By Olaus Johan Murie
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Additional resources for A Field Guide to Animal Tracks
I had never seen a beaver dam or a beaver lodge before. Films and photographs, yes, but not an actual dam, an actual lodge, the actual pile of the actual sticks, sticks welded together into the actual pile none-too-prettily with actual mud. ) “I am not even sure this is what I think it is,” I reassured myself. But nothing else explained its presence, and besides, there had been rumours, and there was that canoeist’s video clip on YouTube reputedly filmed not far from here. I knew there were beavers in Argyll, I knew there were beavers widely scattered across the Tay catchment, but both of these were improbably distant from Callander.
As the acorn, falling on favourable soil, sends forth the slender shoot, which time and circumstance may model into a grotesque fetish for minds ignorant, or forgetful of the simplicity of the origin, so the facts of science, if nurtured by tradition, soon lose shape, and multitudes venerate the fabulous stories of dragon or beaver, with total disregard to outraged reason. You have been warned. So you are invited to substitute the word Scot or Briton as you see fit in the first line (for the sentiment is no less true here), and harken to the voices of outraged reason.
At the time, that coalition of SNH, Forestry Commission, Scottish Wildlife Trust and Edinburgh Zoo had just embarked on the process to establish a trial release of beavers at Knapdale in Argyll. In their own eyes, these were “the legal beavers”. The cost of the trial was a source of some public disquiet, and some of the more restless natives were talking out loud about direct action. One conversation that reached my ears in a roundabout fashion seemed to suggest it would be very easy to do the job of beaver reintroduction for nothing at all.