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Bringing Back the Beaver

The Story of One Man's Quest to Rewild Britain's Waterways

By Derek Gow


“Derek Gow might be the most colorful character in all of Beaverdom.”—Ben Goldfarb, author of Eager

Read the 2021 Profile of Derek on “An Ark for Vanished Wildlife”

Bringing Back the Beaver is farmer-turned-ecologist Derek Gow’s inspirational and often riotously funny firsthand account of how the movement to rewild the British landscape with beavers has become the single most dramatic and subversive nature conservation act of the modern era. Since the early 1990s—in the face of outright opposition from government, landowning elites, and even some conservation professionals—Gow has imported, quarantined, and assisted the reestablishment of beavers in waterways across England and Scotland.

In addition to detailing the ups and downs of rewilding beavers, Bringing Back the Beaver makes a passionate case as to why the return of one of nature’s great problem solvers will be critical as part of a sustainable fix for flooding and future drought, whilst ensuring the creation of essential lifescapes that enable the broadest possible spectrum of Britain’s wildlife to thrive.

Bringing Back the Beaver is a hilarious, eccentric and magnificent account of a struggle . . . to reintroduce a species crucial to the health of our ecosystems.”—George Monbiot

“A treasure.”—Booklist

Reviews and Praise

Bringing Back the Beaver … is a rich and, frankly, fucking funny insight into the human attitudes, systems and bureaucracy that have impeded faster progress to reintroducing this keystone species back into the British landscape. A hugely entertaining book about overcoming the human obstacles to the natural regeneration/nature self-healing we so desperately need on every square inch of the earth right now.’–Gillian Burke, TV presenter and biologist

‘The UK is amongst the world’s most wildlife depleted countries, in spite of the fact that we have over three million nature-loving voices. Caring is not enough – where we have failed is in making that caring count. One man – Derek Gow – stands out for sheer results. His is the brilliant story of pragmatic rewilding – the inspiring tale of returning an animal that will joyously reverse the fortunes of our waterways, birds, butterflies and every other animal kingdom in the decades to come.’—Benedict Macdonald, author of Rebirding, winner of the 2020 Wainwright Prize

‘This authentic, impassioned manifesto-cum-memoir will hopefully have a major impact on what is likely to be a long-running controversy.’–The Spectator

‘This short, tub-thumping book spares no one...Gow has a fire in his belly. We need more like him.’–BBC Wildlife Magazine


"[Gow] is feisty, funny, and committed to restoring an ecosystem. . . . The author's whimsical hand drawings, along with his voluminous vocabulary, make this book a treasure."

Bringing Back the Beaver is a hilarious, eccentric and magnificent account of a struggle against bureaucracy, pigheadedness and sheer human irrationality, in order to reintroduce a species crucial to the health of our ecosystems. Derek Gow is an extraordinary character, whose writing is as colourful and dynamic as he is. He has done more to restore our missing fauna than anyone else in Britain. This is his astonishing story of what it takes.’—George Monbiot

‘It is wonderful to see that beavers are now officially back on the list of native species, having been absent for so long .... far too long! They are without doubt one of the world’s best natural engineers with their ability to create new wetland habitats, which then become home to many other creatures who need a “watery” landscape in which to live and survive. This is a win–win situation for wildlife ... providing of course, reintroductions are carried out with the blessing of the surrounding landowners and the local community.’—Dame Judi Dench

‘Derek Gow might be the most colorful character in all of Beaverdom – a wry, profane truth teller who is equal parts yeoman farmer, historical ecologist, and pirate. Bringing Back the Beaver is a swashbuckling saga whose banks overflow with semi-legal hijinks, ribald jokes and hard-won scientific insight. It’s also a keen lament for the nature we’ve stamped out, and an impassioned ode to rewilding that will inspire Beaver Believers in Britain and beyond.’—Ben Goldfarb, author of Eager

‘Derek Gow has produced a fearless work – friends and foe alike feel the witty sting of his barbed tongue. Do not mess with him! Above all though, this book is important – an accessible insight into what can be achieved when rewildling is taken out of its gilded cage and given a pragmatic kick in the backside. Beavers are back – thanks in large part to Derek. Read the story, learn why beavers are vital to our ecology and, above all, have fun.’—Hugh Warwick, author and ecologist

‘Beautifully written, passionate, blunt, uncompromising and very, very funny; not many books make me laugh out loud, but this one had me in stitches. Derek Gow is a man after my own heart, with no interest in diplomacy, but with single-minded determination and a clear vision: to bring beavers back, and to bring nature back, to Britain.’—Dave Goulson, author of A Sting in the Tale and The Garden Jungle

Bringing Back the Beaver is brilliant: passionate, humorous, inspiring, and full of hope. It’s not just about beavers – it’s about humans too, and how, when we really set our minds to it, we can make a difference. I already loved the idea of beavers being brought back to the UK, but by the time I’d finished reading Derek’s book, I was ready to chain myself to the railings outside 10 Downing Street to help make it happen.’—Brigit Strawbridge Howard, author of Dancing with Bees

‘A wonderfully entertaining account of the battle to return the Eurasian beaver to the British countryside from the “Beaver Man” himself – Derek “bloody” Gow. No one has done more to promote their return to Britain and it is entirely fitting that it is he who reports on the sorry – and sadly still ongoing – catalogue of endless bureaucratic procrastination and adversarial clutching of straws that has prevented us from embracing the most blindingly obvious catchment restoration tool known to man.’—Professor Alastair Driver, director, Rewilding Britain

‘Gripping, illuminating, informative, amusing and inspiring in equal parts – I loved it. Bringing Back the Beaver is not only a ripping yarn with interesting and funny characters, tension and drama, it is an important tale of tenacity, the tenacity we need much more of to repair our depleted land.’—Lucy Jones, author of Losing Eden and Foxes Unearthed

‘In our age of massive wildlife depletion, British lovers of nature have long been crying out for major change. Cometh the hour, cometh the man and his beast. In his fact-filled, funny and irrefutably argued book, Derek Gow sets out a powerful case for the return of a creature that will transform our wetlands for the better. I urge you to read his book. It will make “beaver believers” of us all.’—Mark Cocker, author and naturalist

‘A tail-slapping yarn, interwoven with emoji-faced farmers, blundering officials, gothic scientists and his own unwavering mission to restore the beaver, Britain’s bringer of life. Derek is a naturalist with a strong case of beaver fever shared effusively with equal doses of charm, belligerence and artistic genius. May his beautifully illustrated story bust the dams of progress in these hot and stormy times.’—James Wallace, director, Beaver Trust

‘In characteristic punchy style, Derek Gow has given us the full saga of beaver reintroduction to the UK. Throughout a shameful tale of ministerial ignorance and dithering, Derek has charted his own remarkable role in ensuring this vital keystone species is restored to our wetlands. The book is a triumph of determination over bureaucratic obfuscation, an essential read for everyone interested in nature conservation.’—Sir John Lister-Kaye, OBE, naturalist and nature writer

‘Like his subject, Derek Gow is industrious – woodily, wetly – and deeply committed to his project. To have beavers back in Britain gives all of nature – us included – a second chance at happier times. Gow tells us this with the clear-sighted and good-humoured energy and purposefulness of the animals he has come to love as well as admire. We all should be converted to his cause.’—Tim Dee, author of Landfill and Greenery

‘The fun of Derek Gow’s book comes from the way it weaves together the reintroduction of beavers to Britain with his own rollicking life in the cause of ecological restoration. Its “upshot,” to borrow a word from Aldo Leopold, is Gow’s depiction, at once comprehensive and specific, of wetlands’ importance in restoring what had become a simplified, dwindling countryside. In his highly engaging way, he conveys beavers’ essential role in the landscape’s biological health and diversity: “. . . it needs them and without them would fade swiftly away.”’—John Elder, author of Reading the Mountains of Home

‘Derek Gow assails officialdom in this unsparing and funny memoir, recounting the long struggle to bring wild beavers back to Britain. A witty and passionate guide, he’ll have you rooting for the rodents from page one, but the real stars of the story may be the colorful characters working on their behalf, including the author himself. Highly readable and highly recommended.’—Thor Hanson, author of Buzz

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