Recently Michael Gove attended an event in Gloucestershire to release beavers back into the wild as part of a project to rewild Britain. A male and a female Eurasian beaver, a species hunted to extinction in the UK 400 years ago for their fur, meat, and scent glands, were released into the Forest of Dean. They join other iconic British species that became extinct and have returned to the Forest of Dean, such as the wild boar.
The area will be regularly monitored throughout the 3 year project and it is hoped that the beavers will reduce the local flood risk and benefit the health of the ecosystem; being a ‘keystone species’, beavers play a part in shaping the landscape through their dam-building activities. The Eurasian beavers are expected to build a series of natural dams that will slow rainwater and prevent floods from the steep hills in the area.
You can read more about global rewilding success stories here, including the wolf in the US and the giant tortoise in the Galapagos islands.
- Beavers are vegetarian
- They live in ‘lodges’, which they construct from branches and sticks – they have a drying off den and an inner, drier den for the family to sleep and socialise in
- They are the largest native European rodent
- Beavers are ecosystem engineers, or ‘keystone species’; their dam-building behaviour shapes the ecosystem by slowing down the flow of the river, resulting in particular species thriving. The largest beaver dam is in Canada and is visible from space
- They have transparent eyelids and can see underwater
- They sometimes share their homes with muskrats
- Beavers are monogamous and will mate for life
- A beaver’s tooth enamel contains iron, which gives it that orange colour and enables them to gnaw through trees.