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Feeling sad about the Axolotl? This beaver may make you happier.
January 30, 2014 2:15 AM   Subscribe

A beaver is alive and well in England, about 800 years after the last one was seen alive. Of course the big question remains: Where the heck did the beaver come from?
posted by Mezentian (37 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Damnit. The SciAm link seems dead, so I made like a beaver and I have established a dam against the flood of "the link don't work posts".
Beavers are re-introducing themselves - and we should let them
Beaver filmed in the wild on Devon farm
Bring back beavers to control flooding, environment secretary told
And, where I got this story from io9.

I swear the SciAm link was working earlier.
posted by Mezentian at 2:23 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


Scotland?
posted by rongorongo at 2:49 AM on January 30


Dear UK,

Sorry about the beaver. We've deployed a ship of cannibal rats to search & destroy.

Yours, Canada
posted by mannequito at 2:52 AM on January 30 [31 favorites]


That headline would have been better as "Britain's beaver reintroduction SKIRTS controversy"

Poor form Aunty!
I expect the BBC wanted to avoid a beaver story turning into a puntastic quipfest.
That would never happen on the blue.
posted by Mezentian at 2:56 AM on January 30 [3 favorites]


Well, I'll be damned.
posted by Suggestive_Bobcat at 3:00 AM on January 30 [15 favorites]


It is a really long way from Scotland to Devon, though there is a direct train service from Tayside (where there is a community of beavers established without human help) to Devon, which allows me to imagine a beaver making itself comfortable on a Cross-Country train.

I'd highly recommend the book 'Beavers in Britain's Past' if this interests you, as an overview of the subject. Interestingly, it suggests that beavers survived unnoticed in England a lot later than the medieval period, possibly right up into the eighteenth century in some places.
posted by Coobeastie at 3:01 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


And I have been proved wrong. Instantly.
posted by Mezentian at 3:01 AM on January 30


From Heraldic Beavers:
Beavers were often pictured in medieval bestiaries as dog-like animals, sought by hunters for the medicinal value of their testicles and prone, as a means of self-preservation, to biting them off and running away without them. Here's an example from folio 33v of Philippe de Thaon's translation of Bestiarius, made in England around 1300.
Hold onto your potatoes.
posted by cenoxo at 3:09 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


It is a really long way from Scotland to Devon
Yes - but from August 2009
"Eleven beavers were released on three lochs in Knapdale Forest in May. However the project team said one had since died and two others are missing".
posted by rongorongo at 3:18 AM on January 30


Where in the heck did the beaver come from?

Without putting too fine of a point pun on it, one might assume other beavers.
posted by cenoxo at 3:24 AM on January 30 [6 favorites]


I recently found out that there is a small population of beavers in the wetlands near my house. I haven't seen any yet but I'm pretty sure I've seen remnants of their dam efforts. They can be pretty dangerous, what with front teeth that can puncture femoral arteries, so I'm not terribly keen about getting near one anyway.
posted by planetesimal at 3:53 AM on January 30


Apparently bieber attacks are on the rise worldwide.
posted by Suggestive_Bobcat at 4:11 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


I expect the British farming community will welcome the reurn of beavers in much the same way they cherish the natural communities of badgers on their land.
posted by Segundus at 4:11 AM on January 30 [3 favorites]


I considered making a Bieber joke, and didn't. Good show!
posted by Mezentian at 4:12 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


We have beavers in the Netherlands, which can be problematic.
posted by Pendragon at 4:51 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]




What to Do About Beavers: hats are no longer fashionable.
posted by cenoxo at 5:16 AM on January 30


The description of the YouTube video is as follows:

The amazing night vision video shows Britain's first wild beaver for 500 years in action gnawing on a tree - beside the River OTTER.

So I was also looking forward to seeing a river otter in the video, and was a little confused when I didn't.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:17 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


This can escalate quickly. In the '70s/'80s the Bavarian beaver population was seeded with 100+ animals, and it's currently estimated at about 15000. And while this number is now remaining rather constant, the amount of damage caused by these Beavarians is steadily increasing. Which lead to a lot of animals being "deported" into the rest of Germany.

Did the Scottish beaver wear Lederhosen?
posted by pseudocode at 5:19 AM on January 30


There are captive beavers in the area, but those responsible insist none of their animals are missing.

Isn't that what they said in Jurassic Park? This local resident doesn't seem too happy about it:

These dog-sized rodents get great PR from the so-called environmentalists who support them. But do the same people ever remind us of increasing attacks on humans by beavers in Europe, leading to the death of a fisherman just last year?
posted by verstegan at 5:43 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


I assume this lucky creature was found by the legion of beaver hunters whose magazines I often see displayed in bags at my local corner store?
posted by GuyZero at 5:54 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]



That headline would have been better as "Britain's beaver reintroduction SKIRTS controversy"


I would have gone with "British Beaver Has Controversial Close Shave."

Beavers are neat animals and are vital for watershed health... but are also not very compatible with modern infrastructure and farming. They are cute and cuddly right up until they build a dam in the culvert near your house and flood the neighborhood, at which point they get solved with a .22 or dynamite. Around here sadly they are basically managed as vermin. Before European settlement they covered most of North America, then were deliberately extirpated for both furs and land dispute reasons, and although their populations have mildly recovered they have since been kept "under control" by severe management.

But without beavers to build dams and create floodplain ponding, you don't get healthy riparian plant communities, you don't restrict sediment inputs into rivers, and you don't have extensive floodplain water storage and hyporheic exchange which together moderate water temperatures and mitigates both floods and droughts. It's a dilemma we haven't resolved -- you need the beavers for healthy ecosystems, but you can't have the beavers if you want to keep your roads, farms, and houses intact in their current forms and locations.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:25 AM on January 30 [6 favorites]


Have they asked it if it's a Narnian beaver?
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 6:29 AM on January 30 [3 favorites]


Big Damn Beavers 2,790 feet long.....
posted by T10B at 6:55 AM on January 30


Presumably it was found by the beaver patrol.
posted by w0mbat at 8:02 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


Coobeastie: "which allows me to imagine a beaver making itself comfortable on a Cross-Country train. "

That kind of thing happens quite a bit. Animals crawl up into truck or rail car attracted by some sort of unintentional bait (or even just the heat of the engine). When the vehicle starts moving they get paralyzed by fear and then they jump out at their first opportunity once the vehicle stops moving. Sometimes animals get struck by vehicles and get entangled in the grill.

verstegan: "increasing attacks on humans by beavers in Europe, leading to the death of a fisherman just last year?"

Holy crap that actually happened. No mention of the expected alcohol involvement but of course there was idiocy.
posted by Mitheral at 8:20 AM on January 30


They can be pretty dangerous, what with front teeth that can puncture femoral arteries, so I'm not terribly keen about getting near one anyway.

Yes. It is their lack of ears which makes them hard to fight. Nothing solid to grab hold of to control the head.
posted by phoque at 9:10 AM on January 30 [5 favorites]


I think the boffins are kind of overstating the benefits of the beaver, particularly wrt to flood control. To have any sort of effect on slowing floodwater implies an enormous population of beavers damming lots of tributaries and creating vast areas of wetland. The UK just doesn't have this kind of land reserve.
As well, beavers don't always build dams; if they're living on a watercourse that's too big they'll just build a lodge and just set about felling trees (soft, gnawable species like poplar) on the riverbanks.

That kind of thing happens quite a bit. Animals crawl up into truck or rail car attracted by some sort of unintentional bait

As their name implies, the beaver is a shy, seldom-seen creature so I think it's unlikely in this case. It sounds like this one in Devon had simply escaped from a nearby wildlife park.
posted by Flashman at 9:14 AM on January 30


I discovered a few years ago that there is at least one beaver who lives (or at least travels) in the storm sewer system that runs through my suburban St. Louis backyard. How I discovered it is that some apple trees I'd recently planted rather suddenly started losing branches and bark in the night to some creature with teeth. At first I thought it was rabbits (rabbits notoriously love to chew apple bark) so I wrapped the lower trunk and branches in trunk protectors and chicken wire. Then the bite marks started appearing farther up the tree. MUCH farther. Like, more than 3 feet above the ground. This was disturbing. Um, I said. ROUSes? I said. I wrapped the branches a bit higher. And then woke one morning to find one tree fallen, apparently BITTEN IN HALF.

Silly kids? With an axe? I still didn't quite catch on to what was going on. (I mean, BEAVERS? In the SEWER? In a decaying little post-industrial boomtown suburb with half the ground paved? Who would think such a thing?) But then one evening while I was out working in my garden, one of my neighbors called across the fence, "How's your beaver doing?"

(No really.)

And then she said that her dogs had been barking at night, and she'd come out to see a massive beaver crawl out of the storm sewer drain in my yard, bite a branch off of one of my trees, and drag it off into the sewer.

So much for my apple trees.

We have named the beaver Splinter.

(Luckily our Mutant Sewer Beaver appears to maintain his or her dam somewhere other than the main line of the storm sewer, as it has yet to flood.)
posted by BlueJae at 9:30 AM on January 30 [12 favorites]


There's a fair-sized beaver colony in the backwater of one of Seattle's most exclusive Lake Washington marinas. Their downed saplings regularly block exit by the smaller boats. I lived a few blocks away and would watch them gnawing, swimming, and towing branches on summer evenings. They only build lodges; there are no dammable streams entering or exiting Lake Washington on the Seattle side, just the currentless Ship Canal.

The nearby miniature wetland has one of the few surviving groups of native mud turtles, too. I've even seen river otters dragging half-rotten salmon carcasses around. All this in a major city (though not the most urbanized area).
posted by Dreidl at 9:50 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


which allows me to imagine a beaver making itself comfortable on a Cross-Country train.

That kind of thing happens quite a bit. Animals crawl up into truck or rail car attracted by some sort of unintentional bait (or even just the heat of the engine).


I assume coobeastie was referring to a specific CrossCountry train, who have Britain's longest rail journey: a route direct from Tayside to Devon in only 9 hours. While the trains are underspecificied for a journey of that length, it is vaguely preferable to living in a dark damp lodge and subsisting on rotted wood, but not by a huge amount.
posted by ambrosen at 11:23 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


I just don't understand reincarnation.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:08 PM on January 30


Where in the heck did the beaver come from?

As I commented before in an earlier post, I think it's time to reconsider some once dismissed theories.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:55 PM on January 30


To have any sort of effect on slowing floodwater implies an enormous population of beavers damming lots of tributaries and creating vast areas of wetland. The UK just doesn't have this kind of land reserve.

Well, in fairness to the beavers, the reason the UK doesn't have a reserve of land near rivers and streams is because they extirpated the beavers hundreds of years ago and channelized those waterways long ago. Had they never done so, there would be fantastic natural flood protection in place and plenty of unused riparian areas.

I don't have access to the articles from home, but the numbers on the amount of acre-feet of storage behind even small beaver complexes are startling. There is a modest amount of water stored in the ponds themselves, and massive amounts in the floodplains due to raised water tables. So the flood mitigation is larger than it might look on first glance, but equally the impact to human uses and infrastructure (which often depends on lowered water tables) is equally large.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:55 PM on January 30




As I commented before in an earlier post, I think it's time to reconsider some once dismissed theories.

No no. You see. The young beaver hatches. He goes up the poplar tree. He waits. The wind comes, he cocks his tail. The highly specialized glands under the tail, they fire up the silk for the first time. And Foom! The airspace from Calais to Dover? It is all beavers, as far as you can see.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:38 AM on January 31




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