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.
On 30th July, The Scotsman reported that two recently released captive-bred beavers have been filmed pairing successfully. The two beavers were released as part of a three year plan to release 26 beavers over three years to reinforce the Knapdale beaver population. Beavers were first released into Knapdale in Argyll, Scotland in 2009 as part of the official Scottish Beaver Trial, which ended in September 2016.
Forest of Dean
Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, released two beavers into a 6.5 ha enclosure in the Forest of Dean today. It is hoped that the activities of the beavers on the Greathough Brook will allay flooding that tends to occur in the village of Lydbrook. Michael Gove said, “The beaver has a special place in English heritage and the Forest of Dean. This release is a fantastic opportunity to develop our understanding of the potential impacts of reintroductions and help this iconic species, 400 years after it was driven to extinction. The community of Lydbrook has shown tremendous support for this scheme and the beavers will be a welcome addition to local wildlife. The project is an example of our wider approach to enhancing biodiversity. It is another step towards our aim of leaving the environment in a better state for future generations.” The Forest is run by Forestry Commission England and funding towards the project has been obtained from Gloucestershire Environmental Trust and Forest Holidays. A team of hydrologists from the University of Exeter led by Prof. Richard Brazier has already been monitoring the hydrology of the Brook for over a year, and will continue their work to study the effects of beaver dams on flooding – this will be a unique natural experiment.
River Otter Beaver Trial (ROBT)
At the same time today, DEFRA announced £20,000 of funding for the ROBT, led by the Devon Wildlife Trust, to understand the possible impact of reintroducing beavers more widely in England.
PhD position – apply now, “Predicting cascading ecosystem effects of beavers on riparian vegetation and deer”
A new PhD co-funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, the University of Stirling and the James Hutton Institute is now open to applications. Full details on FindAPhD. Note: the deadline for applications is 11th June 2018.