Beaver Talk for Historic Calgary Week

“From Hats to Habitat Creators” – Thursday, July 29, 2021 at 2:00pm MST

I’m making a virtual trip back to my hometown to give an online talk for Historic Calgary Week presented by the Chinook Country Historical Society. Join me and the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society’s Katie Bakken to learn about the changing roles of beavers in Calgary.

When Morris Shumiatcher launched Smithbilt Hats near the Calgary Stampede grounds in 1919, most people still thought beavers were good for one thing only: their pelts. Today, we recognize the importance of beavers as habitat creators, water stewards and climate change allies – and organizations like the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society are working hard to figure out how to coexist with these ecosystem engineers. In many ways, our present-day conflicts with beavers are a legacy of the colonial fur trade. But the beaver benefits that we’re still learning about go back much further in time. This brief history of beavers will begin with their debut 37 million years ago, fast forward through the rise and fall of the dozens of early species, and then zero in on what has happened to North American beavers since Europeans showed up 500 years ago. As our relationship with beavers continues to evolve, a historical perspective can help inform the future.

To register for this event, please visit Historic Calgary Week’s program page.

Hat bodies and traditional wooden hat blocks at the Smithbilt Hats workshop in Calgary. (© Frances Backhouse)

Zooming to Fish Creek Provincial Park

Join me on Nov. 19, 2020, for “Once They Were Hats: A Brief History of a Radical Rodent” – a Zoom presentation.

As part of the Friends of Fish Creek speaker series, I’ll be making a virtual visit to Calgary this month to talk about beavers. My presentation will run from 7:00 to 8:00 pm MT on Thursday, Nov. 19, and since it will happen online, anyone can attend.

There is a lot of history behind our present-day dealings with Castor canadensis. The beaver conflicts that we are working to manage today are in many ways a legacy of the colonial fur trade. And the beaver benefits that we are still learning about are rooted in millennia of beaver presence on this continent. This brief history of beavers will begin with their debut 37 million years ago, fast forward through the rise and fall of the dozens of early species, and then zero in on what’s happened to North American beavers since Europeans showed up 500 years ago. As our relationship with beavers continues to evolve, a historical perspective can help inform the future.

The talk is free for Friends of Fish Creek Members and for youth 16 years of age and younger with a registered adult. It’s $10 for non-members. You can purchase tickets and register through eventbrite.

Beavers in Baltimore

I’m excited to be heading to Baltimore in early March for BeaverCON2020, North America’s very first East Coast beaver conference. This three-day event (March 3-5, 2020) is aimed at resource professionals, researchers and practitioners who want to learn what works in beaver conflict management and watershed restoration.

Organizers Mike Callahan, founder and president of the Beaver Institute, and Scott McGill of Ecotone, a beaver-friendly ecological restoration firm, have put together a dynamite agenda. I’m presenting on the first morning. Then I get to sit back and take in all the other talks. Reading the speakers‘ bios and their presentation abstracts, I know it’s going to be a fascinating few days. Interested? Registration is still open.

If you’re looking for beaver enlightenment on the west side of the continent, watch for the 2021 State of the Beaver Conference. This “international conclave for beaver ecology” is held every two years in Oregon. The 2019 version was the sixth and given the enthusiasm of participants, it’s sure to continue.

Putting Beavers to Work Symposium – Oct. 23-24, 2019

I recently had the pleasure of taking part in a symposium on Putting Beavers to Work for Watershed Resiliency and Restoration in Calgary. This two-day event was organized by the Miistakis Institute and the Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society, more commonly known as Cows and Fish. It brought together more than 60 people with a range of beaver interests, including landowners, land managers, academics, policy makers and independent Castorophiles from across western Canada and the U.S.

Day 1 was filled with fascinating presentations and panel discussions. Most of the presentations, including mine, have now been uploaded to the Miistakis Institute’s website and can be accessed here (under the box titled “Symposiums, Webinars, and Workshops” click on “Videos, Factsheets, and More!”). On Day 2, we all boarded a bus for a field trip to look at coexistence tools installed in Calgary and surrounding area. And outside of the formal presentations, there were many exchanges of ideas and insights. Stay tuned for the next Putting Beavers to Work symposium, a year or two from now.

Norine Ambrose, Executive Director of symposium co-sponsor Cows and Fish.

Inspecting a pond leveler in Calgary’s Griffith Woods Park.

Pierre Bolduc explains how he brought beavers back to his property near Bragg Creek.


Words on Ice reading – March 16, 2018

Words on Ice is the kick-off event for The Malahat Review‘s annual Words Thaw literary festival. I’m delighted to be one of the eight writers who will be reading from their work at this event on Friday, March 16.

Since 2013, The Malahat Review has invited dozens of poets, novelists, short fiction writers, and journalists to mark the coming of spring with a symposium celebrating Canadian literature. Held each year at the University of Victoria, the event brings together writers, students, editors, publishers, and others with an interest in creative writing for a weekend of readings, panel discussions, workshops, and socializing. It’s always stimulating and inspiring.

Words on Ice will be held in Room 105 in the University of Victoria’s Harry Hickman Building. Tickets are $10 ($5 for students) at the door, and they include a complimentary copy of the Malahat‘s Autumn 2017 issue.

What do beavers and ghosts have in common?

They’re both on the program for an upcoming Sidney and Peninsula Literary Festival event: Friday, Oct. 20, 7 p.m. at the Shoal Centre, 10030 Resthaven Drive, Sidney, B.C.

Join me and Ian Gibbs for an evening of readings from our most recent books. Ian’s is Victoria’s Most Haunted: Ghost Stories from BC’s Historic Capital City. He says he has always been fascinated by storytelling, ghosts and hauntings, and has even found himself assisting friends with their ghost problems. He lives in Victoria, billed as one of the most haunted places in Canada, where he acts as a guide for the popular Ghostly Walks walking tours.

I, too, live in Victoria. I’ve never encountered any ghosts here, but I have seen beavers in the vicinity and I’ll be reading from Once They Were Hats: In Search of the Mighty Beaver.

Tickets are $10 (including refreshments) at Tanner’s Books and online. All proceeds from ticket sales will go to support the 2019 Sidney and Peninsula Literary Festival. More info here.

Ideacity here I come – June 16, 2017

Now in its eighteenth year, Toronto’s annual ideacity conference has earned a reputation for being Canada’s “Premier meeting of the minds.” I’m honoured to be among the presenters who will be appearing at the three-day event this year. My talk on “The Mighty Beaver” is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on Friday, June 16, leading off the second session of the day. You can view the full schedule and buy tickets here. Use code “BEAVER” to get 10% off your ticket.

Moses Znaimer’s vision for his conference is to offer a program that “deliberately knocks down professional or academic categories and boundaries, and brings everyone together for a single transformative experience.” The location for all of the talks is the Royal Conservatory of Music’s gorgeous Koerner Hall, a 1,135-seat performance space designed in the tradition of the classic “shoebox” venues of Europe. What a thrill it will be to share my passion for beavers in that spectacular venue.

Back to the Beaver State – May 6 & 7, 2017

I have two Once They Were Hats events coming up in Oregon, which proudly calls itself the Beaver State. Both events are free.

The fabulous travelling Beaver Tales Art Exhibit moves to Seaside on May 6, where it will run until May 31. From 1:00 to 3:00 pm on Saturday, May 6, join me for a reading and book signing at Seaside’s Beach Books (616 Broadway St.).

Then, on Sunday, May 7, I’ll be at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, giving a beaver talk from 1:00 to 2:00 pm. For the zoo event, enter at the Zoo Education Center doors (no admission fee), downhill from the parking lot.

Eden Mills Writers’ Festival Reading – Sept. 18, 2016

Eden Mills banner

I’m looking forward to appearing at the 28th annual Eden Mills Writers’ Festival on Sunday, September 18. This outdoor literary event is held on the banks of the Eramosa River in the village of Eden Mills, Ontario, 80 kilometres west of Toronto. It features more than 40 adult, YA and children’s authors.

Helen Humphreys, Katherine Govier and I will appear together on a panel entitled The River of Time, which runs from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. I’ll be reading from Once They Were Hats. Check the festival website for the full schedule and list of authors.

Festival attendees are advised by the organizers to bring a folding lawn chair, blanket or waterproof ground cover, a hat, an umbrella (just in case!), a water bottle and an inquisitive mind. It sounds like my kind of event!

What Publishers Want – May 19, 2016

What do publishers want from authors? Join Taryn Boyd, Associate Publisher at TouchWood Editions/Brindle and Glass, and me for a discussion of this question from both sides of the table. Presented by Canadian Authors–Victoria.

When: Thursday, May 19, 7:00 – 8:30 pm. Doors: 6:30 pm.
Where: Arbutus Room at the Saanich Commonwealth Place, 4636 Elk Lake Drive, Victoria, BC.
Admission: Members $5, Non-Members $10, pay at the door.
For more information, contact: