The countryside

Eager for beavers: the case for their reintroduction

Conservationists are frequently criticised for focusing on glamorous species at the expense of others equally important but unluckily uglier — pandas rather than pangolins, birds rather than bats, and monkeys rather than mole-rats. Europe’s frankly lumpy largest rodent, the European beaver, Castor fiber, is therefore fortunate to have found an ardent advocate in Derek Gow. Beavers have always attracted attention, generally of the wrong kind. Not only do they have lustrous pelts, and flesh edible even in times of fasting (because conveniently classified as ‘fish’) but castoreum, exuded from sacs near their anal glands, which they use to scent mark territory, was thought to have medico-mystical properties. Medieval apiarists believed