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The early extinction date of the beaver (Castor fiber) in Britain

Raye, Lee 2015. The early extinction date of the beaver (Castor fiber) in Britain. Historical Biology 27 (8) , pp. 1029-1041. 10.1080/08912963.2014.927871

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Abstract

This paper re-examines the evidence for the extinction of the beaver (Castor fiber) in South Britain and Scotland. Much of the evidence found by previous scholars is discounted as unreliable or outdated. A new study looks at reliable historical sources and studies references to the beaver in the context of references to comparable mammals, especially the most ecologically comparable [polecat (Mustela putorius), pine marten (Martes martes), otter (Lutra lutra) and badger (Meles meles)]. Each of these mammals was present in every period studied, meaning that medieval authors were reliable witnesses to the species' presence. The beaver is present in comparable numbers to the other mammals in South Britain 1188–1307 and in Scotland 1526–1600, meaning that as a species it was frequently recorded by humans. References to it cease after 1308 in South Britain, except a single anomalous entry, and after 1600 in Scotland. The idea that this reflects a sample bias or random chance is discounted. The paper rejects the late extinction scenario and concludes that the beaver became extinct by 1300 in South Britain and by 1600 in Scotland.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Welsh
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
P Language and Literature > PB Modern European Languages > PB1001 Celtic languages and literature
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Q Science > QH Natural history
Uncontrolled Keywords: beaver, medieval Britain, historical sources, medieval British animals, extinction
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 1029-2381
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Date of Acceptance: 21 May 2014
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 10:29
URI: http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/61448

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