Anybody who has been on one of our Riga Walking Tours will probably have heard of the city’s Beaver Epidemic. These cute furry little creatures have been living in the canal surrounding the Old Town, as well as other regions along the banks of the Daugava river, and getting their teeth into the trees in the surrounding parks. Are beavers a new symbol of Riga, or just a rodent problem?
The parks and gardens surrounding the canal were laid out over 150 years ago when the city defenses were leveled. They are now one of the most beautiful areas of Riga, a great place for jogging, taking a romantic stroll or having a picnic. In this regard, it is a shame that the trees in these parks are under threat. On a short walk beside the canal, you can see the distinctive bite marks of those large teeth on the trees lining the banks. With the number of beavers inhabiting the canal on the up, this poses a major problem for these trees and the city.
The city’s policy is currently to fence the trees and to feed the beavers in order to limit the damage, although recently there has been renewed calls for hunting or relocating them. Current estimates put the number of animals living in the canal at between 150-180. This is such a large number, you would expect to see them quite regularly, however they remain elusive.
However, this is something unique for a capital city. London has it’s aggressive squirrels, Berlin has bears; maybe it is time for Riga to embrace its rodent population. The cat house has provided a symbol for the city, but we propose that the Riga Beaver can become a more interesting icon for Riga. Surely spotting a cute little beaver is more exciting than a sculpture of a cat atop a house.
I was lucky enough the other day to see one of the canal’s furry residents making a meal of a tasty-looking branch, and even luckier for having a camera with me. This is the first time I have seen one, in the many years of living here. You can see the pictures below, but join us on one of our walking tours or bike tours of Riga for your chance of spotting a beaver for yourself.