For centuries, Italy has been without presence of beavers. Now, wildlife researchers have been able to capture the first wild beaver on film. Using camera traps, they saw the male beaver several times in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. The individual most likely made its way from Austria to Italy, as reported by The Local.it, after 450 years of beaver-absence.
Please also read: Beavers as wetland architects in Europe
Ponta the pioneer
When locals noticed unusual bite marks on trees in the Tarvisiano woods, they alerted wildlife experts. They installed hidden camera traps to find out whether the animal was still residing in the region. Indeed, the beaver appeared multiple times on the recordings. Researchers named the beaver ‘Ponta’, referring to the photographer that saw it at first. The beaver, so far living by himself, is a pioneer in the region. It will become a wetland architect in one of the most important wildlife corridors between Italy and the rest of the Alps.
Beaver return in Europe
Historically, beavers used to be very common all across Europe. However, due to hunting, beavers became almost extinct. In several countries, reintroduction projects successfully brought back the beaver. In Italy, the beaver remained absent, until now.
Many Italians did not realise the beaver was absent, as a related species from South America invaded the rivers in Rome and other areas. This animal, the coypu, looks similar to the beaver, besides the characteristic tail. Many people, especially in rural regions, see the coypu as a pest. It is thus very important to inform and educate the general public, to avoid conflicts with the new Italian inhabitant.
The beaver is not the only animal returning to new territories in Italy. Earlier, a wolf pack established itself right next to Rome. Researchers observed newborns in 2018, meaning that the pack is doing well. Nevertheless, the Italian wolf population remains under pressure, as illegal poaching continues to occur, and natural crossbreeds are seen as a genetic threat for the future. Fortunately, there are also good Wilderness developments in Italy. Majella Wilderness, one of the oldest partners in the European Wilderness Network, was re-audited this year successfully. In 2019 we will jointly organise the next edition of WILDArt.