home.

Central Valley Tributaries Program

The Stream Flow Enhancement Program (SFEP) is one of those grant programs. It is funded through Proposition 1 (under which I was also working at the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy and have written about before) which was a water bond passed in 2014. Proposition 1 allocated $200 million to WCB to fund projects that result in enhanced stream flows (i.e., a change in the amount, timing, and/or quality of water flowing down a stream, or a portion of a stream, to benefit fish and wildlife). Basically, these Proposition 1 dollars are to be spent to make the streams and rivers across the state of California better for fish and wildlife.

I am really excited about this new position. The opportunity to work on projects that range throughout the entire state, the larger pool of funding that I will be overseeing, and the new set of challenges associated with protecting the waters of the state are all components of this new job that very much excite me. Some aspects will be hard. I am certainly going to learn a lot. And I think I am up to the challenge! I will keep you posted on how the job develops, what I learn and experience, the state of the streams and rivers of California, and how the many interacting forces at work impact the status of these vital ecosystems.

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Sometimes three nights spent in the woods are more restorative and satisfying than even I expect them to be.

And that is exactly the experience I had camping at the Silver Fork Campground on the banks of the Silver Fork of the American River in the El Dorado National Forest. I have camped in this area before, but never at this specific campground, and it was lovely. The campground was quiet and clean. The river was close and beautiful. The forest was impressive. And the birds were thrilling!

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And the river itself was wonderful as well. The water was the perfect temperature for wading and swimming which was so refreshing in the heat of the afternoon. Not only were there dippers and the merganser to watch, but there were lots of different butterfly species coming down to drink and get some salts from the sandy shore, and also a huge variety of macroinvertebrates in the water. There were so many stonefly larva crawling around on the bottom with their carefully constructed tiny hard tubes made from tiny sticks and stones.

With the beauty of the forests, the amazing wildlife to see, cooking over the fire, and sharing the whole experience with family and friends, this was a wonderful trip. I was aware that I really missed camping in 2020, but in a lot of ways I am fully realizing just how much I missed it now that I am camping once again! Being in the woods, getting to see and smell and hear the natural world around me, and getting to share it with you both here and on my YouTube channel (there will be a couple of videos coming out in the next few weeks) made me happier and more tranquil and excited than I have been for a while! I can’t wait until my next trip!

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List of Bird Species Observed:

Common Merganser

Common Nighthawk

Anna’s Hummingbird

Turkey Vulture

Belted Kingfisher

White-headed Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

Black Phoebe

Steller’s Jay

Common Raven

Mountain Chickadee

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Red-breasted Nutchatch

Brown Creeper

American Dipper

Townsend’s Solitaire

American Robin

American Goldfinch

Dark-eyed Junco

Spotted Towhee

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Hermit Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

Western Tanager

List of Other Species Observed (incomplete):

Western Tiger Swallowtail

Pale Tiger Swallowtail

Blue Copper

Lorquin’s Admeral

Sierra Nevada Checkerspot

Stonefly

Cadis Fly

Yellowjacket

Pacific Clubtail

Kibramoa madrona

Western Fence Lizard

Rainbow Trout

Douglas’s Squirrel

California Groundsquirrel

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