Return of the Beaver

Flooded riverside forests are a paradise for many plants and animals. Gnarled oaks and elms grow there and beavers build their lodges. At dusk bats go hunting and the mating call of the tree frog can be heard for miles. But in Germany the ecological balance of many riverside meadows has been destroyed: most of the natural riverside forests have been transformed into cultivated forests. Dykes block the natural flooding of the woods. In the Lenzen Elbe Valley Meadow - between Schnackenburg and Lenzen about 450 hectares of flooding area have been given back to the river. The beaver has returned there and the rare singing swan has settled in the bordering marshes again.


The beaver is one of the symbolic animals of the DUH Living Elbe project. We ensure that rivers can work again, that obstacles for migrant fish are removed and that people can rediscover nature in and around their rivers.


Description of the beaver


Appearance: thick-set body, grey to dark-brown or black, flat tail, webbed feet on hind legs. Length and weight: 75 to 90 cm; largest rodent in Europe, 18 to 30 kg. Hair density: 23,000 hairs per sq cm on the belly, 12,000 on the back. This fine, thick fur keeps the animal warm and dry and has made beaver fur very popular.


Behaviour: excellent swimmers and divers. Live in families; the young remain with their parents for the first two years. Active at night. Cut down trees. On rivers they build lodges, in marshes and ponds burrows from layers of plant materials with underwater access and a dry living area. They build dams up to 100m in length and 1m high which regulate the water level exactly. They are the only mammals apart from elephants which actively adapt their surroundings to their needs, thereby changing the landscape considerably.


Food: Bark, branches and leaves of softwood trees; water and marsh plants as well as crops. They store logs and twigs underwater for winter.


Threat: Hunted for fur, meat and castor all over Europe and Asia until the end of the 19th century, the beaver has only survived in the lower reaches of the Rhone, the Central Elbe, in Southern Norway and in five regions further east.


Successful Environmental Protection: intensive protection and with the help of naturalisation the beaver has regained its previous habitats. It is the DUH’s symbol of successful protection of the environment. To ensure that the beaver once again becomes indigenous everywhere, the DUH has organised the “Beaver Protection for Living Rivers and Streams” campaign.