Government urged to make a decision on restoring beavers to the English countryside

Both the Beaver Trust has written to the Government asking that they make a timely decision on restoring beavers to the English countryside. The letter has been countersigned by more than 60 organisations, estates, experts and campaigners. The Wildlife Trusts have also written to the Government calling for a Beaver Strategy for England. A decision was originally due in March at the completion of the 5 year River Otter Beaver Trial (ROBT); the Trial was extended until August with the decision to be made at that time. However, as a result of the current coronavirus pandemic, there is a possibility that George Eustace, the Environment Minister, and others in the Government will defer making a pronouncement until next year. The letter from The Beaver Trust asks the Government two questions:

  1. “Will you commit to making policy decisions this year on producing a pragmatic and ambitious strategy for beaver reintroduction in England?”
  2. “Will you ensure there is no moratorium on the current, effective system of beaver licensing and to expedite applications if they are reasonable and competent?”

Together with beaver licencing, there appears an urgent need to put into place a national management framework along the lines of  the River Otter – Beaver Management Strategy, which was drawn up using information from ROBT’s detailed  5 year Science and Evidence Report. (Also see ITV News, Yorkshire Post.)

ROBT Science and Evidence Report published

The River Otter Beaver Trial (ROBT) Science and Evidence Report has been published. The five year trial, licenced by Natural England, has been a partnership between Devon Wildlife Trust, Clinton Devon Estates, Derek Gow Consultancy and the University of Exeter. The report marks the end of the trial and summarisies the studies that have been carried out on the beavers and their positive and negative impacts on the River Otter and local communities. It will assist the Governement in making a decision about the future of beavers in England. (The Guardian, ITV, Mail Online, Evening Express, BBC)

Beavers to be released at the Knepp Estate, Sussex in 2020

Two pairs of beavers will be released under Natural England licence into a 250 ha enclosure in the River Adur catchment on Knepp Estate in spring or autumn this year. The release will constitute a 5-year trial run by the Sussex Wildlife Trust and Knepp Estate (Knepp Reintroductions, Countrylife, Sussex Wildlife Trust, The Argus). The owners of the 1400 ha estate, Charlie Burrell and Isabella Tree, are well known for their ground-breaking rewilding approach to regenerating and restoring the landscape (for more information, see Knepp Castle Estate).

Beavers released onto National Trust property at Holnicote Estate in Somerset, southern England

A male and female beaver have been translocated from the River Tay in Scotland to a 2.7 ha fenced enclosure at Holnicote Estate owned by the National Trust in Somerset. The transfer has been carried out under licence from Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural England. The beavers will be monitored by staff from the National Trust, volunteers and the University of Exeter. (The West Country, Somerset County Gazette, South West Farmer The Telegraph, Newsdevelops, BBC News)

Beaver dams in Essex holding up well

The beavers released at the Spains Hall Estate in Finchingfield, Essex, last year to try to reduce flooding in the nearby village have been building lots of dams and creating wetlands. It appears that so far the beavers and their dams are standing up well to heavy rainfall (BBC News).

Beavers in the Forest of Dean doing well

In July 2018, a pair of beavers was released into a 7 ha enclosure near Lydbrook in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England. These were removed in February 2019 following a positive test for the parasitic tapeworm Echinococcus multicularis in one of them. Subsequently, another pair of beavers was released in the autumn of 2019, and currently the pair appear to be doing well (BBC News, Gloucestershire Live, News Archyves UK).

Beavers to be released into Cumbria in the North of England

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have approved a licence for a trial release of beavers into an 11 ha enclosure on the Lower Estate, Penrith in the Eden Valley in Cumbria. The Lowther Estate is part of the Cumbria Beaver Group that includes Cumbria wildlife Trust, the Eden Rivers Trust and the RSPB. A family of beavers ( 2 adults and four young) from the River Tay in Scotland will be released in March. One of the aims of the trial is to assess the impact of beavers in the upland landscape. (BBC News, The Sun, Daily Star Post, Manchester Evening News, Wildlife News)

Latvia’s animal of 2020

According to the Baltic Times, the beaver has been named the Animal of the Year in Latvia – worth celebrating!

Beavers can benefit people and nature

The start of the New Year has heralded several articles in the media about the potential benefits that beavers can bring to people (e.g. alleviate flooding, reduce sediment and pollutant levels in rivers) and nature (e.g. create diverse new habitats with a wealth of plants and animals) and refer to the 5-year trial release of beavers on the River Otter in Devon (BBC News, ITV News, The Telegraph, The Independent). The River Otter Beaver Project, run by Devon Wildlife Trust, ends this year and a DEFRA spokesperson has said, “We are committed to reintroducing formerly native species, including beavers, where there are clear environmental and socio-economic benefits. A decision on any future work following the River Otter project will be taken after its conclusion” (The Independent). The National Farmers Union have reiterated concerns about potential damage to farmland by the activities of beavers and that farmers must have the tools necessary to manage such impacts.

The National Trust to release beavers in two places in the south of England.

In 2020 The National Trust will introduce a pair of beavers into fenced enclosures at both Holnicote (also Atlas Obscura) near Exmoor in the County of Somerset and Valewood, Black Down in the South Downs near Haslemere. The recently announced plans have been approved by Natural England and the impacts of the beavers on the environment will be carefully monitored with the assistance of Exeter University. (The National Trust, BBC, Daily Sabah Europe, The Telegraph, Farnham Herald), In October the current Minister of State (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Zac Goldsmith, indicated that the Government could allow beavers to be introduced into the wild in England, refereeing to an article written by his brother, Ben Goldsmith entitled ‘The triumphant return of the British beaver’ in the Spectator magazine (The Daily Telegraph). Many farmers have concerns about beaver reintroductions to England and the possible impacts they may have on farming and the countryside (FarmingUK).