The Beaver’s Journey

Comeback idea

Two beavers gnawing on tree

The beaver disappeared from Sweden in the 1800s. In 1873, a national law was introduced in Sweden that included the protection of the beaver - but that was too late. The last documented beaver died in 1871.

Ferdinand Unander (1829-1883), head of Västerbotten County Agricultural School, recommended the reintroduction of beavers to 'justify this mistake in the hunt' in 1873. He thought that people had made a mistake when they over-hunted the beaver to extinction.

Forty years after this, the idea was taken up again. Eric Modin (1862-1953), who was a priest in Jämtland, asked nature enthusiasts in 1911: "Should nothing be done for the reintroduction of beavers in our country?" For him it was a way of making amends for the injustice done to the beaver. "it must surely be a matter of honor and duty to try to protect it and help it to prosper."

It took another 10 years before Eric Festin (1878-1945), director of the Jamtli museum, decided to import beavers from Norway to Sweden. He was very interested in cultural history and cultural heritage, and thought about the stories of beavers that were told by local people in Jämtland. He often told the story of his grandmother, who remembered when beaver castoreum was used as medicine.

Festin also thought about the landscape, especially an area in central Sweden called Bjurälfvdalen. ‘Bjur’ was an old-fashioned name for beaver and there were traces of beaver lodges and canals in the area. He decided that Bjurälvdalen would be the perfect place to return to for Norwegian beavers.

Festin wrote in the magazine Sveriges Natur in 1921 that the Nature Conservation Association of Jämtland and Härjedalen would take care of Bjurälfvdalen and a new beaver population, but it was of "general national" importance. He issued a call for financial support.

Who will first extend their hand with a donation to Sweden's first resurrected beaver colony Bjurälvdalen?

Eric Festin

Fortunately, people donated money. A "beaver fund" was set up, and lists of those who donated money to the project survive in the Jamtli archive. Some of the donations were large, but most were quite small — down to 0.25 øre (NOK 5 today). Together, the amount was enough to pay for the beaver project.