Tenuous they may seem, but there are definite tree connections in a collection of quaint tales to appear recently in the national press, writes Dr Terry Mabbett.

SOME four centuries ago, the last beaver on Exmoor was cornered by hunting dogs and killed, stripped of its fur for a hat, its flesh to feed a family and relieved of its anal gland for the highly perfumed fluid content castoreum. However, before the beaver died, this terminator of trees must have shouted “I’ll be back”, for back it now is and with a vengeance, having already been re-introduced at a number of sites around the British Isles. The reintroduction of beavers on Exmoor in West Somerset is particularly special because a pair bred there this year, produced a ‘kit’ (baby beaver) in spring – the first beaver kit to be born on Exmoor for at least 400 years.

Forestry Journal: Across Great Britain, beavers are making a comeback.Across Great Britain, beavers are making a comeback.

Norfolk has now gone one better by announcing the first beaver kit to be born in the East Anglian county for 600 years. The baby beaver, captured on camera at night paddling through the water, was born to one of two pairs of beavers reintroduced at Wild Ken Hill near Heacham on the north Norfolk coast in 2020. Eurasian beavers normally give birth to a litter of three kits, so cameras are being deployed to see if more baby beavers can be identified.

Not to be outdone, Scottish engineers have constructed what is thought to be the country’s first-ever beaver pass, allowing the animals to pass under the highland mainline railway near Gleneagles. The tunnel will also help to prevent flooding caused by beavers building dams in the line’s drainage culverts.

Following a public poll, the new beaver kit born in Somerset was officially named after the England International footballer Marcus Rashford, who received more than half of the votes according to the National Trust. Following behind on 17 per cent was Banksy. ‘Banksy the beaver’ clearly has a ring to it, but Marcus is a more appropriate name, for Marcus Rashford has risen to fame by beavering away at (and badgering) the UK government until it finally extended free school meals into the school holidays for some of England’s most deprived children.

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However, not everyone is barmy about beavers. Landowners and foresters in Devon are concerned after damage was caused to valuable cricket bat willow trees. And there were worries at Europe’s largest tea estate at Tregothnan in Cornwall, after one of England’s new wild beavers was photographed wandering near the tea bushes – looking for a ‘cup of Rosie Lee’, perhaps.

Beavers are back and the prospects for rewilding with Eurasian lynx and grey wolf are looking increasingly favourable. Indeed, a recent poll showed the public in favour of the Royal Family rewilding its Balmoral estate in Scotland with grey wolves, though this sounds a bit like a Republican plot to me. Official records suggest the last grey wolf to naturally inhabit these islands was shot in 1680 in Perthshire.

With all this achieved, the last outstanding top-end mammalian predator waiting in the wings for rewilding is the brown bear. However, reports from Japan – where hungry brown bears on the island of Hokkaido have turned into man-eaters – illustrate how due caution is required. Nine attacks, three of them fatal, have already occurred in 2021.

Last year, a brown bear walked into a grocery store in California, although rumours of it purchasing a box of porridge oats and a jar of honey before leaving are not true. If that’s not enough for ‘extreme wilders’, a Russian man on holiday in the state-run Ergaki National Park was recently killed and eaten by a visibly salivating brown bear, the second fatal bear attack in Ergaki in the space of a few weeks. Russian experts say the recent spate of bear attacks is related to factors including distortion of weather patterns caused by climate change and a shortage of natural food.

Forestry Journal: Bat roosts are protected whether in the church belfry or tree cavities.Bat roosts are protected whether in the church belfry or tree cavities.

In news even more ‘batty’, the Church of England is on the hunt for a PR person with a peculiar brief – to promote harmony between Church of England congregations and roosting bat populations. Presumably, the church is bound by the same laws governing the sanctity of bat roosts in the belfry as are foresters and arborists when confronted with roosts in trees.

Churches clearly offer attractive roosts for bats, but apparently the smell of bat urine and droppings can deter couples looking for a wedding venue, which is an important source of income for the Church of England. From the tone of the report, church leaders may well be scratching their heads about where to find a person with the appropriate appreciation and knowledge of bats. Perhaps they should advertise in Forestry Journal and essentialARB.

Last but not least are media reports of allegations by the environmental group Earthsight about how the Swedish furniture giant Ikea sourced pine from companies guilty of illegally logging timber in the forests of Siberia.

There’s never a dull moment when it comes to all things closely associated with forestry, trees and timber.

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