Beavers in Spain

European beaver: castor europeo (Castor fiber)

See also news stories on Spanish beavers

A small but growing numbers of beavers currently live along the River Aragon and River Cidacos between La Rioja, Aragon and Navarra. They were introduced illegally, probably by a group of European beaver activists. The first signs were detected in 2005 by a mammal researcher who was studying the European mink in the area. To his sheer amazement, he came across the tell-tale signs of gnawed trunk. The beavers began to flourish in what is prime habitat. A timid plan was begun in 2009 to try to control their expansion by live trapping. The EU gave its backing to the cull to avoid setting a precedent, which might open the door to illegal reintroductions of wildlife across Europe, not because these beavers have caused a lot of damage.

Beavers were once present throughout the peninsula. Strabo quotes them in his Geography (1st Century AD):

Iberia produces many deer and wild horses. In places, also, its marshes teem with life; and there are birds, swans and the like; and also bustards in great numbers. As for beavers, the rivers produce them, but the castor from these beavers does not have the same efficacy as that from the beavers of the Pontus”.

Basque beaver pellets were still an imported item in medieval Britain, and documentary records suggest beavers survived in Spain until the 17th century. So although the introduction of the animals was clearly illegal and irresponsible I believe that Spain should now protect its new beaver population as it would any other species of native fauna. Surely, there is an opportunity here for a wildlife tourism venture based around beaver watching.

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