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
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
Date of Extinction
Date when Protection Accorded
Re-introductionand/or Translocation Dates
|Bosnia & Herzegovina||unknown||–||2005||40|
|Czech Rep||17th century||–||1991-2, 1996||300|
|England||pre 12th century||–||(2002 fenced)||(6)|
|Luxembourg||unknown||–||2000 3||less than 10|
|Mongolia & China(Xinjiang)||remnant||–||1959-85||800|
|Norway||remnant||1845||1925-32, 1952-56||over 70000|
|Russia||remnant||1922||1927-33, 1934-41, 1946-64||232000-300000|
|Scotland||16th century||–||Trail underway 2009||20|
|Slovenia||unknown||–||2000 5||less than 10|
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.
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).