Eager Beavers

In South America, the Friendly Beaver Is an Enemy

In South America, the Friendly Beaver Is an Enemy

About seventy-five years ago, someone thought it would be a great idea to introduce beavers to Tierra del Fuego, at the southernmost tip of South America, so that it could be hunted for its fur. The 20 beavers brought over from Manitoba in 1940 have now multiplied to 150,000—even outnumbering the 134,000 human residents of the area.

As is usually the case, the well-intentioned people who introduced the beavers did not consider the vastly different ecosystem. The dams built by the invaders do not help the ecosystem as wetlands do not form due to the type of flora, and the forests of native Nothofagus trees are being destroyed by the beavers, which have no native predators. Residents of Patagonia are afraid of the species’ spread northward, as they have no difficulties crossing salt water on their trek to the mainland.

Seeing the devastation wrought by the busy little rodents in Tierra del Fuego, New Zealand has prohibited the introduction of the beaver under its Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act of 1996.