A last-minute attempt by Conservative MSP John Scott to prevent beavers in Scotland attaining protective status was rejected by the Scottish Parliament’s Environment Committee yesterday (The Courier).
Following the post on 7th November 2018, a pair of beavers have now been released into a 4 ha enclosure on Spains Hall Estate in Finchingfield, Essex in the east of England to help prevent flooding. The estate is now owned by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. The environment Agency will monitor flows in Finchingfield Brook that runs through the enclosure to see if the activities of the beavers improve water quality and help reduce the risk of flooding. They will compare the findings with more conventional flood prevention methods (BBC News, Braintree and Witham Times, Essex News, ITV News).
In a significant development, the Scottish Government have finally announced that they will introduce legislation to add beavers to the list of European protected species. As a consequence, any person wishing to control beavers (e.g. by shooting) will require a licence from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). The move, welcomed by many people and organisations but probably not all landowners or farmers (e.g. Farmers Weekly) , would also mean it would be an offence to to disturb beavers during the breeding season, as well as kill/injure any beaver. (Scottish Wildlife Trust, The Courier, Scottish Natural Heritage, Express & Star, BBC News, SPICe Spotlight, The National, Evening Express). Guidance on protected status mitigation by Chris Lindley can be found in The Courier (8 April).
Two beavers released into the Forest of Dean enclosure in the West of England last summer have been removed. They will be kept in quarantine and tested for the tapeworm parasite Echinococcus multicularis. This is a precautionary measure because other beavers imported into the UK from the same area in Bavaria where they originally came from are said to be infected with the parasite. The parasite has a life cycle involving a canid (e.g. fox, dog) definitive host which sits in the small intestines and delivers eggs in the droppings, and an intermediate rodent host which becomes infected by ingesting the eggs. These rodents may then be eaten by the canid, thus completing the life cycle. The concerns are that Echinococcus is not found naturally in the UK, and humans are at risk if they inadvertently ingest an egg, say from a dog who has eaten an infected rodent. It can cause an unpleasant, sometimes fatal disease. Although this is a set back for the project, it is hoped to release two new beavers soon that are known to be parasite free (Gloucestershire Live, Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Review).
In November 2016, The Scottish Government stated that beavers in Scotland (on the River Tay and at Knapdale) would get European Protected Status. Legislation is now expected to be brought in in 2019. Currently, many beavers are being killed on the Tay because of their impact on farmland (The Courier).
A meeting of the Committee was held at Knepp Castle Estate on 6th November 2018. The Minutes of the meeting and a separate Summary and Conclusions document can be obtained by following the link in the left margin.
A beaver has been seen and filmed using camera traps in Tarvisiano in Friuli-Venezia, in the north-east of Italy. It is believed that the male, nicknamed Ponta by research workers, crossed over the border from Austria. As elsewhere in Europe, beavers were hunted to extinction and heaven’t been present in Italy for over 450 years (Il Globo, The Local (it)).
A 4 ha enclosure has been built at Spains Hall Estate, near Braintree in the county of Essex and a breeding pair of beavers will be introduced to the enclosure soon. The aim is to help control water levels and prevent downstream flooding at Finchingfield, as well as improving habitat quality and increasing biodiversity. Interestingly, a man-made flood management system will be set up in a nearby stream enabling a comparison of the effectiveness of the two schemes. Wildlife film-maker, Russell Savoury, will be making a film of what happens which will be screened next year. Spains Hall Estate Owner Archie Ruggles-Brise is very enthusiastic about the project and says, “We hope the project will also focus a spotlight on our little corner of rural North West Essex, a hidden gem normally only enjoyed by those in the know.” We should also learn a lot more about beavers and the benefits they bring by this pioneering enterprise. (BBC News, Harwich and Manningtree Standard, Gov.UK, Flipboard, Hertfordshire Mercury). Spains Hall Estate is working in partnership with several other organisations including the Essex & Suffolk Rivers Trust, Essex Wildlife Trust and The Environment Agency, with funding from partners including the Anglian Eastern Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFCC): .
A five year trial to release beavers into a 16 ha release site in Cropton Forest in the North York Moors National Park in the north of England has been proposed by the Forestry Commission. The aim is to assess how beavers can slow down the flow of water to help protect areas such as Pickering from flooding (The Scarborough News).
In April, a beaver was killed on the road near the River Otter in Devon, and was probably an animal that was part of the River Otter Beaver Trial (ROBT). There have also been recent reports of beavers killed on the road in the Wye catchment Wales. One was a road casualty near the Cage Brook in Herefordshire in December 2017. In the same month, another beaver was reported to have been killed on a road near Painscastle. A third beaver was found dead near Llandogo in January 2018.