Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mountain Beavers & Fish Flinging (it's not what you think)

(Photo from Mountain Beaver Journal.)
After my last Crappy Attempt at a Post , I realized there was so much more to reveal about all manner of Nature's use of nutrient (poop) recyclers that play a part in the environment, and I'm not just referring to those ancient Megafauna guys. As with any ecosystem, for all the larger animals that exist within, there are literally hundreds or thousands of smaller biological recycling machines which break down even further what the big guys leave behind. On the subject though of Mountain Beavers, I had never really known about them until I read a post by the guy who runs the Nature of Man blog with the article Boomer the Bulldozer where he posted a few great videos of the Mountain Beaver movements in it's natural habitat. The behavior looks very much like a large gopher from the video I watched, but clearly there are differences and their appearance does resemble that of a small beaver. But unlike mostly underground dwelling Gophers, these guys climbs trees and accomplish other interesting feats in what is mostly moist habitat. The best info on them I found was from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. On their website, they have a section, "Living with Wildlife". with a page dedicated to the Mountain Beaver story.
Living With Wildlife: "Mountain Beavers"

 (Photo from Mountain Beaver Journal)
Mountain beavers, also called 'boomers', are 12 to 14 inches long and resemble large, overgrown hamsters or tailless muskrats. They have small ears and eyes, short, rudimentary tails, and large curved front claws that are used for digging, grasping, and climbing.  Mountain beavers live in moist forests, on ferny slopes, and are occasionally found in damp ravines in urban areas. Their worldwide range is the coastal lowlands and coastal mountains of southern British Columbia (from the Fraser Valley to the Cascade mountains), western Washington, western Oregon, and south into California. Most people , which includes me, don't know mountain beavers exist. The Mountain beavers are herbivores and eat a wide variety of plants which includes all above and below-ground parts of ferns, salal, nettles, fireweed, bleeding heart, salmonberry, brambles, dogwoods, vine maples, willows, alders, and conifers. Mountain beavers also eat rhododendrons and other ornamental perennials, shrubs, and trees. They eat all of their food at the location found, temporarily stored outside burrow entrances, or placed in caches inside burrow systems like the one below in the illustration.
(Drawing by Jenifer Rees.)
A cross section of a portion of a mountain beaver's burrow. Over time, their old nests, partially filled food pantries, and toilets are buried well below the surface, where the vegetation and droppings become fertilizer. Their burrow systems are most evident during the late spring and summer months when most of the digging and repairing is done. Usually there is newly excavated soil (sometimes called a "kick out") or freshly cut vegetation next to or within the entrance of a 6- to 8-inch diameter hole. The pile of vegetation of sticks also has the appearance of a Beaver Lodge. The presence of a mountain beaver (or other mammals using its tunnel system) can be recognized by the worn appearance of the tunnel floor and a lack or scarcity of spiderwebs at tunnel entrances.
These Mountain beavers also serve an important function in nature owing to the amount of soil they move and the number of vacant burrows they leave behind for other wildlife. Over time, their old nests, partially filled food pantries and toilets, are buried well below the surface, where the vegetation and droppings become fertilizer. Now we come to the subject of Poop. Mountain beaver poop is  seldom seen because they are normally deposited inside the burrow's tunnel system. Looking back up at that illustration, you'll see they have a special room for dropping deposits. If you find droppings, they are probably from another animal using the burrow. This ultimately adds to the underground fertilization of the forests and a healthy balanced Mountain Beaver population provides a measure of forest floor maintenance by weeding out too many tree or shrub seedlings. They themselves are also eaten by bobcats, coyotes, large owls, fishers, and occasionally cougars and bears. Weasels and mink eat young mountain beavers. So they play other roles in the food chain.

Rue Forest Contracting Inc.
Unfortunately, not all is well in Mountain Beaver world. The commercial Timber Industry of the Pacific Northwest absolutely hates them because they tend to go after the young delicate seedlings they just planted after raping the landscape by clear cutting. The Mountain Beavers are considered one of the biggest pests reforestation contractors and land owners have to deal with them by use of poisons which are labeled for use with the mountain beaver. However where poisoning isn't used trapping is the main way they control them. Like any other creature in any ecosystem, Mountain Beavers just do what they do. The major land disruption or disturbance by humans for the Earth's raw materials will also come ahead of most conservation efforts anyway. The average home owner as well has issues with the Mountain Beaver and like the Mtn Beaver's much maligned cousin, the Gopher, their important roles are often overlooked when an imbalance in the system created by Human's who may have dealt a heavy blow to the predatory population. Snakes, Bobcats, Coyotes etc. Even still, what an amazing animal for a healthy forested system maintenance.
Shifting some gears to another subject within this same area
image: Sound Salmon Solutions

Flingin’ Fish in the Stilly
"Nine volunteers along with four Sound Salmon Solutions AmeriCorps Interns had fun chuckin’ chum in the Pilchuck Creek Basin! The Stillaguamish Tribe Hatchery provided the salmon after they were spawned out to be raised in the hatchery and released in Harvey Creek. Volunteers then got to do the fun and dirty work of flinging 120 chum salmon in the creek and surrounding forest.  These carcasses will provide nutrients to keep the forest and ecosystem healthy, where there is no longer a chum run. Studies have found that not only do trees take in the marine derived nutrients salmon bring back from the ocean, but they are also essential to keeping a healthy forest ecosystem. The event was a lot of fun, and Sound Salmon Solution’s was glad to spend time with volunteers flinging fish. Thank you to our brave volunteers! For more information on the importance of carcass distribution check out our previous post, Flingin’ Fish in the Stilly."
The article above came out from the Sound Salmon Solutions volunteers to fling dead rotted Salmon carcasses up mountainsides and hills on both sides of river banks. The idea was to bring back from the Pacific Oceans nutrients that at one time were hauled up into forests by large Bears who caught and ate the Salmon's choice parts, but left most of the carcasses deep within the forest to break down and provide nutrients for the trees. Of course, along comes that human interference and all such recycling comes to an abrupt halt. Hence the Salmon Flingers volunteers do what the Bears once did. Hauling dead fish carcasses up a hillside in large raincoats is the latest in weekend Eco-Activities. Well, good for them and I'm glad somebody is pointing these ecosystem nutrient deficiency problems out. But seriously, do people really want an artificial world where they are responsible for doing what numerous components of natural organisms once accomplished for maintaining a healthy Earth ? I know the Hollywood gang rolls out a lot of morbid entertainment sci-fi flicks which depict a bunch of post doomsday holocaust survivors in a bizarre environment trying to scratch out a living, but who really wants that ? I don't. But that's where things are heading. It's as crazy as some of the crackpot Climate Change schemes, which demand no real change in the Human behavioral issues that have messed things up in the first place. Rather, they provide a solution for counteracting the bad effects of flawed science-based human technology. 

There is a great documentary called, "The Magic Forest", and it hits hard on this nutrient recycling issue and how our Natural World is more mutualistically tied together as opposed to the old archaic ideologically driven belief of a "Survival of the Fittest" scenario. And yet, more and more findings are revealing otherwise. Especially is this evident as whole entire ecosystems are being gradually stripped down and dismantled of their necessary components one by one in a sort of perverted reverse engineering exercise. Suddenly, things which were held as of little value are found to be extremely important. The only survival of the fittest game I've ever witnessed is the way human beings treat each other. This video documentary is almost an hour long, but well worth the time to view if you can bookmark it for later. 

Here are some research paper references for those more inclined at reading and studying, though I realize this to is a dying trend as well. Nevertheless, here they are.
Preliminary Evaluation of the Use of Nitrogen Stable Isotope Ratios to Establish Escapement Levels for Pacific Salmon
Nutrients in Salmonid Ecosystems: Sustaining Production and Biodiversity
Adding Nutrients to Enhance Salmon Runs: Developing a Coherent Public Policy
Skokomish River Salmon Flinging with 4.H and U.S.F.S.
Just some concluding comments about where this system is headed 
Well, other than presenting time and again some interesting facts of what the real Science of wonder and discovery [Industrial Corporate Science not included] are revealing to us about our natural world and dismantling of old outdated paradigms, how do you reach the hearts of an otherwise disconnected and out of touch Public on the dire situation facing this planet's ability to continue to function for the benefit of all living things on it ? For me illustrations from familiar situations seem to always be the best method. Most ecosystems around the planet have seriously over time had their various mechanical components disrupted in one way or another. In some cases, major components have been completely obliterated. This has been exceptionally accelerated in the past one hundred years as we approach 2014. I use this date counting backwards as it was also used by Austrian Forester, Viktor Schauberger, who before his death and looking back, made an emphatic statement of how the Earth's environmental ruin beginning with World War I onward. He said it was a turning point in history and he was absolutely correct in more ways than he ever have possibly known back at that time.

So perhaps I can illustrate the extreme severity of the situation by comparing the Earth to a top of the line best engineered Automobile ever designed. At least most people in the Industrial Nations will relate to this. How far and how long would it take such a well put together automobile to come to an abrupt stop after being gradually dismantled bit by bit and piece by piece ? You could start out small with miscellaneous nuts and bolts here and there, nothing major and certainly no noticeable effect on the performance of the vehicle. Removing things that have mostly to do with comfort [seats, windows, etc] and decor [trim, ornamentation, hub caps, etc] would not necessarily hinder engine performance, but it would take away that aesthetic appeal it once originally had that made it so attractive. Gradually you could remove things like mirrors, bumpers, emergency hand parking brake, etc and even though the actual performance of the engine has in no way been hindered, there are now clearly some safety concerns for all occupants. And it's these safety features that are now missing in Nature that have really accelerated more so in the past 100 years. But now that the doors are completely missing, windshield is busted out, no hood nor trunk lids remain, we can now focus attention on the dismantling of the engine compartment itself. How much could you remove from this compartment before all function is compromised ? Well, you could start by removing altogether the climate control apparatus like the Air Conditioner and Heater components, but you've further compromised your comfort zone, especially is this serious since the destination is so long as far as travel goes. This clearing could endanger the health of the driver and passengers since at times the journey does travel through extreme weather events. No matter though, at least the engine still functions. I know, it sounds crazy, but that is where we are today. 

Unfortunately, the unscientific & illogical solutions being presented don't actually offer any reversal of the irresponsible behavior that has brought us thus far. The totally irresponsible incompetence of our automobile's maintenance record on this journey is now almost like us being out in a remote middle of nowhere scenario. We now find we have a few mechanical issues that need taking care of and we are unfortunately at the mercy of the mechanical expertise found only at Ralph's Garage. This fly by night pseudo-mechanic tells us we don't need that inline electrical fuel pump which feeds the engine the needed petrol for continued forwards motion. He bypasses the manufacturer's instruction manual which explains how things should actually function and how to replace those worn out parts with genuine Factory parts. He ignores the chapter on how to rebuild the system as the system was originally designed and tells us he can Jerry-rig a contraption from old bicycle parts and how the person in the passenger seat can run the new pump manually which will also feed fuel into the system and run the car's engine. I know this sounds ludicrous, but that's exactly where we are now with some of the idiocy being presented for reversing climate change and ecological ruin. Some of the solutions being fed to the public by the very leadership that is supposed to be the specialists in their respective fields are just as insane as my automobile scenario. Seriously, look at some of their Eco-Solutions  

Google the Video Clip on your own
One of the best movies scenes of all time that describes the thinking and reasoning of this world's leadership regarding how dire things really are here for the Earth is the movie scene where John Candy tries explaining the melted speedometer to the police officer and why the fact that the Car still moves and barely operates is no problem in the movie - "Plains, Trains and Automobiles" - Seriously, if nothing else, you need to watch just that one entire scene. It's hilarious, unlike the true life situation regarding our planet Earth. I can't find a good link here in Sweden for you as it won't play for me here, so you'll have to Google it for yourself. You'll know exactly what I'm talking about as you watch and compare it to the topic of climate change and  those who find no real sense of urgency as to where the Earth is headed. If you really want to live in a futuristic Sci-Fi world where artificial nutrient recycling like fish flopping in the Woods and genetically modifying organisms to eat CO2s get released into the environment to counteract irresponsible behavior, then follow the present world leadership. If you'd rather be educated through the instruction manual on how Nature actually works and how human behavior needs to change, then the change has to begin with you, then your family, then friends, neighbours, community and so forth. This is not an endorsement to angry violent activism, it's just some common sense wake up call advice. Again, just for added emphasis, the first thing you need to do is get yourself educated. Getting a great education also requires generous amounts of time spent in outdoor experience. Reading books by others and wearing a white coat in an otherwise disconnected Lab won't cut it here. Then from that education and personal hands on experience make the practical applications necessary from what you've learned in rebuilding Nature's various complex mechanical components within your own garden, landscape or Habitat Restoration Project. Help reboot the Earth's natural maintenance mechanisms as opposed to sitting back and accepting the science fictional proposals by Industrial Science and the world's inept though perhaps well meaning political leadership which offer nothing but keep the Earth on Artificial Life Support. How you personally proceed from this point forward of course is your business.
Great References:
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
LIVING WITH WILDLIFE: "Mountain Beavers"
Mountain Beaver Journal

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