The European beaver (Castor fiber L.) in Wallonia (southern Belgium): the set-up of an afterthought management programme
The beaver (Castor fiber) returned to Wallonia mostly due to clandestine reintroductions of 100 Bavarian beavers between 1998 and 2001. Beaver settlements are now present in most of the river basins, sometimes in seemingly unsuitable areas or in highly urbanised zones. Beavers spread widely during the two years following the reintroductions. The Walloon authorities instituted proceedings against the perpetrators of these releases and, at the same time, instigated a survey and a structure for managing possible conflicts. Forest, fishing and muskrat trapping agents conduct the field survey work and transfer information to the Research Centre for Nature, Forests and Wood (CRNFB) and the Biernausaut Association. With this set-up, a new beaver site can be detected within one month. About 200-250 beavers are now present in Wallonia, at about 60 sites. Only small problems have occurred until now, but they are expected to increase as the beaver population grows and spreads. Thus, beaver management has to continue, to prevent conflicts with human activities but also in accordance with nature conservation objectives such as the implementation of the Natura 2000 programme. A future trans-border co-ordination for surveying beavers should be developed.