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Nice Beavers!
by Clint Wayne
2008-06-27 09:31:25
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A few years ago while walking in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales my wife and I thought ourselves extremely fortunate to happen upon a wild otter swimming nonchalantly upstream. It was one of those special wildlife moments that only ever seemed to happen to other people.

As a self-confessed ‘Wildlife Freak’, it was with great interest that I watched intently to this week's BBC Breakfast News report detailing the formation of a Beaver dam and the possible breeding success of two Beavers released under licence on the Escot Park Estate in Devon here in the UK.

Following a 500 year absence due to the Beaver being hunted to extinction in Britain for its valuable pelts, several attempts have been made over the last few years for the reintroduction of the Beaver across the UK, but the release of these two Bavarian Beavers are the first to settle with any success. It is not known for certain whether there are young but all the signs are said to be extremely positive.

It is not often, especially over the last couple of weeks, that I sing the praises of the European Union but their directive to member states to study the desirability of reintroducing species where they have become extinct is extremely commendable. Beavers have recently been successfully reintroduced elsewhere in Europe, including parts of Germany and Holland, and if the trials prove to be successful in the UK then it will only leave Italy and Portugal without this industrious little mammal. Under the same initiative there is also currently a scheme to reintroduce the Great Bustard, a huge turkey-sized bird, on Salisbury Plain.

The Scottish government are currently considering permitting under licence a trial in Argyll where they hope to introduce between fifteen and twenty Norwegian Beavers in the spring of 2009. It has gained widespread support from the locals where it is hoped they will both improve the ecosystem and boost tourism.

The Beaver is a charismatic species and would have a significant influence on the ecosystem function and health of the riparian zones of the broad-leafed woodlands that border fresh waters and slow-moving streams. It is also hoped that they will also play an important role in the wider biodiversity of the area in which they live.

Beavers are most notable for the felling of trees but their effect on the deciduous broad leafed trees they fell is only akin to natural coppicing and encourages the production of new shoots or trees in many instances. This continual change in their habitat enhances its relationship with the general flora and fauna. The ponds created by the Beaver dams encourage the growth of aquatic vegetation resulting in the increase populations of fish, amphibians and other invertebrate species which in turn benefit the larger predators higher up the food chain such as wading birds and otters. They also attract numerous water fowl which nest on the Beaver ponds with water voles and kingfishers nesting within their banks.

In North America its larger relative is considered a keystone species in river and pond ecosystems and it is likely that the European Beaver would also fulfil a similar role here and if in my retiring years whilst out walking I should be lucky enough to happen upon one swimming in the Yorkshire Dales what a memorable moment to cherish and story to tell my grandchildren.

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Asa2008-06-27 13:34:18
They certainly aren't loved in Finland. They are considered a bit of a pest, but how can you hate those bucked teeth and flat tail?

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