News has been released today (El Pais) of the existence of a secret colony of beavers in Spain, and the plan to eradicate it. The beavers currently live along the River Aragon and River Cidacos between La Rioja, Aragon and Navarra. The plan to eradicate the beaver is polemical because although it seems they were introduced illegally, probally by a group of European beaver enthusiants, the beaver inhabited these rivers untill some 300 years ago. Under normal circumstances the beaver would be protected by European law. In this case, the EU has given its backing to the cull to avoid setting a precedent, which might open the door to alegal reintroductions of wildlife across Europe, not particularly because these beavers have been causing a lot of damage.
The first signs were detected in 2005 by mammal researcher Juan Carlos Ceña who was studying the European mink in the area. To his amazament, he came across the tell-tale signs of gnawed trunck.
I have known about the beaver colony for over a year now but I promised the people in charge of monitoring the species that I wouldn’t write anything about it as publicity could increase the likelihood of their eradication. I originally began to research beavers in Spain after coming across this quote by Strabo in his Geography (1 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 …And it is peculiar to Iberia , according to Poseidonius, that the crows are black there and also that the slightly dappled horses of Celtiberia change their colour when they brought over to Farther Iberia”.
Basque beaver pellets were an imported item in medieval Britian. Documentary records suggest beavers survived in Spain until the 17th century at least. Read the follow up to this article by Duncan Halley