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Reintroductions in Europe

By the beginning of the 20th century, hunting had reduced the population of beaver in Europe to a low ebb of some 1000 individuals. Then reintroductions began in Sweden, as long ago as 1922.

The re-introduction ‘where feasible’ of extinct species is an obligation placed upon national governments by the 1984 European Habitats Directive.

Over the last 80 years, beaver have been reintroduced to many countries on mainland Europe, as illustrated in Table I.

Distribution of Beaver in Europe

Locations of relic populations are marked in black: 1 Castor fiber fiber; 2 Castor fiber albicus; 3 Castor fiber galliae; 4 Castor fiber belarusicus. Red shading represents the present range of Castor fiber. Brown shading represents the range of Castor canadensis in Finland. Squares are reintroduction sites where range has not yet spread significantly.

The population of European Beaver stood at over 600,000 by 2003, occupying a wide range of wetland habitat from mountainous upland to neo-urban parks.

Britain, Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Portugal and Italy are the only remaining countries in its natural range in Europe where it is not yet present.

Table 1    The History and Present Status of European Beaver

Country
Date of Extinction
Date when Protection Accorded

Re-introductionand/or Translocation Dates

Present Population

Size
Albania unknown 0
Austria 1869 1970-90 over 1300
Belarus remnant 1922 24000
Belgium 1948 1998-99 100-130
Bosnia & Herzegovina unknown 2005 40
Bulgaria unknown 0
Croatia 1857? 1996-98 150
Czech Rep 17th century 1991-2, 1996 300
Denmark c500BC 2 1999 75
England pre 12th century (2002 fenced) (6)
Estonia 1841 1957 10000
Finland 1868 1868 1935-37, 1995 1500
France remnant 1909 1959-95 7000-10000
Germany remnant 1910 1936-40, 1966-89 8000-10000
Greece unknown 0
Hungary 1865 1980-2000 70
Italy 1541 proposed 0
Kazakhstan unknown 1000
Latvia 1830s 1927-52, 1975-84 50000
Lithuania 1938 1947-59 32000-50000
Luxembourg unknown 2000 3 less than 10
Macedonia unknown 0
Mongolia & China(Xinjiang) remnant 1959-85 800
Netherlands 1826 1988-2000 over150
Norway remnant 1845 1925-32, 1952-56 over 70000
Poland 1844 1923 1943-49, 1975-86 17000
Portugal unknown 0
Romania 1824? 1998-99 over 28
Russia remnant 1922 1927-33, 1934-41, 1946-64 232000-300000
Scotland 16th century Trail underway 2009 20
Serbia 1903? 2004-2006 60
Slovakia 1851 1995 over 500
Slovenia unknown 2000 5 less than 10
Spain c1600 2003 over 30
Sweden 1871 1873 1922-39 over 100000
Switzerland 1820 1956-77 over 350
Ukraine remnant 1922 6000
Wales 15th century Proposed 0

1  Beavers have also probably immigrated from Croatia along the Sava, where beaver are present to the Bosnian border.

2  Based on subfossil remains. Philological evidence from placenames suggests a remnant may have survived as late as the 11th century.

3  Natural spread from Belgium.

4  In final planning stages.

5  Natural spread from Croatia.

Further Information

Halley, D.J. & Rosell, F. (2002). The beaver’s reconquest of Eurasia: status, population development and management of a conservation success. Mammal Review 32:153-178.

Hartman, G. (1994). Ecological studies of a reintroduced beaver Castor fiber population. Ph.D. thesis, Swedish University for Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala. Nolet, B. & Rosell, F. (1998).