Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dangerous immigrants

You probably came here expecting a post about turkeys. But readers of this blog should already be well informed about the dangers of our national Thanksgiving dish. If not, I'm leaving you to catch up in the archives, because today's story is also a timely one.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, there's been talk about why we don't have walls to hold back the sea in low-lying areas, like the sensible Dutch. But now Dutch planning and foresight are being threatened by an American native: the beaver.

Beavers were deliberately brought to the Netherlands by people who thought they'd improve the ecosystem, and who had apparently not read the history of introduced species like the cane toad, rabbits, camels, squirrels...

The beavers supposedly have the benefit of clearing understory and creating ponds that allow other wildlife to thrive. But they've also got other ideas:
The Netherlands' famous dykes protect the land from being flooded: without these sea defences huge swathes of the country would be underwater.
In areas where the dykes are directly connected to the water, the beavers are starting to burrow through the ground.
A beaver expert suggests using stones or mesh to stop the critters from burrowing. But these rodents breed like, well, rodents, and the current population of around 700 is expected to grow to 7000 by 2032.

We can only wish them good luck, because that's going to take a whole lot of stones.

Rodent with destruction on its mind by Flickr user Tancread.


  1. One small correction - beavers are also native across Europe and Russia, but were wiped out across much of their range by fur trappers. Various reintroduction projects are underway, including one in Scotland, and have been fairly succesful. So this is not so much a story of dabgerous foreigners, and more revenge of the angry beavers.

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