North America beaver cull starts on advice from Tangling Rust

July 2014: Angling Trust welcomes decision to remove beavers from river

March 2012: Angling Trust urge Minister Benyon to halt spread of beaver

October 2009: Angling Trust policy against beavers


President Obama and Prime Minister Harper issue joint declaration to rid North America of beavers after briefing from Tangling Rust.

‘We hadn’t realised they were so awful’ said the premiers today ‘We thought there were lots of fish in our rivers and that beavers were native to them too. But clearly the thing that our rivers need is for certain elements of their natural fauna to be removed completely.  Evolution isn’t so great if it came up with idea of beavers in rivers and God must have been sleeping on the job if he put them there.’

The EU is poised to consider the status of the European Beaver ahead of any decisions on the future of Greece, the Euro or quantitative easing. Jean-Claude Juncker is believed to be asking Malta to take the lead on the beaver ‘Conservation by elimination’ project.  ‘This is a top priority’ he said, ‘we’re all beavering away like mad’.

David Cameron says he will not debate anything with anyone unless beavers are top of the list, ‘We’re the wettest government ever’ he claimed, ‘We are so beaver-friendly you just can’t believe it’.

A Tangling Rust spokesperson said ‘Don’t worry, we have a longer list of things that will have to go too – anything with a hooked beak, Kingfishers, herons (even those nice little white ones), Ospreys, Otters, Cormorants – shall I go on?  We want our rivers to be completely natural that’s why we want all the native species removed. It works with grouse shooting so it can work with fishing. Give us a river full of Rainbow Trout, Signal Crayfish and New Zealand Pigmyweed any time.’.

Meanwhile in Devon, the Devon Wildlife Trust chortled as the money came in.

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21 Replies to “North America beaver cull starts on advice from Tangling Rust”

  1. Mark for those of us living far from the great River Otter..can you disentangle this story please..first of all we get the beaver reprive story, then we get this?!..Which species are we talking about?..whats going on?..confused of Moffat.

  2. I think that while faintly amusing this misses the point. We all know that along with Lions, Hippos, Wolves and Bear, Beavers are/were native to the UK. I am sure that there is sense in trialling a reintroduction however I am not sure if there will be any chance of the trial being reversed. The badger arguements have rather shown how there is little common ground between various interests and groups. Beavers in the US and Canada live in the most part in wilderness, Devon although out of the way is not wilderness and there is a fear amongst landowners that flooding of large areas of floodplain etc might follow. I am sure some river catchments would suit both the beavers and the human population, where beavers compromised livelihoods would it be possible to relocate them?

    I think that wildlife management in the UK is a disaster, while a shooter myself I have a huge sympathy for much that is written about excess by you and your readers. I do however worry that on the other side of the debate we have Brian May suggesting contraception as a method of deer control. What is missing in this debate is consensus, the middle ground is where we all need to be.

    1. Beavers may mostly live in the wilderness in the US and Canada, but they certainly don't in western Europe. I've see lodges in France and the Czech Republic - Brittany was very like Devon, and the area of the Czech Republic (reasonably big river, flowing through high grade farmland and between small light industrial towns) was like large parts of the English lowlands.

      There are lessons to learn about how to manage beavers, but these lessons have nothing to do with any need for wilderness. Rather the opposite in fact; we need to re-learn how to live alongside them, not as far away from them as possible.

  3. This is a little too close to plausible. After all they're busy culling wolves in Canada right now ( Still, this reprieve for these five beavers seems like a tiny step in the right direction. Mind you a similar trial in Scotland has been made irrelevant by "beaver bombers" establishing a free population on the Tay. Well done them. The need for a trial to test the suitability of a native species escapes me, but I would welcome a similar study on non-native pheasants...

    1. "Well done them".

      I welcome the prospect of beavers becoming a part of our fauna once again but nevertheless do not approve of 'beaver bombers' taking things into their own hands. If people decide to do it off their own bat then there are potential risks such as the introduction of diseased stock (I have no idea if beavers are prone to carrying diseases that potentially could be transferred to other native rodents but it is certainly a possibility that needs to be considered) and we can't even be sure that they will not release Castor canadensis rather than C. fiber. It may have worked out ok on the Tay (and the original release there may have been accidental anyway) but, boring though it may seem, I'd strongly urge anyone wanting to introduce beavers onto other rivers to do it through the proper, licensed channels even if that means waiting a very long time to persuade the powers that be to give it a green light.

      1. I'm afraid that the unlicenced introductions are the result of 20 years' of unreasonable delays by MAFF and its successors. They thought up ever more inventive reasons not to grant licences - referring the animals to The Committee for Novel Organisms (their proper remit is applications for the release of GMOs) was the most absurd. Meanwhile the rest if Europe just got on with it, cautiously but successfully, for over 50 years.

        Beavers; carry next to no human or animal diseases, present no direct risk to humans, ecologically almost entirely beneficial, all too easy to eradicate. Not too difficult to keep in enclosures. Reintroduction proposed for conservation reasons; delay delay excuse delay for decades.

        Wild Boar; carry every disease known to man or pig, potentially dangerous if cornered and certainly bad news if you hit one in your car. Growing populations already troublesome in Europe, and well known for escaping. Mixed blessing ecologically. Very difficult to control in the wild. Introduction proposed for farming; prompt permissions granted. Escaped the next year.

        Mink; I don't know about their disease risk, but well known as a threat to domestic livestock. Known escape artists. Good reason to believe they would be ecologically damaging and certainly very hard to control. Introduction proposed for farming; prompt permissions granted. Escaped the next year.

        Signal Crayfish. Very difficult to control in the wild. Well known escape artists. Was Crayfish plague already known about? I don't know, but their impacts on fish and other river life were well known. Introduction proposed for farming; prompt permissions granted. Escaped the next year.

        See a pattern here?

        1. Bill, I am certainly not defending the record of MAFF/DEFRA with respect to introductions/reintroductions of species into the countryside - clearly it is a mess. I also fully understand people's frustration over foot dragging with respect to beaver reintroductions. Nevertheless, I stand by the view that we should not encourage people to circumvent the law and undertake clandestine releases of animals into the wild. People who think they are right and justified in their actions may, in some cases, actually be right but very often they are not. If we pat 'beaver bombers' on the back why should someone with a private but misguided hankering to set loose some other species on the British countryside not feel feel encouraged?

          1. Jonathan, I do take your point, but if I wanted to introduce something, all I'd have to do is dream up a vaguely plausible reason why I was going to do so in order to make money out of it. I could then quite legally introduce pretty much anything it seems - I could probably even get a grant. Then I, and everyone else, sit back and wait for the escape (whether I wanted the beasties to escape or not) .

            I don't know why anyone took the risk of an illegal introduction. If they'd said they were farming the beavers, they could have done so quite legally and with no monitoring or consultation.

      2. Quite. We have difficulty persuading "Them" to enforce wildlife crime law - so it seems particularly dim-witted to applaud wildlife crime when it suits.

  4. About 10 years ago I went to visit the beavers in Brittany, introduced circa 1960. The area reminded me very much of the fringes of Exmoor or Dartmoor, so not at all unlike the West Country though I don't know the river Otter. The locals clearly loved the beavers, with a beaver info centre, cafe, campsite, etc - everyone was making the most of the commercial opportunities.

    The river wasn't particularly large, maybe 2-4 m across and normally under 1m deep except where the beavers had made a small pool. The marshy areas were all 0.5ha or less and they were not an excessive number of them. Lodges were astonishingly inconspicuous - I was actively looking for them and almost walked past one. Their coppicing impacts were obvious however - but far from devastating, and basically amounted to what in the UK would have been the result of regular conservation volunteer work parties. A highlight was snorkelling downriver and looking at the dams underwater - they were amazingly well built, even down to being faced on the upstream side with turves all facing outwards. Nothing at all that would have impeded fish passage for any fish capable of living in a reasonably swift flowing stream. Basically it was hard to detect any adverse ecological impacts.

    I'm sure there were adverse impacts for the landowners, though if the loss of a few ha of what would already have been extremely marginal rough grazing land was critical to them despite the EU subsidies then one has to question the viability of their holdings even without beavers. Incidentally because beavers are after bark and shoots, they don't seem to damage things like fence posts - certainly they didn't in Brittany.

    I took my then 14 year old step daughter along, swimming the cold river with me on the only sunny day of a 2 week rain swept holiday, poor girl. She never complained ; as I said she'd have a tale to tell when she got home, I could guarantee that not one of her schoolmates could claim to have snorkelled on a beaver dam on their hols. And they were indeed all quite impressed. This trip completely convinced me of the immense human and ecological benefits of bringing beavers back, and the absolute practicality of doing so.

    Final point - clearly beavers can do damage in the wrong place, or in excessive numbers, just like wild boar can. I see it as essential that a robust but simple licencing system is put in place over the next 5 years or so to manage these impacts, as a balance needs to be struck between expanding wildlife populations and landowner interests just as with deer. I would see translocation as an initial win-win solution, but moving to trapping/shooting as beavers get more widely established - again just as with deer. We're some way off that point now, but talking before, rather than after, real conflict starts will help to keep that conflict to a minimum.

  5. Mixed emotions - as a naturalist I'm thrilled by yesterday's announcement, but as a fisherman I am embarrassed by the Angling Trust and feel I must point out that they do not represent the views of most anglers. The Angling Trust is of representative of angling as the Countryside Alliance is of people who live in rural areas. Little wonder that the moderate, science led Salmon and Trout Association keep the AT well at arm's length.

    Speaking of the STA, a while back they produced this briefing paper on beavers - it's very good.

  6. ahh the angling trust. the reason i stopped being an angler after 35 years of fishing. as i will not support any industry which is so utterly moronic, when it comes to our natural environment

  7. Like Ernest I am also an angler but and echo his thoughts regarding the Angling Trust. I was a member of the Anglers Conservation Association until it was subsumed into the AT. I loved the ACA as it pursued polluters through the courts for civic damages as a consequence of their actions - the sort of thing I would like to see the RSPB do against the owners of grouse moors that do not support any nesting hen harriers.

    The Wild Trout Trust get my money and support these days.

  8. I love Bill's Brittainy story. The problem I feel however is that there is no appetite to cull animals that are in the wrong place. If beavers prove a problem they will be there to stay. I do like the idea of snorkelling in a beaver pool and would love to see wild beavers in the UK.

    On another issue I find it interesting to note Bill's 'unreasonable delays' in licensing reintroductions, surely this is the raptor haters excuse. Wildlife law should be obeyed by all?

    1. Mark G, my point was that the least we should expect of MAFF/Defra is to be consistent. If it's Govt/NFU/AT policy to be ultra cautious, that should apply equally to all introductions. I could live with no beavers if we weren't plagued with legally introduced invaisive species.

      Having a policy that is more or less laisse faire for introductions proposed for private profit, regardless of likely public costs (incl to other landowners), but being extraordinarily cautious regarding introductions proposed for public good, regardless of successful experience elsewhere, is so unreasonable as to bring the law into serious disrepute.

      HH are indeed a similar case, but only in that yet again the inconsistency in applying the law works in favour of private profit not public good.

      It's a failure of democracy.


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