On June 2nd, the Herald Express reported a large, decomposed beaver washed up on a beach in Brixham in Devon, southwest England. Beavers will frequent river estuaries but are not sea-living creatures. This animal is likely to have been washed down a tidal river into the sea and then moved by currents. Subsequent reports indicate the body did not have a head and was not micro-chipped. Thus, there is no evidence to link the body with other beaver populations in Devon – where it came from must remain a mystery.
An adult male and an adult female beaver were released by Devon Wildlife Trust on the River Otter in Devon on 26th May to join the group of 12 or more animals already living on the river. Their release was approved by Natural England as part of the 5 year River Otter Beaver Trial. DNA tests had shown that the existing beavers were closely related and it is hoped that the new beavers will increase the genetic diversity of the population. Full details of the release can be found on the Devon Wildlife Trust website – also The Guardian, BBC News, ITV, Exeter Express & Echo, YouTube, East Devon 24 Farming Online Trees For Life, The Herald.
A recent paper by Lazar et al. in the Journal of Environmental Quality reports that 5–45% of watershed nitrate-N loading in rural watersheds of southern New England is removed by beaver ponds. This confirms that beaver ponds are substantial sinks for nitrogen (Gizmodo; see Bibliography page for full reference).
Scottish government delay the decision about the future of beavers in Scotland until later this year
Scottish ministers were due to announce a decision about the future of beavers in Scotland in the summer of 2015, just a few months after the 5-year official trial release of beavers at Knapdale had come to the end. However, they have postponed their announcement until later this year (Scottish Government). The delay is disappointing to many people and has raised concerns about the welfare of the beavers, especially those on the River Tay, which currently have no legal protection (see BBC News, The Herald, Evening Times).
A recent article published in Freshwater Biology (also see Bibliography page) based on 13 years of study demonstrates that beaver dams on the River Tay help prevent flooding and improve local habitats. This study counters the claim by landowners in Alyth, Perthshire that beaver activity contributed to the flooding in the village. The debate about the merits of the presence of beavers in the Scottish countryside continues, as everyone waits for the Scottish government to decide on their future. The story has been widely reported: BBC News, Scotland Now, The Guardian, The National, Wildlife Articles.
Scientists at Edinburgh Zoo have carried out post-mortem investigations on 23 beavers from Tayside, Scotland. Of the 21 shot, two were in late pregnancy and two had recently given birth. This has raised welfare concerns about how beavers should be managed (BBC News, The Scotsman, Granset, The News Hub, UK Daily). The Scottish Government has yet to make a decision about the future of beavers in Scotland.
The Scottish Beaver Trial has released film of a second beaver kit at Knapdale.
Film of a young beaver kit exploring the top of its lodge at Knapdale, where beavers have been officially released, has been released by the Scottish Beaver Trial. This is encouraging news and shows that the beavers are still breeding at the site. Although the 5-year trial ended earlier this year, an education ranger is still present, giving talks, guided walks and keeping an eye on the beavers. The Scottish Government is expected to make a decision about the future of beavers in Scotland, including those on the River Tay, later this year – see The BBC, The Herald, Western Morning News and The Guardian,
Scottish Natural Heritage sent the final report on Beavers in Scotland to Scottish Government Ministers this month. The report summarising 20 years of work on beavers in Scotland (including the official trial at Knapdale, the Tayside Beavers Study Group, the Beaver-Salmonid Working Group and a range of other studies on beavers) will help inform the Scottish Government as to the future of beavers in Scotland.
At least one of the two adult female beavers living wild on the River Otter in Devon has had two (or possibly more) young, called kits. Recent film taken by local film-maker Tom Buckley can be seen on the BBC News website and shows the mother guiding the young through the water (also see CBBC, Daily Mail, The Plymouth Herald, The Guardian, The Telegraph). This is positive news for the Beaver Otter Beaver Trial, a partnership lead by Devon Wildlife Trust, which has recently been given a licence by Natural England to study the colony (first confirmed to be present in February 2014) for five years. In all, there may be 11 or more beavers in the colony. Recently, as a condition of the licence, the adult beavers were briefly taken into captivity and tested for disease; they were all considered healthy. The mother and kits appear fit and well. There are no plans to tag the young beavers yet, although it is likely they will be at some time in the future. Local people and interested naturalists are asked to try and avoid disturbing the beavers by staying on the footpaths and keeping their dogs under control when near the river.
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