MENDELU Researchers Conduct Research On Beaver Parasites, Population, and Meat Quality

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Legislation allows the hunting of beavers in specific cases under an approved procedure. Photo credit: MENDELU.

Brno, June 18 (BD) – The European beaver is a protected species in the Czech Republic, but it is sometimes hunted in regions where it is economically harmful. However, unlike other such animals, the meat from caught beavers is usually not consumed. Scientists from the Mendel University conducted research into parasites and body proportions of legally caught fish, and then examined the quality of the meat. The practical output of the research contains useful knowledge for sausages and preserves with the addition of beaver meat, thanks to which otherwise dangerous meat can be eaten without health risks.

The utility models were created as part of the cooperation between the university’s Faculty of Agriculture and the Faculty of Forestry and Wood (LDF). The scientists documented all potential hazards and collected data on meat quality parameters.

“We primarily took the captured specimens to research the presence of parasites in the digestive tract of beavers and the biometric characteristics,” said Ondřej Mikulka from the Institute of Forest Protection and Hunting at LDF MENDELU. “We weighed them, determined their sex, and measured their body dimensions in order to understand the population structure in individual areas. Research into the meat was the next step. When it is necessary to kill protected species, we try to use these rare specimens in as many fields as possible.”

In the past, it was traditional to consume beaver meat, but nowadays hunters do not have much motivation to do so. “The hunting itself is complicated and hunters are not responsible for damages,” said Mikulka. “Most of the exemptions issued for shooting are not used that often, even though there is often a high risk involved, for example dam damage by beavers. It was hunters who often turned to us asking if the meat was safe to eat.” 

Since the animal is from an aquatic environment, it may have become contaminated during capture or may have been attacked by parasites during its life.

Beaver preserves and sausages could be a way to obtain healthy food from a potentially risky raw material. “At a time when humans, to a certain extent, replace the function of a predator by killing an animal, they also take on the moral responsibility to use its carcass as much as possible,” said Miroslav Jůzl from the AF MENDELU Institute of Food Technology. “Then we can say that the beaver did not lose its life just to end up in a black bag, but its body was used in the same way as other game.” 

Only a few dozen beavers are caught per year. “After the catch, they can only be disposed of in accordance with the legislation. The hunter can consume the meat from the captured animal only for their own consumption, but in the case of protected animals, they cannot market or trade any part of the animal,” added Jůzl. 

Useful patterns are intended primarily for hunters, the State Veterinary Administration and for publication purposes. “Useful models are the only ones that, together with articles, can be referred to systematically in a professional environment and in communication with the ministry or supervisory authorities,” said Jůzl, adding that they produce results that, together with other data, can be used by the competent authorities when deciding on native protected species intended for hunting.

Legislation allows the hunting of beavers in specific cases under an approved procedure. “Although the beaver is a protected animal in the highly endangered category, at the same time, according to the valid care program, it can be hunted in the Vltava basin in the area of southern Bohemia and in dozens of territories where an exception has been issued to catch them due to conflicts with farming,” explained Mikulka. These exemptions are issued by the regional authorities.

“In principle, it is not permitted to kill protected animals for science,” explained Mikulka. “But as a university, we have been issued a legislative exception for research on captured individuals, so we can take dead individuals, perform an autopsy, examine the state of health, dissect, and so on.”

According to data from the Czech University of Agriculture, there are around 15,000 beavers in the Czech Republic. The largest population is in the Pilsen Region, followed by South Moravia. Around 50 beavers are officially shot annually. 

“The so-called zone C is defined within the Czech Republic, which is roughly a fifth of the country, where the beaver is viewed as undesirable and must be hunted. Then there are a total of 72 exceptions where the beaver is hunted,” explained Mikulka.

Scientists at the Mendel University are also dealing with the assessment of the impact of occurrence, spread and proposals for effective procedures for other non-native species of animals that require regulation in the Czech Republic, such as nutria.

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