Chewing through a continent

Beavers’ revenge: Once extinct, beavers are now blamed for widespread damage

Thomas Peter/Reuters

It appears that the beaver is a vengeful creature. Once hunted into extinction throughout parts of Europe, it is now exacting revenge by gnawing through dikes and causing rivers to flood. Beavers have also been blamed for the delay in the construction of a bridge in Dresden, Germany, while in Bavaria they have released hundreds of tonnes of untreated feces into a river after tunnelling their way into a sewage site.

The irony is that conservationists went to great lengths to reintroduce the European beaver back into the wild just a decade ago. Now, with Europe reeling from devastating floods, they have become public enemy No. 1. “The beavers have been digging tunnels into the flood defences,” noted Pawel Fratczak of the national fire brigade in Poland, which has committed $636 million to fend off the water. “They are sapping the walls from the inside and they are being assisted by water voles.” Authorities have since raised hunting quotas, yet the beavers aren’t going quietly. In Dresden, a beaver family was recently spotted near the wooden support beams of the bridge, igniting fears that the columns will soon be destroyed by the rodents.