BEAVERS could be declared a native British animal — for the first time in 400 years — after scientists found that at least three populations have become established in rivers from Scotland to Devon.
The biggest group of 150 animals live on the Tay, where, as in the River Otter in Devon, they have become a tourist attraction. Both are thought to have been illegal reintroductions. Another population is also growing at Knapdale in Scotland — the only one based on licensed releases.
The government had planned to classify beavers as non-natives under the Infrastructure Bill. This would have made future unlicensed releases illegal and prevented beavers from gaining protection in areas where they have become established.
Now Defra, the environment ministry, has said it will consider declaring them natives, subject to a study being carried out on the Knapdale population’s integration with other land uses.
What? DEFRA might call beavers native? After all of England spent centuries of extinction following centuries of economic harassment, it might at last recognize their rightful place? Be still my heart!
Oh right, it already is.
Wait, are beavers native to the United Kingdom. This is from the Aberdeen Bestiary, 12th century AD. The illuminated manuscript descended from the Royal Library of Henry the VIII to the university on the east highlands of Scotland.
De castore. Est animal quod dicitur castor mansuetum nimis, cuius testiculi medicine sunt aptissimi, de quo dicit Phisiologus, quia cum vena torem se insequentem cog novit, morsu testiculos sibi abscidit, et in faciem vena toris eos proicit et sic fugiens evadit.
Of the beaver There is an animal called the beaver, which is extremely gentle; its testicles are highly suitable for medicine. Physiologus says of it that, when it knows that a hunter is pursuing it, it bites off its testicles and throws them in the hunter’s face and, taking flight, escapes.
Laying aside the obvious impossibility of this fanciful account, (Given the fondness males of any species seem to feel for their testicles) we can at least establish that the United Kingdom once had access to beavers, because they were, in fact, native, and if something WAS native, that means it IS native, and you dam well know it, so stop trying to pretend like it’s a big decision or that you’re being generous by calling it native. It’s as native as humans are on British soil, or more so I’d wager if we were looking at the fossil record.
Fur- Bearer Defender’s Interview with Michael Runtz, author and photographer of Dam Builders.