Argentina Gears Up for War Against 100K Beavers

What started out as 10 beavers in the '40s turned into 'totally out of control' scenario
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 19, 2016 11:35 AM CST
Argentina Gears Up for War Against 100K Beavers
Barklee the beaver takes a swim in his pool inside an enclosure at For Heaven's Sake Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation in Rochester, Wash.   (Pete Caster/The Chronicle via AP)

(Newser) – After World War II, Argentina decided to boost the local fur trade by dumping a smattering of beavers into the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. Now, 70 years later, local officials there are describing a "totally out of control" situation, with the free-to-roam rodents accused of decimating a region of woodlands that's said to be twice the size of Buenos Aires, the BBC reports. "When we saw a picture of a beaver dam in the forest, it … looked like a bomb had fallen," Nicolas Iacouzzi, the co-creator of a documentary on the beavers, says, per Foreign Policy. And so there's now a plan in place, with the help of next-door neighbor Chile, to wipe out a population that's grown to 100,000 thanks to a lack of natural predators.

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Scientists explain that in North America, trees can often withstand beaver gnawing, but South American trees tend to die off. "[The beavers] can cut down a small tree in a few hours and a big one in days. We are talking about trees that are 100 or 150 years old, and they do not grow back," the region's conservation chief says, per Phys.org. Another major issue is that dams that the beavers build produce bogs that stifle trees from growing. The game plan for now, per the head of the National Strategy for Invasive Exotic Species, is to train hunters from North America to set "humane" traps in seven "pilot areas" around the region. Once caught, the beavers would then be "quickly" clubbed to death on the head. The project could take 10 to 15 years, experts say. (Here, a video made around 1950 of parachuting beavers.)

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