Bringing Back the Beaver

Bringing Back the Beaver

by Derek Gow
Setting: England
Genres: Nonfiction, Science
Published on September 30, 2020
Pages: 208
Format: Hardcover Source: Library

"Derek Gow might be the most colorful character in all of Beaverdom."--Ben Goldfarb, author of Eager

Read the 2021 Profile of Derek on "An Ark for Vanished Wildlife"

Bringing Back the Beaver is farmer-turned-ecologist Derek Gow's inspirational and often riotously funny firsthand account of how the movement to rewild the British landscape with beavers has become the single most dramatic and subversive nature conservation act of the modern era. Since the early 1990s--in the face of outright opposition from government, landowning elites, and even some conservation professionals--Gow has imported, quarantined, and assisted the reestablishment of beavers in waterways across England and Scotland.

In addition to detailing the ups and downs of rewilding beavers, Bringing Back the Beaver makes a passionate case as to why the return of one of nature's great problem solvers will be critical as part of a sustainable fix for flooding and future drought, whilst ensuring the creation of essential lifescapes that enable the broadest possible spectrum of Britain's wildlife to thrive.

"Bringing Back the Beaver is a hilarious, eccentric and magnificent account of a struggle . . . to reintroduce a species crucial to the health of our ecosystems."--George Monbiot

"A treasure."--Booklist

Maybe I have a different definition of hilarious. I thought this book turned out to be kind of depressing. Spoiler – They also don’t really get to bring back a lot of beavers to England. The story he tells is one of official obstruction and delaying tactics while beavers die and the environment gets further degraded.

It was nice to read about how things are going better in mainland Europe. There beavers are being successfully reintroduced. Great changes are being seen in the landscape because of the benefits that beavers bring.


I was particularly interested in this topic because I live near a wetland that was developed by reintroducing beaver to a former junkyard. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is one of the youngest national parks in the U.S. It was developed in the 1970s to protect the Cuyahoga River after it famously caught on fire because of all the pollution in it. At that time there were a lot of houses and business in that area. Gradually people sold land or learned to live inside the park rules. It is a very different kind of park that most people think of when they think of national parks. Anyway, the Beaver Marsh sits on the site of an abandoned junkyard between the defunct Ohio & Erie Canal and the Cuyahoga River. People moved out the major trash. The beavers did the rest.

Tree Swallow

Now there is a 70 acre wetland that is crossed by a boardwalk. In the spring you can see lots of turtles, geese, and ducks. There is a big colony of tree swallows living in some trees in the center of the marsh.

There are seating areas with benches where people hang out to watch the wildlife. It is a super popular spot, especially in the spring when there are lots of baby birds.


I’ve never seen the beavers that are responsible for it all but the first time I was there I did see a river otter. I knew it was amazing and very cool but I didn’t appreciate how cool. I’ve never seen another wild mammal since. I have however, sat on the benches like a wise old crone and intoned, “Once, I saw a river otter right over there,” to the general amazement of the gathered onlookers.

So, I am very pro-introduction of beavers. I even unfriended someone I like on Facebook over this topic once. He was killing beavers on his property and he freakin’ knows better. I haven’t heard from him since.

If you want to see a really cool film about this topic, check out The Beaver Believers on Netflix. It shows what beavers are able to do to transform a landscape for the better. You’ll become a fan too.