The beaver disappeared from Belgium in the middle of the 19th century. It was illegally reintroduced by one of our compatriots in the Leuven region in the early 2000s. The twenty or so individuals released at the time quickly multiplied. There are now between 600 and 1,000 beavers in Wallonia alone, and between 150 and 400 in Flanders.
As you will have gathered, beavers are naughty little creatures that reproduce quickly. In this article we look at the history of the beaver in Belgium, its behaviour and habits and the places where it can be seen today without disturbing it.
The history of the beaver in Belgium
Since the Middle Ages, beavers have been hunted for their fur and meat. Beaver fur was used to make hats and coats. The animal disappeared from our lands in the middle of the 19th century...
In 2003, a naturalist decided to reintroduce the beaver in stoemmeling, as we say in Belgium. These 20 beavers reproduced and we now have a population of almost 1,300 beavers in Belgium. It is important to note that other legal reintroduction campaigns took place after 2003.
Although the first reintroduction of the beaver was illegal, the animal is a real asset to biodiversity and the health of Belgian ecosystems.
- It recreates wetlands
- It monitors the reforestation of wetlands
- The reservoirs of water it creates become feeding grounds (fish, batrachians) for certain species such as the black stork.
The beaver: a troublesome neighbour?
It is true that the beaver can radically change a landscape by building dams. For example, the beaver can flood agricultural areas or dig holes that damage crops. This is why we are now developing riverbanks so that the beaver has everything it needs and no longer has to cut down trees on land occupied by humans.
The beaver is a protected species, and it is forbidden to hunt it or destroy its habitat. If you are passing through its territory, you must show the greatest respect!
The beaver's habitat
The beaver is a vegetarian, feeding on leaves and bark. To reach its food, it gnaws on trees with its two large teeth. It then uses the trunks to build dams in the water. Its dam will serve as a hut for its entire family. Its offspring will occupy the family home for 3 years before leaving the nest to find love in their own right.
Where to see beavers in Belgium
Beavers can be found in every province of Belgium. There are many beavers in the Dyle valley near Leuven. Facilities have been set up to enable you to observe the beaver without disturbing it. We warmly invite you to make use of them for two reasons:
- These infrastructures will hide you and maximise your chances of spotting the beaver.
- You'll be more discreet and won't disturb the animal by being silent.
If you're prepared to act as a guest in the beaver's territory, here are two observation posts where you can watch/photograph the animal:
- L'Aire de BilaudeObservation post with a magnificent view of the Saint-Hubert forest. A family of beavers lives in the small lake in the distance. You can watch them through binoculars from the observation post.
- Dyle valley observation postAn observation tower along the Dyle, where you can watch birds and beavers. All the information about this tower is available this site.
Now it's up to you, set off early in the morning or at the end of the day with your binoculars and be patient!
Would you like to discover the beaver with a biologist guide?
DiscoveRent organises guided packraft outings to follow in the footsteps of the beaver. These outings are guided by Mathias, a biologist with a passion for beavers and hiking. You will go down the Dyle in packraft (An ultra-light kayak) and get all the information you need about beavers thanks to Mathias. This one-day micro-expedition to Belgium can be found here: DiscoveRent website