Although I admire and respect rodents I have no great love for the
common rat after having plunged my hand carelessly into its cage in
the days when I considered animal experimentation noble and useful.
That was long before I understood as a biologist the true force of
life within all sentient creatures.

Anyway I managed to find the rat’s mouth and it bit down.

Like an idiot I pulled my hand out and, like a sharpei, it just held on.

Calmly, while hurting and bleeding, I placed the rat with his feet on
solid ground. Then he let go. Well done rat. Rat, 1 – Scientist, 0.

Since then I have grown up and although wary of accidentally cornering
a rat in some dark ally, I am on their side, although I understand the
necessity to stop their breeding in cities. However, there are a mass
of other rodents out there doing no harm at all.

Rodentia is, after all, just an order of mammals which includes voles,
squirrels, mice, guinea pigs, porcupines and beavers. They constitute
more or less 40% of all mammals, and are characterized by two
continuously growing incisors in the upper and lower jaws, which must
be kept short by gnawing.

A plague of voles, some 750 million strong (though I don’t know which
official person counted them) is, I am informed, eating through the
fields of Castilla-León, devouring crops, decimating local economies.
I suppose the voles we have on our land would do the same if we had
great commercial ideas, although I prefer a healthy balance between
what few things we grow and their symbiotic existence..

Squirrels at one time or another, have become named as plague
carriers, but in the seminary in Spain we have many almond trees, and
every year these magnificent animals invade the trees and take
everything they can get hold of for the winter. A few in the past have
fallen foul of a cat or two and we have only the tails left
surprisingly around to tell the story.

I say, “well done squirrels” and just try to beat them to the punch. I
suppose we could set poisonous squirrel traps to save a few bushels of
almond nuts, but really is that the thing to do? Mice too are in the
oldest building and they manage to grab whatever is left out. Sure I
know they breed fast, but it seems much better to protect the food
than use horrible traps like a great executioner that breaks their
backs when they are caught.

Wild guinea pigs live on mountains and grasslands in Brazil, Peru,
Argentina, and Uruguay, so we don’t see them in Spain except housed in
little cages, doing absurd tricks for those who haven’t the energy to
contact living creatures in any other way, or serving as a pet for
some child or adult who would best be in a cage themselves.

Porcupines occupy a wide range of habitats in tropical and temperate
parts of Asia, Africa, the Americas and even Italy. I have never
encountered one in Spain, though hedgehogs (not a rodent, but spiny
none the less) were a plenty before hedges and forests were eliminated
to make way for highways, urban centers and large scale agriculture.

Then there are the beavers. Of course there are none in Spain,
although according to a report made in Strabo’s texts on Geography in
the first century AD they were here once.
He declared,  “Iberia produces many deer and wild horses. In places,
also, its marshes teem with life; and there are birds, swans and the
like; and also bustards in great numbers. As for beavers, the rivers
produce them, but the castor from these beavers does not have the same
efficacy as that from the beavers of the Pontus …

Basque beaver pellets were imported into medieval Britain and
documentary evidence shows that  beavers survived in Spain until the
17th century. Then, goodbye beaver.

I suppose the pelts are warm but I love that ad which shows a beaver declaring, “my mother had a fur coat, does yours”.

But wait!  What a surprise!

News has been released (El Pais) of the existence of a secret colony
of beavers in Spain.

What a fantastic chance to reintroduce the species, which was
eradicated 300 years ago.

But there in the same article is the great surprise.

There is a plan to eradicate these beavers completely because some
time in the past, they were presumably introduced into Spain

If it was a native beaver, which is impossible, they would be
protected by law, but there is the loophole.

The European Union has given its backing to the cull to avoid setting
a precedent that  might open the door to the illegal re-introductions
of wildlife across Europe, not particularly because these beavers have
been causing a lot of damage.

I’m sorry,  but I see that as Bureaucratic Bungling… but then that is
the sort of action we can expect from a human creature.

It is a pity that the human creature has invaded the space of all
other living creatures. Fortunately, there are still some spaces
unfilled. But for how long?

How long before the largest beaver dam ever discovered, 2,788 feet
(850 metres) by a NASA flight will be wiped out by man as a plague or
a menace to our wonderful civilized world.


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