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Beavers and people: lessons from Bavaria

Posted: Wednesday 15th November 2017 by DevonWildlifeTrust

Jake Chant - River Otter Beaver Trial OfficerJake Chant has been to see beavers in Bavaria

River Otter beaver Trial Field Officer Jake Chant recently took a fact-finding trip to Bavaria to see how people and beavers there are co-existing

My name is Jake Chant and I’m the Field Officer for the River Otter Beaver Trial. I’ve just come back from a trip to Bavaria.

Bavaria is a large state, about the size of the Republic of Ireland, in the South East of Germany. Beavers became extinct there in 1869 and were re-introduced in 1966.

The beaver population in Bavaria is now over 20,000. The purpose of the trip was to learn how people in Bavaria co-exist with beavers.

This image (above) shows a beaver pond in the Bavarian hills. A family of beavers live in the lodge at the centre of the pond. The beavers create habitats that support a huge range of other species including fish, birds and insects.

Here (above) we see the River Danube, Europe’s second largest river, as it runs through Bavaria. Beavers live in the river and build bankside lodges.

The pile of sticks at the side of the river make up part of a lodge. The lodge provides a home for the beavers and a safe habitat for small fish to shelter from predation. The beavers mainly eat willow which grows on the banks and on the islands within the river.

Beavers also live in ditches around farmland in the Danube floodplain (above). We visited a farmer who grew maize, hops and wheat. As beavers are a protected species in Germany the farmer could not shoot or remove the beavers. He could, however, remove dams that were located away from the main family lodge. This enabled him to continue to farm the area.

Occasionally beavers end up in areas where they can’t be tolerated, such as sewage works or hydroelectric power stations. When this happens, the beavers are caught in traps and removed to holding pens (above). These beavers have become the source of many re-introduction projects across Europe.

The habitats at the bottom of this small valley (above) have been created by beavers. The land was purchased by the government to offset habitats lost during a housing development in the small town nearby.

Beavers moved into their new home and created a number of large ponds and other wetland habitats. Villages and towns downstream of beaver-made wetlands like this can spend less on flood defence infrastructure because the beavers made habitats holds back lots of water.


Please find more about and support the River Otter Beaver Trial and its pioneering work with these animals in the UK.

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