We’ve been showing people wild beavers for nine years now. Wild, yes, but captive. Our beavers are in a large, fenced wetland enclosure, a whole eight-acre loch and its associated marshes and deciduous woodland in Inverness-shire – perfect beaver habitat. They don’t know they’re captive, and they don’t need to, since they have everything they want: plenty of food; birch and willow trees to fell for bark – they are strictly herbivorous – and to build their lodges and dams; streams and ditches to dam; canals to dig; lagoons to create. That’s what beavers do: beavering away, they adjust their habitat to suit themselves, and just about everything else as well.
Our nine years of soggy monitoring have demonstrated precisely what the scientific literature predicts. Measured against adjacent wetland the beavers have not utilised, we find that biodiversity has expanded by a factor of four.
That’s a 300% increase on the initial pre-beaver presence: more aquatic bugs for fish to hoover up; more fish for herons, diving ducks, grebes, otters and ospreys; more newts, frogs and toads; more insects for small birds to snatch; more small mammals, including water voles and water shrews, for owls and other predators. And so it continues up the chain: more food for pine martens, stoats, weasels, foxes, badgers; more and a wider variety of wild flowers and wetland plants. Altogether more of just about everything, in a happier, fatter, richer, healthier and more diverse ecosystem bubbling with life and energy.
Years ago, I knew the River Otter very well. I have fished it and canoed its dreamy Devon reaches. It is right for beavers. They are mammals of optimum habitat. That means they will cruise upstream and downstream until they find the place they like best. Then they will stay, dig burrows in banks and build impressive lodges of mud, sticks and logs dragged and packed into a dome, with underwater entrances to protect their young from predators (they are hard-wired to think there is a wolf, a lynx, a bear or a wolverine behind every bush). Here they will breed, producing two to three kits every year.
Great article from the Guardian by author John Lister-Kaye. Besides being well written, it’s highly informative and a good place to educate yourself about beaver benefits. This is what I’ve enjoyed most about the beaver battle in the United Kingdom. It forces the ‘good team’ to spend a great deal of time getting the word out. And we all are the richer for it.
John Lister-Kaye is director of Aigas Field Centre (aigas.co.uk). His new book, Gods of the Morning – A Bird’s Eye View of a Highland Year, will be published by Canongate in March.
Mean while I’ve been hard at work hunting for adorable things to to see if any kind souls will donate to the silent auction, and came upon Betsey Reiche yesterday. She and her business partner of “bspired“ are San Francisco based artists who do cards and invitations in wood. Everything they make is cute, but this was the particular offering that caught my eye. I’m sure you can see why.
The card is made out of walnut and comes with a little kickstand for display. She kindly offered to give us several printed with what ever slogans you nominate. So, valiant team beaver, get to work on your beaver puns. This caption reads “Wood you be my valentine?” but beaver experts like you can do better than that I’m sure! (I personally like, Dam it! I’m in love again!) I want to hear YOUR ideas. Send your recommendations to me here and we’ll chose the top five to be available at the beaver festival!