Argentina is planning to cull 100,000 beavers due to the devastating effect they’re having on the country’s woodlands.
With no natural predators in the southern province of Tierra del Fuego, the beaver population has grown out of control, and according to local environmentalists, the rodents are becoming a serious threat to its forests.
It’s so bad, says the BBC, that they’ve destroyed an area double the size of the country’s capital, Buenos Aires.
“When I saw it I was reminded of Poland after the Second World War, where all the trees had been blown away,” prominent naturalist Claudio Bertonatti said in a recent documentary about the beaver invasion.
The buck-toothed rodents were brought to Argentina from Canada in 1946. They were introduced to the country in an attempt to provide locals with work in the fur industry, but their environmental impact turned out to be much greater than their economic impact.
“[The beavers] can cut down a small tree in a few hours and a big one in days. We are talking about trees that are 100 or 150 years old,” conservation chief Erio Curto told Phys.org. Unlike the many trees in Canada that beavers have gnawed on, South American trees tend to die off after this happens.
The dams they build with these trees, which can reach up to 100 metres long, have also caused flooding throughout the region, and the resulting bogs are not a suitable environment for native trees to grow in.
According to reports, Argentina and its neighbouring Chile have an agreement in place to exterminate the beavers over the course of 10 to 15 years, which is reportedly backed by both the United Nations and some environmental groups.
Adrian Schiavini, who heads Argentina’s National Strategy for Invasive Exotic Species, told the BBC that the plan is to bring beaver hunting experts in from North America.
“The idea is to train a group of hunters and then choose the best from this group and put them to work in seven pilot areas on Isla Grande in Tierra del Fuego.”