Plans to release a family of beavers into a large enclosure around Greathough Brook above the village of Lydbrook on the north-west edge of the Forest of Dean in the county of Gloucestershire, England have yet to be approved by the Government (see The Guardian and BBC News). It is hoped that the plans, which are supported by the Forestry Commission (who manage the Forest) and the local villagers, will be given the green light soon. It is believed that the beavers will will create dams, ponds and canals and hold back up to 6000 cubic metres of water and so prevent the flooding of Lydbrook, which has happened in the past.
There have been recent reports of an incident between a dog and a beaver that occurred near a footpath along the River Otter, near Otterton in Devon (BBC News, Devonlive, ITV News, Sidmouth Herald). It appears that a dog that was not on a lead received injuries that are not life threatening. It is likely that the beaver had young kits nearby and was defending them. Signs are in place along the river to advise dog owners to keep their dogs are on a lead and out of the water in these areas. Such incidents are very rare but occasionally occur when animals (e.g. deer) or birds (e.g. swans) have young and feel threatened in some way. Devon Wildlife Trust is licenced to carry out trial studies on the reintroduction of beavers to the River Otter until 2020 (ROBT).
Evidence is building from an enclosed beaver study being carried out by Devon Wildlife Trust, under the direction of Prof Richard Brazier from Exeter University and other scientists, of the benefits of beavers in providing: natural protection against flooding, cleaning water of pollutants thus improving water supplies, reducing soil loss and enhancing biodiversity. However, there are sceptics who are not yet convinced about the longer-term net benefits of beavers in the wider countryside (BBC News). The studies continue; a summary of the initial findings with reference to publications in the scientific press can be downloaded here.
Recent reports (BBC Radio Gloucestshire, GloucestershireLive) indicate that the Forestry Commission is considering intruducing beavers into Lydbrook in the Forest of Dean to help stop a village from flooding. Further details can be found here.
Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT) have recently released an up-to-date report on the scientific research being carried out on the captive beaver colony in Devon and on the population of wild beavers living on the River Otter in Devon. DWT is the lead partner in the first licensed beaver re-introduction and monitoring project to be carried out in England, on the River Otter in east Devon. The two new beavers introuced to the River Otter last year have built their own lodge and are building small dams – see Save the Free Beavers in England Facebook page.
The Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, has announced that beavers will be allowed to remain in Scotland and be listed as a protected species. The long-awaited decision means that for the first time a mammal has been officially reintroduced into the UK, and has been welcomed by many, including: Scottish Natural Heritage, The Scottish Wildlife Trust, and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. The official news website for the Scottish Government provides details that Scottish Ministers have agreed that:
- Beaver populations in Argyll and Tayside can remain;
- The species will receive legal protection, in accordance with the EU Habitats Directive;
- Beavers will be allowed to expand their range naturally;
- Beavers should be actively managed to minimise adverse impacts on farmers and other land owners;
- It will remain an offence for beavers to be released without a licence, punishable by up to 2 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
Devon Wildlife Trust have launced a crowdfunding campaign to support the re-introduction and monitoring of beavers on the River Otter, Devon. The science-led project is one year into a five year trial licenced by the government. For more information and ways to support the campaign, visit their website (also see Devon Wildlife Trust River Otter Beaver Trial).
One of the female beavers involved in the licensed River Otter Beaver Trial being carried out by Devon Wildlife Trust has been filmed with a kit (BBC News). Altogether there are thought to be three kits in the family group, which is an encouraging sign that the trial is going well.
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.