Beavers spotted near Lake Maggiore for first time in over 500 years
500 years after they were last seen wading in its crystal blue waters, the humble beaver has returned to the waterways of Lake Maggiore, authorities in Canton Ticino have confirmed. It is the first sighting of the animal in the region in modern times and one of the first proper sightings in the Italian Lakes.
Beaver spotted near Lake Maggiore on New Year's Eve
According to the Ticinese authorities, a beaver was spotted in the Fondotoce nature reserve in Italy on December 31, just a stone’s throw away from Lake Maggiore and Switzerland. This is the first time a beaver has been spotted in the region for more than 500 years.
The 30-kilo, 1,5 metre long rodents were once hunted to extinction in both Swiss cantons and Italy because of their fur, meat and the oil that could be extracted from their glands. However, Switzerland started to reintroduce the beaver to the country’s lakes and rivers in the 1990s in a bid to improve the country’s biodiversity and the health of other wildlife - beavers naturally bring wood to the water to build their dams and houses, providing natural habitat for baby fish and other species.
Beavers no longer considered endangered in Switzerland
Most of the successes have been north of the mountains though, with most beavers finding a home in Canton Zurich, Thurgau, Bern and along the River Aare. Indeed, the beaver’s reintroduction into Switzerland has been so successful that the species is no longer classified as endangered by the government - approximately 4.900 beavers called the alpine nation home in 2022, according to the Federal Office for the Environment.
However, progress has been much slower in Canton Ticino and Italy. Indeed, the first modern report of a beaver in Italy was in 2018, with most being found in the Trentino Valley and the region around Venice. With the new sighting, both Ticino and the Italian Lakes are on their way to possessing a thriving population of bark-nibbling critters.