From reading past Beaver Trust blogs you’ll have learned about the positive impact that beavers can have on our environment, from mitigating flooding events, to creating new habitats that support a variety of other species. It’s clear to us nature lovers that beavers are pretty darn amazing… but what about the people that don’t know much about ecology? Or those who have been told horror stories about the ‘destruction’ that beavers cause?
It’s easy to forget that differing views can come from a place of fear and, often, misinformation. Much of the opposition to beaver reintroductions comes from landowners and local communities with legitimate worries that their way of life might be challenged by the presence of beavers. So, how do we get them on side?
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of working at Loch of the Lowes Nature Reserve as a Beaver Interpretation Officer. The beaver population here was growing, and as many may know, this population was not part of the official Scottish reintroduction project. Therefore, in order to alleviate the concerns that many local people had, I delivered ‘Beaver Watch’ events. During these sessions we discussed everything from the beavers’ brutal history, to the behavioural differences between Eurasian and American beavers, and of course the positive impact that these amazing animals can have on the environment.
The evening event, hosted in a special “Crannog” wildlife hide, culminated in a spotting session looking over the loch. Each night we watched mesmerising sunsets with Ospreys overhead and red squirrels in the trees around us; only a beaver could top this truly wild experience.
I have many fond memories from this time, not least of all the way my volunteers treated spotting the beavers like an undercover operation. Fuelled with tea and biscuits, they donned their radios and binoculars and made sure every single visitor caught sight of a beaver during our sessions.
It’s a magical experience to watch any animal in the wild, but considering their 400-year local extinction, spotting a wild beaver in the UK is A BIG DEAL. You won’t forget the sight of a beaver swimming easily… alright, you might be fooled by the odd duck, but there’s really nothing that compares to the smooth and purposeful wake made by a beaver heading for an evening feed.
I can remember the excitement building each night and my failed attempts to contain the oh’s and ah’s of my visitors as they caught sight of their first wild beaver. Occasionally our subject would dive down (and they can stay underwater for up to 15 minutes), but this would only make the group more determined to see another. Being able to help them connect with their local nature was a true privilege, and I know that I ignited a love for these wonderful animals in many people throughout our Beaver Watches.
I’m now living in Australia and despite the distance I am still inspired by beavers on a daily basis. Here, I can unfortunately see the fate of the enigmatic platypus going in a similar direction as our beavers did almost 400 years ago. The UK is now in the midst of an unprecedented opportunity to turn the tides on environmental degradation. I see the reintroduction of beavers as a key part of this and I can’t wait for the day we all have the opportunity to see these beautiful, if not a tad toothy, mammals thriving in the wild.*
(*This blog is written by an independent writer. Beaver Trust welcomes a breadth of opinions, and those expressed within this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the Beaver Trust.)
Jenny Mann Beaver Believer
Jennifer is a conservationist with experience in protected area management and a passion for landscape restoration. She has worked with the Scottish Wildlife Trust managing protected species and delivering environmental education events. Now, based in Australia, she works as a Ranger with Parks Victoria.
#beavers #beaverbelievers #beavolution
© Jenny Mann 2020.