Beavering away – or, actually, here to stay.

Beavers on River Otter. Photo: David Land
Beavers on River Otter. Photo: David Land

Harry Barton, Chief Executive of Devon Wildlife Trust, said:

‘We are delighted by Natural England’s decision to grant us a licence to give these beavers a long term future on the River Otter. It’s the result of a great deal of effort by our charity, supported by partner organisations across the UK and, most importantly, by the local community.

This is an historic moment. The beavers of the River Otter are the first breeding population in the English countryside for hundreds of years. We believe they can play a positive role in the landscapes of the 21st century through their ability to restore our rivers to their former glories. We know from our own research and research done in Europe that beavers are excellent aquatic-engineers improving the flood and drought resilience of our countryside and increasing the water quality of our rivers. They are incredibly industrious animals and their hard work has benefits for people and wildlife.’.

Devon Wildlife Trust has expressed its delight that Natural England has granted it permission to monitor the beavers. Devon Wildlife Trust’s beaver trial in another part of the county is ongoing – scientific results will be published in 2016.

Public meetings have been held to discuss the presence of the wild beavers on the River Otter – there has been a high level of local support for Devon Wildlife Trust’s proposal to set up a five year project to monitor the population and its impact. It is appealing to the public to help it fund the scheme. Public enthusiasm for the beavers is high – with Devon Wildlife Trust raising £45,000 in just eight weeks.

The Wildlife Trusts say that they are at the forefront of bringing beavers, and the lost landscapes that were once their home, back to the UK.  Beavers were hunted to extinction in the UK by the 16th century because their fur was highly valued. Now Wildlife Trusts in England, Scotland and Wales are making the case for their reintroduction by hosting both wild and enclosed beaver trials and feasibility studies.

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts says:

This is wonderful news. I hope that the decision to allow this fascinating and once commonplace native species to remain on the River Otter symbolises a change in our relationship with the natural world, and a wider appreciation that nature makes our lives richer.

However, Friends of the Earth also deserve considerable credit for a national campaign to keep the Devon beavers in the wild.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Alasdair Cameron, said:

This is great news for Devon’s beavers.  If, as seems likely, they can now remain in the wild, it will be a major victory for common sense and everyone who has campaigned on their behalf.

Beavers add to Britain’s rich natural heritage and can bring huge benefits to the local environment, such as boosting wildlife and reducing flooding risks.

Thanks to the hard work of thousands of individuals and organisations, our number of native species just increased by one. The next stage is to get the beavers tested and then returned to the River Otter where they can now swim in peace.”

Hopefully we’ll now see renewed efforts to reintroduce beavers to other suitable locations right across the country.’.

Andrew Sells, Natural England’s Chairman commented:

‘Reintroduction of a species is a complicated and emotive subject and we have considered this application very carefully. Responses to our written consultation and public meetings have been generally positive and we are now satisfied with Devon Wildlife Trust’s plans for managing and monitoring the project, which will allow important evidence to be gathered during the trial on any impacts which the beavers may have.

Future decisions by Natural England on the release of beavers will in large part be informed by the results of this trial. The unauthorised release of beavers remains illegal and Natural England does not expect to grant any other licences for beaver release during this trial period.

Trapping and testing of the animals for Echinococcus multilocularis will be carried out by the Animal and Plant Health Agency under a separate licence that was granted towards the end of 2014.’.

We await a response by the NFU and CLA but in Wales and Scotland, farmers representatives are less keen on beavers.


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25 Replies to “Beavering away – or, actually, here to stay.”

  1. Great news! I can't believe that Defra ever considered removing them. Oh, hang on, that's all too easy to believe, unfortunately. But the right decision in the end for once :-).

  2. This is great news. Well done Devon Wildlife Trust and Natural England and all the other parties involved. Let's hope this means there will now be many other opportunities for beavers to be reintroduced to other rivers in Devon, Dorset and elsewhere.

  3. Well the lunatics are clearly in charge of the asylum why oh why wont these interfering conversationalists listen to the wishes of local farmers who clearly know best when it comes to these matters. I wonder how many of these experts would be willing to provide homes for oversized rats in their own gardens not many I think nor will these experts be anywhere to be seen when one of these creatures attacks a small child or mounts someones dog.

    1. Your reply has to be a joke? "Local farmers know best"? Beavers about to eat small children? Perhaps your taste in YouTube is a bit whacky, but do you really think beavers are about to start having sex with local pet dogs? Strange how many people worry so much about the UK countryside actually having wildlife in it...

      1. Well how else do they spread these nasty STDs then? Have you taken your dog for a walk on the River Otter? No? I didn't think so I rest my case then.

  4. yes cant wait until they to my HLS scheme which is based around flood plain management and restoration of the river valley for grazing. By the time they've chewed up all the willows which will then block the river and take out the fencing it will be fantastic. Genius idea after all it worked in Argentina so well.

    1. that's right Julian I told so called expert all about the god awful mess beavers have made of Argentina and he tried to fob me off with some terrible excuse about beavers not being native to Argentina when I said well beavers aren't native to the UK the best he could do was give me a funny look and then walked away!

      why don't conservationists just get together and buy there own river system and surrounding land so they can keep beavers to their hearts content without upsetting hardworking farmers?

      1. I think you will find Beavers (The European beaver) are in fact native to the UK. In fact the beavers in Argentina are a different species (North American Beaver)with a different ecology to the European Beaver.

        Beavers can help clean our rivers, manage water levels to benefit many species and increase biodiversity and their dams act as fish nurseries. And perhaps most importantly of all they belong in the UK as part of the native fauna.

      2. But of course Amos, you're forgetting that beavers used to be native to the
        UK. Until we wiped them out. Just like Red Kites. Perhaps you don't like those either?

  5. Great decision. The last few years seem to have been characterised by a succession of skirmishes between wildlife and its defenders, and the small 'c' conservatism of so many landowners. We've seen overt war on harriers, badgers, buzzards, goshawks and latterly beavers, and covert war, in the form of continuing support (CAP, etc.) for a land management direction that leaves little room for our everyday wildlife. At least on this occasion, it looks like the beavers have, for now, come out on top. Hurrah!

    It's our countryside too - a truism that applies to our battered wildlife populations on one hand, and on the other, all of us who inhabit this crowded island, especially those that love nature and wish our countryside hadn't lost so much of it. We must not let those fortunate enough to own land forget that they are no more than stewards. Wildlife contributes immeasurably to all our wellbeing; this little victory has certainly contributed to mine.

  6. Great news. Interesting that the Angling Trust have been very quiet on this issue in recent days. I expect certain groups to explain how a species that is native shouldn't be here of course

  7. Well John, great rant if it wasn't for the fact that it was your taxes that funded the HLS in the first place for the good of the environment, both locally and nationally so in effect its your scheme as well ! I doubt the conservation bodies who so lauded our efforts will be much impressed when we explain how much better it is now we have some "battered wildlife" now battering the wildlife that they just paid for. As I said genius idea, I only wish I'd thought of it. We can then have a scheme to replace all the ancient black poplars and we could call it "Countryside Stewardship" maybe ?

    1. It's not HLS I worry about Julian. That only represents a small proportion of CAP; it's the way Pillar 1 and in particular the Single Farm Payment basically acts as a subsidy for land ownership that is by and large used to sustain intensive land management practices that might not otherwise - in more marginal circumstances - be viable.

      Just look at the way the Industry has fought the imposition of any meaningful greening. Every step of the way. Now that's a representation of the commitment to Countryside Stewardship.

  8. Amos - great idea about buying rivers. In fact lets take them into state control and 1000m either side of the water course so that we don't have to spend vast sums of money cleaning up the diffuse pollution, soil run-off (maize) and poisoning created by guess who - farmers! Who pays - well the environment for starters and everyone else in our water bills.
    Fantastic decision and start of hopefully recolonisation of our waterways and a step to restoring wetlands and dynamic floodplains again.

  9. oh and the last beaver in England was 1526 so guess what, just like the black rat which was responsible for the black death they are that's okay then; good glad we cleared that up !

    1. Black Rats are non native, came over with or after the Romans. Beavers were native, like wolves; here at the time the land bridge to Europe was cut. That's partly why this is so symbolic for many.

  10. DBS are you living in some alternative universe, if so I'd love to visit. What on earth do you think all the work done on restoring flood plains and traditional water meadows was about ? landowners working with NE and the EA to meet EU river water quality within the European Water Framework Directive maybe ?

  11. John so it's okay for the old beavers to be released to chew up the landscape as they didn't go on holiday with the Romans but the black rat is in trouble because it booked an away day special with old Julius C.

    Oh I get it now ! It's a very advanced sense of humour at my expense. Very clever. I'm so relieved as just for a moment there I thought we were basing our environmental policy on which species was first in

  12. Save your breath Julian the problem with this lot is too much knowledge and science and not enough good old fashioned common sense that comes with being a farmer and a proper countryman. When the beavers have eaten all fish and trees they wish they had listened to common sense.

    1. Ah yes, good old common sense; the prejudices of an 18 year old reinforced by age (with apologies to Albert Einstein)

      Fish-eating beavers? They'll be from the same place as carrot eating otters.

  13. People say that Patagonian beavers are a different species to Eurasian beavers. Fair enough, but they are still beavers which breed prolifically, construct dams, flood trees, cut down trees, flood agricultural land and are very difficult to control. The Patagonian beech forests are being decimated by beavers which have caused the greatest environmental destruction ever recorded in the Americas. The damage can be viewed from outer space. The policy in Argentina and Chile is to eradicate all beavers

    The beavers introduced into the river Otter have been done so illegally as have those on the river Tay in Scotland, whose population has boomed to approaching 200 individuals. Illegal introduction should alone be reason enough to remove these animals. A trapping program on the Tay caught only one beaver. In Chile they have been hunted for many years with upto 11,000 being killed in any one year and yet their numbers are still rocketing with upto 200,000 individuals estimated. It is very sad to see the vast areas of dead southern beech forest with now only white dead trunks standing in water. Plenty of Magellanic woodpeckers though. but for how long ?
    Rogue Beavers in Tayside Rivers
    Beavers in Patagonia

    1. Yes but the the Beavers in Patagonia are not native to Patagonia, and should not be there. The species in Patagonia have not evolved along side North American Beavers and therefore their actions are causing problems.

      This is not comparable to the Eurasian Beaver being in here, beacuse it IS native to the UK and there the species in the Uk have evolved to coexist with it, as shown in Europe where it has been reintroduced (that is NOT introduced) has had great benefits with their dams (which are much smaller than those of North American beavers) are home to amphibians and act as great nurseries to fish among other benefits.

  14. Oh well Neil if that's the case it should all going swimmingly well then, after all not much has changed in England since 1526 so I can't see what could possibility go wrong.


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