England's first wild beavers in 400 years allowed to stay in river

Pablo Tucker
August 8, 2020

Wild European beavers were hunted to extinction throughout Britain more than 400 years ago.

It follows a five-year project by the trust, overseeing the beavers and their impacts on the environment, which concluded that their presence had been good for people and wildlife.

The investigation highlighted that the natural activity of beavers enhances the ecology of areas in which they inhabit - a fact that influenced the decision to allow them to stay.

Wildlife experts still want more doing across the United Kingdom though to help different beaver populations, so the number of them can keep on growing, and so they can return to other rivers to create wetlands, boost wildlife, reduce flooding and improve water quality. Peter Burgess Devon Wildlife Trust.

There are high levels of public support for beavers returning to England, and some landowners are keen to use the landscape engineering they perform to help "rewild" parts of the countryside to help nature.

James Wallace, director of the Beaver Trust, said: "Having shown through research and community engagement numerous benefits, challenges and ways of living alongside beavers, it is time to apply the learning from the River Otter Beaver Trial across the rest of the country".

Now attention is turning to the national strategy for releasing and managing beavers in England, amid reports that the rodents are already living wild on other rivers and with many being introduced into enclosures in the countryside.

Beavers at River Otter.

Professor Richard Brazier led the University of Exeter research team which has studied the impacts of the Devon beavers.

But the Devon Wildlife Trust successfully campaigned for a five-year trial to monitor the beavers, and this was granted. These include flood attenuation, water quality improvement, carbon storage, greater biodiversity and socio-economic benefits to local businesses through wildlife tourism.

"We are firmly committed to providing opportunities to reintroduce formerly native species, such as beavers, where the benefits for the environment, people and the economy are clear". Through our involvement with the Trial we have seen at first hand the benefits beavers can bring to society. "The strategy includes ensuring that landowners are supported financially to make more space for water, so that land-based businesses can co-exist alongside beavers and their wetlands". It's not enough to talk about conserving wildlife anymore - instead, we need to reverse these declines and put nature into recovery, and help create robust, flourishing, fully functioning ecosystems at landscape scale once again.

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