Friday, May 29, 2009

Animal of the Week -- May 29, 2009

Well, it's been a while, but I can't resist reintroducing Animal of the Week on this auspicious day. For yes, today, May 29, 2009, European beavers (Castor fiber) are once again, after an absence of 400 years, living wild in the UK. A momentous occasion indeed.

Or is it? Contained beaver releases have been done on several sites in the UK, and rumours abound of illegal releases in Scotland over the past few years. This official trial of beaver reintroduction in the remote and wild Knapdale forest will determine whether Scottish authorities will spread beavers more widely over the country. English and Welsh authorities are both investigating the potential for bringing back beavers.

It's been quite a while since I have been near a beaver, and much as I am excited by the prospect of encountering the world's second largest rodent wild in the UK, I can't help but think their reintroduction is a bit of a folly. With no natural predators in the UK, and the likelihood of wolves, bears, or lynxes being brought back slim at best, if the reintroduction is a success the country could soon be overrun with beavers. Perhaps people could turn to them as a source of food to combat their spread, as some have with grey squirrels, the great rodent invader of the UK. But really, squirrel I could probably manage, but I'm not sure how I feel about eating beaver.


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