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Euorpean Beaver

Beavering About in Vienna

Great excitement in the 14th district recently where a number of dogs discovered a strange animal swimming along the Wienfluss.

First thoughts were that it was a rat – but if it was a rat it was a very big one because it was at least cat sized - and possibly larger.

Some suggested it might be a weasel – one of those pesky animals that chews through car cables at this time of the year.

But one elderly Viennese lady put everyone else right – it was clearly a sewer rat - the bite of which would quickly fester and if it bit a dog then the unfortunate canine wouldn't last long.

The strange animal was then left alone as worried dog owners pulled their pets away on leads - and it swam off upstream.

But a snap sent to the local council revealed that the animal was not a rat – or weasel – but in fact a beaver.

And more interestingly – last week it was announced that analysis of teeth marks on Viennese trees indicates that there are now around 400 beavers that have decided to move into the city from the Danube swamplands and now have the capital as their home.

They make their homes anywhere in the city where there is flowing water – so the Wienfluss (which I've always thought was a glorified sewer even though the water is pretty good and there are fish living in it) certainly qualifies.

The city officials said the large numbers were actually relatively small but they are a problem if not for residents certainly for trees. The average beaver will get through about 50 trees in a year.

And that has mainly resulted in complaints from homeowners who discovered their favourite fruit tree toppled by a hungry beaver.

The forestry director for Vienna's trees – Andreas Januskovecz - said other than damage to trees Beavers didn't seem to be causing any other problems and they were certainly not regarded as pests by anybody other than tree owners. In fact as most of the trees they toppled were alongside the river banks where they lived and where they were due to be felled anyway they were actually often helping out more than anything. In the Wienfluss for example the water needs to be able to flow along the flat bottom and trees are not allowed to grow there because they would restrict the water flow during heavy rain.

The presence of the beaver in the Wienfluss shows that they are slowly losing their nervousness it seems of man as the water that flows from Auhof at the border of the Vienna Woods through to the Hietzing where the route picks up the existing cycle path right into the centre of town is well trode, ridden and jogged.

The initiative to build it was sponsored by environment councillor Ulli Sima and it runs parallel to the U4, and is a new area for relaxation as well as a more pleasant way to cycle in and out of the city and for fitness.

And now – it seems – also for beavers.

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