The Beaver’s Journey

Caught in Åmli

The Swedish group, led by Eric Festin, decided in 1921 that they would bring the beaver back to Sweden. But where would they get the beaver from? The answer, of course, was Norway.

After 1918, it was legal to catch beavers in Norway between 15 and 31 October, if one had a license. The license could be obtained if the beaver's use was "scientific," which included collections for museums, zoos and release of the type that was intended in Sweden.

Dr. Sven Arbman (1882-1977), a zoologist from Sunne, Sweden, took a trip to the Arendal area in August 1921 to find a beaver catcher. Arbman met several potential hunters and trappers during his visit. Some of them wrote to Arbman after the visit to describe their ability to deliver the beavers.

One of them was Peder Martinius Jenssen (1881-1963), who was a ‘preparator’, the term for a taxidermist who stuffed animals for exhibition. Jenssen, who lived in Tveit, was eager to deliver beavers to Sweden. He wrote a letter to Arbman on September 20, 1921, offering to send a pair of live beavers to Stockholm for 1,000 kroner plus transport.

Eric Festin decided to use Jenssen for the delivery of the beavers. This was the beginning of a long relationship between Jenssen and Festin — they sent many letters to each other. Beaver-Jenssen, as he became known, delivered all the live beavers that were sent to Sweden until 1939. He also travelled personally with some beavers from Norway to Sweden in the 1930s.

Another well-known beaver catcher in Åmli was Sigvald Salvesen. He delivered live beavers to the best European zoos, including London and Amsterdam. He also sent stuffed beavers and beaver skins to well-known museums such as the Natural History Museum in London and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. He sent a collection of photographs in 1924 to the Natural History Museum depicting a beaver hut in the Åmli area.

Salvesen was also interested in producing scientific works. The most comprehensive of these was his Handbook of Fur Breeding from 1928, with 143 pages, which came in at least three editions. He also published an article about the beaver in the Journal of Mammology. The text mostly focuses on the beaver's habitats, its ecological niche and its building habits.

Salvesen took the initiative for a film about the beaver's life, which was filmed in the summer of 1925 in Åmli. This includes footage of beavers in the open air, but also close-ups of captured beavers. It was an educational film shown in theatres in Norway.