Government says beavers can stay in their Devon home
(Photo credit: © Mike Symes Devon Wildlife Trust)
Defra announces ‘pioneering’ wildlife decision
Secures a future for the first ever reintroduction of an extinct native mammal to England
Stamp of approval for five years’ of ground-breaking work by Devon Wildlife Trust
After years of uncertainty, England’s first wild breeding population of beavers for 400 years has been given the permanent right to remain in their East Devon river home. The decision announced on 6 August by Defra appears to be a landmark one, as it signals the first legally sanctioned reintroduction of an extinct native mammal to England. It means that the beaver population, which lives on the River Otter and is estimated to consist of up to 15 family groups, now has a secure future.
The announcement comes after the successful completion, earlier this year, of a five-year trial overseeing the animals and their impacts led by the charity Devon Wildlife Trust. In February the project published a ‘Science and Evidence Report’ overseen by independent researchers from the University of Exeter. This concluded that the beavers’ presence had brought benefits to people and wildlife living along East Devon’s River Otter.
Key findings in the report highlighted how:
Other wildlife – especially fish, insects, birds and endangered mammals such as water voles – had greatly benefitted from the beavers’ presence because of the ways in which beavers enhance wetland habitats.
The beavers’ dam building activities had also helped reduce the risk of flooding to some flood-threatened human settlements.
The positive role that beavers could have in improving water-quality, with their dams acting as filters which trap soil and other pollutants from surrounding farmland.
The report highlighted some localised problems for a small number of landowners where beavers were present, but that these had been successfully managed with support and intervention from Devon Wildlife Trust.
Peter Burgess, Director of Conservation at Devon Wildlife Trust, says:
“This is the most ground-breaking government decision for England’s wildlife for a generation. Beavers are nature’s engineers and have the unrivalled ability to breathe new life into our rivers and wetlands. Their benefits will be felt throughout our countryside, by wildlife and people. At Devon Wildlife Trust we’ve worked hard with our partners and local communities along the River Otter over the past five years to see what impact beavers have had. In that time their population has grown steadily so that they have successfully colonised nearly all of the river’s catchment. As their numbers have grown, so has local people’s awareness and appreciation of them. We’re delighted that these beavers have now been given leave to stay permanently.”
Beavers were driven to extinction in the UK more than four centuries ago as they were hunted...