Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Beaver is not a polite Canadian eh

It is melting everywhere right now and the roads are finally clear of snow. Down the road from us is a large beaver dam and it has been a pleasure to watch these diligent creatures build and repair it and the small lake that is forming around it. There are several beaver lodges around here and they are truly the landscape artists of the Canadian forests. However this creature, our national symbol, is not like most Canadian's when they travel abroad, polite and self-effacing and generally well thought of by non-Canadians. No, it has made a really bad name for itself. Another example of man interfering with nature.

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.

One of the main differences between the two is that Canadian beavers build dams -- sometimes huge structures up to hundreds of metres in length -- while European beavers generally don't. As a result, the Canadian beavers are changing the Russian ecology in unpredictable ways. Causing floods in the surrounding territory, causing major environmental damage. Scientists are worried the beavers could damage Russian canals and farms, changing the composition of rivers, and threatening commercial forests. They acknowledge, however, that the beavers could have positive effects. In areas that have become dried out by logging, beavers can help restore wetlands, creating havens for animals and resting spots for migrating birds.

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


Liz said...

Oh my, who'd have thought it? I thought all beavers built dams. But that's as far as my knowldge of beavers goes, and that's from storybooks!

How amazing to have such wildlife about you though!

Jeni said...

"Uncivilized brutes," huh? I had to chuckle over that one. Also, 25 pairs of beavers produced how many thousand more? WOw, that is incredible!
You know, it is really amazing the amount of knowledge I am accruing now about the flora and fawna surrounding us just from reading the writings of bloggers on my "favorites" list. Keep up the good work there!

Gene Bach said...

And with no real fur market anymore there is little incentive for anyone to trap them on a private enterprise level.

Claire said...

Oh my beavers would love to hear this story, I mean Beaver Scouts just in case anyone gets funny ideas.
You are becoming a natural world oracle vic!


We were riding horses up in northern California, following a river, and came across an active beaver dam. It was really neat. I love reading the items you post, because, I too, am learning a lot!

The Overworked Barista said...

I shall pass this on to my sister as she is quite literally marrying into a Beaver family next weekend.

She should know what she's getting into!

Hugh Williams said...

I found it. You do have beavers in your area. What luck, I wish we had them here. Go to the Blog site "mtkass" "The Canadian Beaver - pest or benefactor" for another take on the "sacred centre of the earth" (Indian name for the beaver).