This hated animal came close to extinction, but now it provides a solution to drought and much more

Maligned, slaughtered for its fur and threatened, this animal is today an incredible asset against drought and for agriculture.

This hated animal came close to extinction, but now it provides a solution to drought and much more

Maligned, slaughtered for its fur and threatened, this animal is today an incredible asset against drought and for agriculture.

Although it appears today to be essential to ecosystems, this animal has not always gotten along well with humans, quite the contrary. The species even almost disappeared in the United States, due to being a victim of trapping and the lucrative fur trade that resulted from it. For decades it was shot, poisoned and mothers were even dynamited. All this with one goal: to eradicate the species from its original territory and prevent it from touching farmers' lands.

This animal, once threatened with extinction and today described as "nature's firefighter", is the beaver. “From the 1950s until this year, beavers have been recorded as predators in Oregon,” explains Jeff Baldwin, professor of geography at Sonoma University in California, who has published numerous studies on beavers. subject. Clearly, in Oregon, “if an animal is a predator, you can kill it,” he summarized in the columns of the BBC. But everything has changed. A “believer in beaver” bill was passed in Oregon in 2023, changing the status of rodents: it is now illegal to kill them without a permit. A project viewed very negatively by local farmers, initially.

Once numbering between 100 and 200 million, beavers saw their global population plummet to fewer than 100,000 in the 20th century. Extinction seemed inevitable. But thanks to the fights of NGOs, government agencies are starting to take a new look, just like the public. “There are a lot of misconceptions about beavers, but that’s starting to change,” said Peggy Darr, who runs a nonprofit program on beaver reintroduction in New Mexico. In public opinion, for example, the beaver attacks any type of tree, completely false information.

In reality, beavers are essential to ecosystems everywhere. Their construction of dams makes it possible to irrigate parched landscapes, regulate water flow, but also keep fires under control. Beavers create deep ponds by building dams, but they also dig long, thin channels that gradually spread water across landscapes. The slow flow of water allows time for the soil to absorb it, which encourages both plant growth and wildlife to flourish, but also acts as a firebreak when the soil is wet. Additionally, beavers in wetlands provide habitat for other animals like otters, turtles, or fish. In short, a formidable ally for agriculture in the face of drought.

Ecohydrologist Emily Fairfax studies how water interacts with the surrounding ecosystem. In particular, she examined aerial photos of Western states where significant wildfires and droughts have occurred. Amidst the chaos, green spots were visible. These were areas surrounded by beaver dams. Today, beavers are protected in France and in many European countries. The beaver population is estimated at 20 million worldwide.

NEXT NEWS