About The Eurasian Beaver
The Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) is native to Wales with a distribution that extends from Britain across Europe and into China and Mongolia. Beavers are large, semi-aquatic rodents and adults weigh on average around 25kg. Beavers are often active at dawn and dusk where they spend a majority of their time in or near water. They rarely venture further than 20 metres away from water with 98% of their activity occurring with 20 metres of the water’s edge.
Beavers were once found throughout Wales, but in medieval times they were highly prized for their meat, fur and scent organs. Their soft fur was valued for hats, the meat and tail for food. As beavers are aquatic they were considered to be a fish and could therefore be eaten on a Friday! Beavers were also used for medicinal purposes due to the castoreum oil that they produce for scent making. This oil contains a component similar to acetylsalicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin. Unfortunately, this hunting was unsustainable and during the Middle Ages beavers became extinct in Wales.
Beavers in Wales
The Welsh Beaver Project has been investigating the feasibility of bringing wild beavers back to Wales since 2005. This work is being led by North Wales Wildlife Trust on behalf of all five Wildlife Trusts in Wales as part of our Living Landscapes strategy and we now hope to undertake a managed reintroduction to Wales.
“Beavers are known as nature's engineers. They make changes to their habitats which create diverse wetlands for other species to thrive."
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Why are Beavers important?
Beavers were once widespread across the Wales, but due to over hunting by humans for their fur, meat and scent glands they became extinct after the Middle Ages in Wales and by the end of the 16th Century they were extinct from the rest of Britain.
Beavers are very special animals because they play a vital role in enriching biodiversity by restoring and managing river and wetland ecosystems. They are known as a ‘keystone species’ because their activities can benefit a wide range of other animals and plants that live in rivers and wetlands.
The Welsh Beaver Project
The recent decision by the Scottish Government to formally recognise the Eurasian beaver as a native species has been welcomed by The Wildlife Trusts in Wales. This is the first formal mammal reintroduction in UK history and it will have positive implications for reintroducing beavers to Wales.
The Welsh Beaver Project has been working with a range of different organisations and it has been investigating the suitability of potential release sites across Wales.
Alicia Leow-Dyke, The Welsh Beaver Project Officer says, "The Welsh Beaver Project is now working with a partner organisation and A licence application is now with Natural Resources Wales who are currently assessing it. We’re hoping to carry out a reintroduction as soon as possible and need funding in order to do this. There is more work to do, including preparing sites, training volunteers, developing opportunities for education and recreation, as well as sourcing, checking and releasing beavers; the list goes on. We now need a final push to get our beavers back home - that’s where the mugs come in."
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