The Canadian beaver which were introduced in the '50 and '60s into Finland and Sweden, where there were no native beaver population and no natural predators , have caused heavy damage to commercial forestry in some regions, with dams flooding forests and killing valuable trees. The onslaught of transplanted Canadian beavers across the northern tip of Europe is advancing southward, ousting Russia's native beaver population and creating fears of damage to forests and farms. Russian scientists say their country has become the world's only battleground between Canadian and European beavers. So far, Canada's national symbol is winning. It is an invasion by a species, and their pressure is forcing out the European species and changing the ecosystem. The European environment is not ready for the activity of Canadian beavers.
Beginning about 25 years ago, they spread from Finland into the northern Russian region of Karelia, where they continued to expand. Up to 20,000 Canadian beavers are believed to be thriving in northwestern Russia today, and scientists predict they will soon march further south, shoving out European beavers as they go. Canadian beavers have more stamina and flexibility, they are more active and they can survive better than the European beaver.
This isn't the first time the furry Canadian rodent has provoked foreign anxieties. In 1946, Argentina imported 25 pairs from Canada to help the fur industry in Tierra del Fuego. By the 1990s, the original 25 pairs had multiplied to 50,000 on the Argentinian side. Their dams were flooding forests and roads, eroding farmland and creating alarm among scientists who feared the beavers would swim to the South American mainland and take over the Andean forests.
Other countries have been quick to guard against the Canadian beast. When an English wildlife trust decided last year to reintroduce beavers in wetlands (almost 1,000 years after beavers became extinct there), it deliberately chose the European beaver. One British newspaper sniffed that the Canadian beavers were "uncivilized brutes."
Edited from clip from The Globe and Mail (Canada)
January 22, 2002
This winter, a cherished symbol of Canada is rolling through Europe with a
By GEOFFREY YORK