Walking along the Isar and Würm rivers in Munich you can see the remnants of trees that have been felled by the resident, nonhuman “ecological engineers.” Conservationists are delighted by the success of beaver reintroduction programs, but residents on the receiving end of beaver-related damage and safety hazards are beginning to find cause for complaint. Even the Deutsches Museum has been affected—the leveling of shores surrounding the museum, necessary for vital restoration work, caused concern given the protected status of resident beavers. However, it seems that the landscaping did little harm, and the animals remain a popular feature of city tours of the area. Where the construction and feeding activity of beavers meets human spaces and agriculture, problems are bound to arise. Scientists in northwest Germany, with the help of ecotourists, are analyzing the expanding beaver populations in the hope of understanding how best to mitigate future conflicts.
There is also another especially timely reason to turn our attention to beavers right now—in the meat-free forty days of Lent, beaver is (historically) fair game. Apparently—along with other “amphibious” animals like otter, and barnacle geese (a whole other story)—beaver is aquatic enough to constitute a non-meat addition to the Lent menu. We once hunted them to near-extinction, but could beavers again become so numerous that they reappear on our menus? If you want to know a bit more about the fascinating history of beavers at lent (and what beaver tastes like), take a look at former RCC Board member Dolly Jørgensen’s 2014 blog post!