- Our Beavers
Beavers have become extinct in Wales in the last 300 years. George Owen, writing in 1603, described them in the waterways of west Wales. But they were hunted out for their fur and their castoreum oil. Now they have colonised Tayside and the reintroduction programme in Argyll has been declared a success and will continue. We visited it in 2013 and it is on exactly the same site where we re-introduced goshawks 40 years before. It was mid-day and I saw no beavers - but an adult female gos flew over me! Now that beavers are re-colonising Scotland and are once more part of our indigenous heritage, we look forward to seeing them again in Wales.
Our beavers were introduced into their 100m x 50m enclosure in April. They are captive bred, unrelated and disease-free. They have been very compatible from the start and have settled in well. We have never fed them any additional food. They eat willow, some aspen and some red dogwood, pond plants, and occasionally sycamore. They have not made much impact on the pond plants such as cress, potamegeton and rushes as we expected. (We had hoped that they might clear some of the potamegeton!). We have a hide for watching them and they have been out regularly through the summer evenings, but now the nights are drawing in, they do not appear before dark. We don 't disturb them and we don't yet know where there lodge is. We built them a lodge on the edge of their 20 m pond but cannot see if they are using it. There are big beds of brambles and fallen trees so they could be anywhere.
They have been doing a good job trimming back the willow shrub (which I used to have to do myself with a chainsaw). They cut it off about 30-40 cm above the ground and take away the stems and eat the bark. The willow stools will regenerate in the spring, providing more feed, but meanwhile allowing some light to reach the ground so that other species can grow.
Meanwhile a family of beavers is breeding in Devon and Defra is intent on exterminating them. Ostensibly this is because there is a risk the adults could be carrying Echinoccus, but behind the scenes they acknowledge that the risk is neglible, and anyway the beavers could be tested and returned if clear. A number of organisations are challenging the legality of trapping an indigenous species which is protected under the EU Habitats Directive. Of course it is OK for the Prime Minister to put his cat out of the door (an alien invasive species) and for it to be found three miles away, but beavers, hounded for centuries, are to be hounded again by Defra. It's a crazy old world....