Mymymy, yesterday was a wonderkin for beavers. The news just kept coming all day from a great article on Buzzfeed to a podcast about visiting beavers to the SINGLE best video moment I have ever seen. (This from acclaimed photographer Jim Brandenburg and unrelated to the UK news but believe me when I say you have to watch it.)
And in 2011, a small group was introduced in a fenced-off part of west Devon. Then, in 2015, some more were let loose in the River Otter, also Devon, as part of a five-year trial. And, basically, it’s been a huge success! Beavers create natural wetlands, improve local wildlife, probably reduce the risk of flooding, and improve water quality.
That’s because in small streams, they create dams, which in turn create ponds. (Eurasian beavers only do this in smaller streams, so that they have deep water. In bigger rivers, they don’t need to. North American beavers, which live in the dams themselves rather than holes in the riverbank, create dams in much bigger rivers.) They also dig channels and sluices to connect ponds and generally manage the waterways.
“A beaver is what is called a keystone species,” George Monbiot, the writer, environmentalist and “rewilding” advocate, told BuzzFeed News. “An animal that has a far bigger impact on its environment than its numbers alone would suggest. And the impact of beavers on other wildlife is entirely positive.
Ahhh the beaver defenders of the UK have SUCH a deep bench! With players like Monbiot and entire wildlife trusts to defend them. I honestly can’t decide whether I’m more envious or impressed!
A spokesperson for the Devon Wildlife Trust told BuzzFeed News that while it was too soon to have strong evidence from the River Otter trial, the enclosed west Devon experience was very positive. “You can literally see the improvements in water quality,” he said. “A bottle of water from upstream is brown; from downstream, filtered through the dams, it’s clear.”
And they’ve created a network of dams and ponds, which retains water in heavy rain and releases it gradually. “It’s a much greater capacity to store water,” said the spokesperson, “so it should reduce flooding downstream.”
And in the wetland areas that the beavers have created, they’ve seen “a big increase in aquatic invertebrates, a 1,000% increase in frogspawn, which is great for things that eat frogspawn. The height of vegetation has increased. The number of bat species has increased because there are loads more insects for them to feed on.”
And people really like having beavers in their local area. They’re just really cool, big, exciting animals, and you don’t see many like them in Britain.
Me too! I like having them around too! Let’s face it: beavers ARE cool. It says it right there in Buzzfeed so it must be true. If this aren’t hasn’t convinced you of the real excitement that these flat-tailed wonders create, listen to this podcast from Scotland Outside where the announcer actually gets to visit for himself.
It’s a delightful bit of banter, but if you don’t have time for the full discussion (which touches on pargeting historic homes and the invasion of non-native pink salmon), go straight to the beaver parts at 26.12 and 48.00 for the actual sighting. I’m thinking you’ll get the hang of the Scottish brogue after you listen for a bit. Enjoy!
Wasn’t that a delight? I love listening to people discover how very magical it can be to wait in the stillness for a glimpse of beavers. Because I spent so much time doing just that and it changed my life forever.
And if all those wonders aren’t wonderful enough, hold onto your hats and your very socks because THIS video from National Geographic famed Jim Brandenburg will blow you away. Every single one of the 60 seconds is breathtakingly beautiful, but the last five will warm the cockles of your heart for the next three months to come.