All About Our Beavers.
Just for once this is a post which isn’t about food, wine, bars or restaurants nor is it about life in our village of Le Puy Notre Dame here in the Loire which, funnily enough, often features food, wine, bars or restaurants!
No, this is about beavers. To be precise the European beaver, (Castor fiber), or as it is known in French ‘le castor’.
These highly protected animals were reintroduced to the Loire between 1974 and 1976 and have been making a slow and steady comeback. They are now firmly established at thirty sites on the rivers and waterways between Nantes and Montsoreau.
They are appreciated by wildlife fans of all persuasions for the way in which they transform habitats, making a perfect home for waterbirds and other species of mammals, amphibians and reptiles thus greatly increasing the richness and diversity of that particular corner of our countryside. However, they are not universally popular as their obsessive work ethic leads not only to a wonderful home for themselves and other creatures but to much gnashing of teeth from local farmers when the beaver-lodges dam a stream and subsequently cause flooded pasture or arable land. This is exactly the problem which has arisen in nearby Distré (about ten kilometres from here) where hard-working beavers have dammed a tributary of the river Thouet, The Douet, in several places. .
We once saw two of these creatures swimming in the Loire in Saumur when we arrived to sign for our first house in France, the memory of that evening has stayed with us forever. (There was also a pine-martin which was in a tree next to the bedroom window).
Anyway the story at Distré has developed in so much that the mayor, Mr. Touron, has now appealed to the Prefecture to permit the village to do something about the problem whilst the LPO, the French (bird protection league), and other environmental groups, are strenuously defending the status quo. The village argues that the LPO has reneged on its promise to manage the area affected by the beavers whilst one resident has now had to evacuate his cave and pumps have to be continually employed to prevent a farmhouse from being flooded. The mayor has said that if any resident obstructs the drainage of a village he breaks the law in France and that therefore the castor should be arrested and sent for trial whilst, ominously for the hard working animals, given the propensity for the French to regard the countryside as a larder, someone else has written to the local paper saying that he can remember eating beaver as a child. That is, he was a child, not the beaver!
Perhaps the solution to the impassé will be found if 2013 reverts to our normal hot and dry weather conditions as the problems of excess water created by the beaver dams may in fact be beneficial in drought conditions. We shall keep our eye on the situation as it develops but it would be sad if a solution cannot be found to enable this, most charming of animals, to continue their hardworking lives.