Would England want beavers back?
Canada might have a few beavers to spare. Like the Chinese and pandas, Canada could shed a few beavers to England, if everyone agreed. What brings the subject to bear today?
I was out by the beaver pond for the first time in weeks to see how the critters are surviving this brutal snowy winter. Sometimes, in extreme freezing conditions, they become stuck in their dens and suffocate. I have seen evidence from the aftermath when spring rains flood the dens, and their furry carcasses float downstream. It is sad, but natural.
Snow, I imagine, is more of an insulator. I saw some prints on top of the lodge, but I could not make them out. They could be duck or goose prints as birds sometimes hang out there.
Last spring, I saw bald eagles and Coopers hawks about the area as I think these predators await the emergence of baby beavers. Once grown, I don’t think they have many effective predators. We have foxes, but they would have a time tangling with adult beavers.
Anyway, I found this article that indicates beavers once lived in England until they were hunted to extinction.
Our beavers are urban, preferring to live in sewer pipes that are sort of like condos to them. I don't think there are any skunks in England. Want some of those too?
“Beavers 'could thrive in England'
Beavers could be successfully reintroduced in many parts of England, a conservation body has argued.
Natural England says a study has shown beavers, already set for reintroduction in Scotland, could boost wildlife and reduces flooding, among other benefits. It is now up to wildlife charities and other groups to decide whether they would like to embark on such a scheme. Farmers say landowners' concerns must be taken into account. Beavers were hunted to extinction in the 1500s.
They were prized for their fur, their meat and their scent glands, which were used for pain-relieving medicine. A planned reintroduction of beavers is set to take place in Scotland later this year and a feasibility study is being carried out in Wales.
The creatures have already been successfully reintroduced in parts of Europe and the feasibility study for Natural England, which advises the government on conservation issues, and the People's Trust for Endangered Species said reintroduction could be possible in many parts of England. Professor John Gurnell, one of the report's authors, said beavers acted as "ecosystem engineers" and could provide many benefits.
They sometimes build dams to stabilize the water levels around their burrows and channels for foraging, which can slow rivers and control flooding, purify water and increase the number of plant and animal species in the habitat.
Prof Gurnell said: "The potential for them to give benefits to the country at large is quite enormous. They can boost water quality, alleviate the effects of flooding and raise river levels during drought."
He said some people feared beavers would cause damage to crops, trees or fishponds, spread disease, damage angling or affect wildlife.
But he said "most negative effects are probably more minor than major", limited to some damage to smaller trees, streams and fish ponds, which could be easily dealt with. He added there was no evidence beavers spread disease.
Natural England has received no requests for a reintroduction scheme.
It said any project would take several years to come to fruition and local communities would need to be consulted before beavers returned to English waterways. Natural England's chief scientist, Tom Tew, said: "Beavers could have a range of environment benefits but could only be introduced under the right conditions."
Although beavers are not "aquatic rats" and would not breed quickly, any scheme would also need an "exit strategy”, he added.
Andrea Graham, from the National Farmers' Union, said the costs of reintroducing the species would need to be carefully considered.
"The plan must include a clear idea of any long-term potential economic and physical impacts on the English landscape, including flood risk or, crucially, any potential for disease transmission which becomes more relevant as new and emerging exotic diseases continue to threaten our native animals and wildlife," she said.
The costs of reintroduction seemed a "costly luxury" in the current economic climate, she added.
· Beavers are the largest rodent native to Europe with adults weighing 18-20kg and body length of up to 1m.
· They are mainly nocturnal eating a very wide range of plants and tree bark - especially willow
· The creatures usually live for seven or eight years but have been known to live for up to 25 years
· They prefer burrows in river banks as their nesting place but will build lodges of piled logs when this is not possible”
The Welsh say they go quite well with leeks.