Here at Wild Animal News our stories often are about the battle against extinction. Many, however, turn out to be about wild animals reclaiming ancient homeland, with and often without human help. Such as Anthony the wild Welsh beaver.
Today we are talking about beavers in the United Kingdom. The Daily Mail reports that some Welsh homeowners were puzzled by “destruction” on their property. They have since come to discover it was actually construction. The paper says the first wild Welsh beaver has begun construction work on his home. The beaver has been nicknamed “Anthony” after famous historian Anthony Beevor. Anthony Beaver has not, it appears, obtained the proper permits.
The exact location of the construction is being withheld to protect the construction crew. The location is somewhere in Pembrokeshire. It is believed Anthony was released in the area by “rewilding enthusiasts.” Rewilding is a relatively recent term that refers to efforts to bring back wild animals to places from which they have been evicted. “Re-wilders” are convinced such efforts improve the eco-systems of the area. It is also possible that beavers have been kept as pets or attractions and released to fend for themselves.
Meanwhile, beavers are being released in Britain by officials as part of a sanctioned “re-wilding program. According to CountryFile record numbers of the world’s second largest rodent have recently been released in parts of the UK.
Eurasian beavers (Castor fiber) share much the same kind of sad history as American beavers (Castor canadensis). The large rodents were blessed (or cursed) with three things humans wanted: quality fur, tasty meat and castor, useful in perfume. Eurasian beavers were nearly wiped out as a result. American beavers were headed to extinction, too. Beaver hats were all the rage and beavers died. The fashion shifted away just in time. Today, beaver populations have rebounded and reintroduction schemes are under way.
Currently, beavers are found in four or five places in the UK. Scotland may have the most, with about 300 individuals. Whether Anthony is the first in Wales may be debated. CountryFile says a family was released in another part of Wales.
There is debate about beavers. CountryFile says:
“Arguments rage as to whether the animals should stay. Conservationists such as Devon Wildlife Trust say that beaver dams improve a river’s water quality and flow, as well as creating mosaics of habitat for a range of wildlife; some anglers fear the dams will impede migrating fish, while some landowners and riverside homeowners are concerned about potential flooding caused by the dams as well as loss of trees and crops.”
Devon Wildlife Trust is a 60-year-old conservation organization dedicated to protecting Devon’s natural heritage.
Beavers are not the only animals The UK is reintroducing. European bison (Bison bonasus) are also being reintroduced in a bid to re-engineer the ecosystem. Bison have been absent from the UK for about 12,000 years. They were almost extirpated from all of Europe. About 50 survivors kept in zoo have been the foundation stock for trying to save the species.
European bison and American bison (Bison bison) are very similar. European bison have horns that point more forward than straight up. American bison have hairier bodies and less hairy tails. They are roughly the same size. American bison are increasing in number after near-extinction. The numbers are large enough that culling through hunting and relocation is sometimes necessary.