The Bükk Mountains in Northern Hungary lie close to the Slovakian border, acting as a natural wildlife corridor between the two countries. It is a continuation of the Carpathian Mountain Range, allowing wolves, lynxes, wildcats and other species to roam freely across borders.
On the Hungarian side, a small team of Bükk National Park rangers work tirelessly to monitor wildlife in the area. This includes the eager Vezér ('Chief'), a Hanover Hound and the country's first-ever dog specialising in tracking injured wildlife, guided by owner and conservation ranger Zoltán Baráth.
One of the many species that Zoltán and Vezér keep tabs on in the park are Eurasian beavers. Previously driven to extinction in Hungary, beavers have made a recent comeback and numbers are growing slowly. This is good news for wildlife as beavers perform a unique role in the European ecosystem, by engineering new habitats and opportunities simply as a passive side-effect of their natural dam-building.
When it comes to constructing dams, beavers are quite picky about what to use. Their favourite trees can be identified by the presence of bite patches, which are enlarged over the course of several nights. After repeated knawing, the trunks are then left for the wind to finish them off, before being retreived and slid down to a river where it can be transported more easily.
Despite being a protected species, conflicts with fishermen, loggers and other locals are not uncommon. Pervading myths that beavers eat fish may be responsible for the destruction of dams and nesting sites, permits to fell trees within beaver habitats are far too easy to obtain, and close proxmity to highways and villages result in a high level of pollution and littering within their territory.
Being largely shy and nocturnal, beavers are quite difficult to spot. Although I failed to capture them with a camera trap this time, I did catch several red foxes making nightly trips close to the main nest.
I also managed to pick up two stray kittens in a nearby village while visiting the national park, who more than made up for the lack of beaver∎