Sunday, November 25, 2012

Leaving it to beavers

Abundant as beavers are today, it is difficult to believe that once they were on the verge of extinction

By Rob Carrigan,

Beavers, considered a “keystone” species for their dam building efforts may actually be helping Colorado landowners and others weather recent drought conditions. But how are the beavers faring in the dry conditions?
“Drought does have an impact on beaver though we haven't heard or seen significant impacts thus far,” says Randy Hampton, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Public Information officer.
“In areas where streams dry up, beaver are known to abandon lodges and dams to find other water sources. One advantage this past year was that reservoir storage was high and most larger bodies of water in Colorado were managed to keep minimal flows,” Hampton says.
“Smaller streams were impacted but in the case of beaver, they often store up enough water behind their dams to actually make it through dry periods - as long as the dry periods are short. We would expect to see larger negative impacts to beaver if drought persists into next year and beyond.”
The beaver fur trade reached its peak in the Rocky Mountain West sometime between 1830 and 1832.
"At that time, pelts brought trappers an average of $4 to $6 per pound. A resourceful mountain man could trap 400 to 500 pounds per year. By 1840, the price had fallen to $1 or $2 per pound, and depletion of the beaver reduced the average trap to 150 pounds -- hardly worth the the time of ambitious man who could otherwise earn $350 to $500 per year. By 1840, perhaps only 50 to 75 trappers remained in the West, a far cry from 500 to 600 who worked the region in the 1820s," writes Thomas G. Alexander in "Utah, The Right Place."
"During the early years Rocky Mountain bison meat served as the main substance for the the trappers. By the early 1840s, the mountain men and the Indians had annihilated the buffalo in the Rocky Mountains. The trappers also helped reduce the herds of elk, moose and deer. The communities of small fur-bearing animals dwindled the same way . By the early 1840s, the beaver were almost extinct," according to Alexander.
Beaver expert David M. Armstrong, of the Department of Ecology, Evolutionary Biology Environmental Studies Program, University Museum of Natural History, University of Colorado-Boulder, notes that many mountain ponds, willow thickets and meadows are the works of beavers over time.
“Beavers are active year-round. Their ponds provide navigable water beneath the ice. No mammal other than humans has a great an influence on its surroundings. This is a `keystone species' in riparian communities; without them the ecosystem would change dramatically,” Armstrong says in information provided by the state parks and wildlife department.
And they have a historic role.
“As abundant as beavers are today, it is difficult to believe that once they were on the verge of extinction, trapped for their under fur, which was used to make felt for beaver hats. In the mid-19th century, silk hats replaced beaver felt as a fashion, and that probably saved the beaver from extinction. But, before it ended, the beaver trade opened the mountains of Colorado to European exploration.
The largest rodents native to North America can be greater than three feet in length, and weigh up to 55 pounds.
“It takes a beaver approximately 30 minutes to fell a 5-inch diameter tree,” says Armstrong.
Beaver Breakout Box 
Beavers are fairly well protected from predators by their large size and aquatic habits. Mink eat some kits, and coyotes can capture a beaver waddling on dry land. Aside from that, floods may be the largest cause of death. Beaver in Colorado are managed as furbearers.
Range: The beaver lives throughout Colorado in suitable habitat, although it is most abundant in the subalpine zone.
Habitat: Beavers live around ponds and streams that are surrounded by trees.
Diet: Beavers feed on grasses and forbs in the summer, and bark in the winter. Beavers eat the upper, tender branches, leaves and bark of trees. They do not eat the inner wood.
Reproduction: The den houses a nuclear family: parents, yearlings, and four or five kits. A single litter of young is produced each year, born in the spring after about a four-month gestation period.
David M. Armstrong
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Environmental Studies Program, University Museum of Natural History
University of Colorado, Boulder.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Through a skylight filter

I smell the sun on the edge of morning.
Lines, then arcs, then almost a circle.
Where does it begin, and when does it end?
Every day, another one, almost m’racle.

Horizon line, then an arc, a bright ball.
Edge is sharp, days are hard, nights are murder.
Debate with you, argue then, I’m right, you know?
Think I give a flock, I am no sheepherder.

Infinity sign, twisted loop, never ends.
Light and dark, shades of grey, pixal tight.
Focus sharp, dogs don’t bark, set the stop.
Roads are lines, house with arcs, in water angles right.

Fog and sun, steam and ice, greens gone brown.
A beaver here, raccoon there, buck, bull, doe, and angel.
Saw her there, in the mist, floating above the water.
Friend who left, tells me stuff, sky is full of danger.

Need some art, design the front, illustrate a story
Designer tones and picks, sometimes with different vision
Cops call in, fire breaks out, rush to file an image
Grip and grin, check pass, mug, shoot them without derision

Day moves on, through high sun, moves in arc
Noon to dusk, search for clouds, red in bounce
Where does it begin, and when does it end?
Afraid of the dark, if that kind of fear counts?

Every day, another one, string together, one by one
Move along, nothing to see here, give us some room
Smell the sun, edge of night, angel’s lens paints the ball.
Almost a circle, arcs then lines, crop tight, then zoom.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A guy with a sense of humor

Maybe it was time to get serious. Have to laugh about  it.

 By Rob Carrigan,

He was probably trying to help, but it only added to our legend.
“The first glass is for myself, the second for my friends, the third for good humor, and the fourth, for my enemies.” The coach christened us something like ‘the beer-bottle brothers,’ and started calling us “Adolph (Coors)” and “Bud,” respectively. I always liked a guy with a sense of humor.
Drawn together because we were smaller than the rest.
And perhaps because of it, we thought we had to be funnier. Most of the time, we were.
At least I was laughing.
Early ‘Saturday Night Live’ funny. John Bulushi in ‘Animal House’ funny, Jack Black, and ‘Vote for Pedro’ strange, and funny. “Are you out of your Vulcan mind?” funny.
There was another element. Our lives were not perfect. There were different darknesses that needed laughed at. That edge, when dipped in humor, was easier to take.
I have never seen such a skinny dude, before or since.
Among the nicknames embraced, “The White Bone.”
You also have a way of surprising us, unpleasantly. Shock value.
I still can’t bring myself to describe what you did to that windshield on the way to Grand Junction on one road trip. Don’t think the driver has ever recovered.
We even gave ourselves names and numbers. Vorachos (misspelled Spanish drunks).
We gave ourselves a lot of lee way. So did others.
In college, beer tops spidered the ceiling. Ice slipped by. Women and girls, came and went. Cars were wrecked. Priorities re-accessed.
Maybe it was time to get serious.
Have to laugh about  it.
Come see us out in California. Visit, when you are back in town.  Springs in Steamboat and Pagosa.
Then, we made a trip out north and east. Our friend, he is not here for long.
I can see it in his eyes.
At the funeral, then, I saw the look in your eyes -- when his kids turned loose the balloons.
But you laughed when you saw the pith helmet.
Add it all up to legend.
Appreciate it. I always liked a guy with a sense of humor.