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Eurasian Beaver

The issues surrounding the reintroduction of this species have been the subject of an extensive programme of work, now summarised in our 'Beavers in Scotland' report. You can also find out more, and see the final outputs from the work of the Scottish Beaver Trial, the Tayside Beaver Study Group, and the Beaver Salmonid Working Group, in our dedicated beaver web pages.

Species background

The Eurasian or European beaver (Castor fiber) is a large, semi-aquatic rodent which became extinct in Scotland about 400 years ago.

Habitat, distribution and abundance

The Eurasian beaver inhabits riparian broadleaved woodland bordering freshwater standing waters or slow-moving streams.  It occurs from western Europe eastwards to the Chinese-Mongolian border region. The total world population is now thought to be close to a million, but this is heavily weighted towards eastern Europe. 

General ecology

It is totally herbivorous, and will feed on herbaceous and woody, broadleaved species. They favour burrows in banks as nesting places, but may build lodges of piled logs where they are unable to burrow.  Beavers sometimes dam streams to maintain water levels and construct canals which allow them to travel further away from the main body of water.

The animal is monogamous and lives in family groups. 

The European beaver is an 'ecosystem engineer' and its restoration would be beneficial to a wide range of species and habitats. However they would also present challenges for some aspects of land use.

History of decline, contributory factors and current threats

European beaver appears to have once been widespread throughout Britain, including Scotland.  There are some paleontological and archaeological remains which, together with written historical information, suggest that it was present here until the early 16th century.  Its extinction is believed to have resulted primarily from over-hunting, particularly for the valuable pelts.

Last updated on Friday 27th November 2015 at 10:17 AM. Click here to comment on this page