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Beavers in the cultivated landscape of Bavaria – landscape modellers without space

Beavers are very capable of modelling the land they live in: beaver dams flood and drench large areas, their burrows and dens increase the structure of river banks, and their cutting of trees creates clearings in the riverine forests. As positive as these activities are from a nature conservation point of view, never- theless beavers are causing problems, when active in a densely populated cultivated landscape: corn fields are flooded due to beaver dams, machinery and people may fall into beaver burrows, these burrows threaten the functionality of dikes, and the last trees disapper from the rivers.

In Bavaria, where a sucessful reintroduction program resulted in an expanding population of about 2000 beavers, the landscape modelling activies of these animals are very much restricted: beaver dams are removed on a regular basis, dens and burrows are filled, and trees covered with mesh wire. In some areas with very intensive human land use, the increasing number of problems caused by beaver activities lead to the demand of farmers, to remove the beaver completely from the cultivated landscape again.

In 1996, the first steps towards a professional beaver management were initiated to solve the conflicts between beavers and man. Main goal is to create unused areas along the rivers, not only for beavers, but mainly for the restoration of riverine forests for many other species. In locations, where this is not possible, technical measurements (e.g. draining beaver dams, securing dikes by beaver- proof wire mesh) can minimize problems. Additional public relations work is of great importance in order to bring the beaver and its way of live back in the awareness of the people.

These first steps towards a beaver management in Bavaria were very sucessful, and after many years of arguments over beavers between nature conservation and land users, there is a very good chance, that beaver activites will increasingly be tolerated, even the cultivated landscape of Bavaria, leading to richer and more natural habitat structures along the rivers.

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