I’m spending far too much time lurking in the bushes by the water with my field-glasses hoping to see a female exposing her nipples. Hang on! It’s not what you’re thinking (those days are well over). The thing is, beavers have their kits about now but for six weeks or so they keep them safely in their burrow or lodge. So the only way to know if they are breeding is to see if the females are lactating. Hence the lurking. Problem is, beavers are not notorious nipple flashers. When they are swimming or on the banks you can only see their backs and you have to wait until one stands up to reach a dangling piece of willow. The other problem is that male and female beavers look the same – you have to squeeze their anal glands to tell them apart. So when my patience is finally rewarded and a beaver stretches up, just because I can’t see any nipples doesn’t mean they don’t have young. I could be looking at a male.
We have three pairs of beavers on the farm and they have to be kept strictly apart because they are very territorial and will have horrendous fights. With a licence in to the Welsh Government to re-introduce beavers in Wales (see ‘Projects’) we will need all the captive-bred beavers we can get, so we are keeping our fingers crossed for some breeding. All three pairs are looking very organised with their burrows and lodges, so I keep my field-glasses at the ready.