The Wildlife Trusts' beaver projects

Beavers release Devon Wildlife Trust (c) Nick Upton NaturePl.com

The Wildlife Trusts are at the forefront of initiatives exploring the feasibility of reintroducing the Eurasian beaver to Britain.

The Scottish Beaver Trial 

Read the Scottish Beaver Trial's final report here

scottishbeavers.org.uk

The Scottish Beaver Trial is a partnership project between the Scottish Wildlife Trust, The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and host partner Forestry Commission Scotland in Knapdale Forest, Argyll. This project was supported by a £1 million grant from Biffa Award  as part of the Landfill Communities Fund. 

In May 2009, the Scottish Beaver Truial released the first beavers to live wild in Scotland in over 400 years. This marked the first ever formal reintroduction of a native mammal species in Britain and launched a groundbreaking five year study to explore how beavers can enhance and restore natural environments.

There is no enclosure and the trial area covers 44 square kilometres. The five year monitoring phase of the trial has now finished, and the scientific findings have been presented to the Scottish Government by Scottish Natural Heritage.  We are now awaiting a decision from the Scottish Government on the future of beavers in Scotland.

Can I visit?

Yes, visitors are welcome.  A ‘Beaver Detective Trial’ has been established around one of the lochs where the activities of its resident beaver family are most visible. Signs of beaver activity including felled and regenerating trees, stripped branches and a beaver dam, can now all be spotted as part of a family friendly day out.  If you visit in the early morning or early evening, you may even see a beaver!  Plan your visit here .

The Devon Beaver Project

In March 2011, a pair of juvenile Eurasian beavers were released into a 3 hectare fenced enclosure on private land in northern Devon.  The objectives of the project are to use beavers to restore an area of nationally important wet grassland and to understand the effects that this once-native species will have on this environment.

This project aims to study the effects that beavers have on these wetlands. This will help to inform future decisions about the potential reintroduction of this species into the wider countryside.

The effects of the beavers are being monitored using water quality tests, flora and fauna surveys and fixed-point photography. The first phase of the Devon Beaver Project is complete and two years’ worth of valuable data has already been collected and analysed. 

Read the Devon Beaver Project interim report here.

The effects on the compound so far have been astounding – the dense willow canopy has been opened up and the culm grassland beneath reawakened; a dynamic, diverse and bewitching tangle of habitats has been created by the beavers who’ve transformed what was a small trickle of water through the site into an amazing series of waterways.

The Project will now continue to monitor the ecological effects the beavers are having on their environment – from changes in the vegetation composition to effects on the populations of amphibians, bats and breeding birds. Water levels and quality will also continue to be monitored at the site and all results will be published in 2016.

Can I visit?

Sorry, access to the site is by invitation only for safety reasons and to minimise disturbance.

Devon's wild beavers - the River Otter Beaver Trial

In 2014, beavers were discovered living wild in east Devon.  The origin of the population is unknown, though is presumably the result of an escape or unsanctioned deliberate release.

In July 2014, Defra announced its intention to catch and remove the wild beavers. Their plan was to re-home the animals in captivity because of the disease-risk posed by the beavers, and their potential impact on the local landscape and wildlife. Devon Wildlife Trust spent much of 2014 developing an alternative proposal: England's first ever wild beaver trial. 

Following enthusiastic support from the local community, Natural England granted Devon Wildlife Trust permission to begin a five year monitoring project - the River Otter Beaver Trial.    The Trial will oversee the population, range and health of the beavers, and the effect they have on the local landscape and people. It will focus on the beavers' impacts on wildlife, vegetation, water flow, water quality, communities and infrastructure. 

In June 2015, the first baby beavers to be born as part of England's first wild beaver trial were filmed on the river Otter.  Please support Devon Wildlife Trust's beaver project - more details here !

Can I visit?

Yes, there is good public access alongside the River Otter.  There is now evidence of beaver activity from Honiton to Budleigh Salterton, a distance of around 12 miles.

The Ham Fen Beaver Project, Kent

Kent Wildlife Trust hosts the pioneering enclosed reintroduction at Ham Fen.

This project began because of the challenges of restoring the last fenland in Kent using machinery. The conditions made it difficult to get machinery in and out of the site and the costs were very high. Then Kent Wildlife Trust hit on the idea of using beavers to help conserve the fen and began by releasing two families of Norwegian beavers in 2001.

The beavers are contained within the 30 hectare (just over 100 acres) site near Sandwich by 3.8 km of perimeter fencing. The project has been a great success and the ancient fenland and wet grassland with dykes and ditches are all thriving thanks to the beavers, which provide a more natural and sustainable way of maintaining wetland habitats and the diverse array of plants and animals they support. The effects have been so positive that the Project's licence has been extended by Natural England.

At the last count there were ten beavers on site. They’re doing a fantastic job of managing this ancient landscape of waterways – fish and many other species such as water voles have benefitted - and have created a self-maintaining landscape requiring less intervention by man and heavy machinery.

Can I visit?

Group visits are by appointment only, for safety reasons and to minimise disturbance.  Kent Wildlife Trust runs regular beaver walks - contact us to find out more .

Beaver dam at Ham Fen

The Welsh Beaver Project



welshbeaverproject.org

Read the report of the Welsh Beaver Assessment Initiative here.

Also available in Welsh.

The Welsh Beaver Project is working to reintroduce wild beavers (Castor fiber) back into the Welsh landscape. This work has been led by the Wildlife Trusts in Wales as part of their Living Landscapes strategy and is being delivered in partnership with other organisations.

Feasibility studies have been undertaken in Wales and these studies have determined that there is abundant habitat within Wales suitable for beavers, and that a beaver reintroduction to Wales would be ecologically feasible.  

Plans are now afoot to return beavers back into Wales. The Welsh Beaver Project have identified many potential release sites and these also include enclosed sites where beavers would be used to undertake targeted habitat management. The Welsh Beaver Project is currently focusing on potential release sites in the western parts of Wales. This includes a release site in Carmarthenshire, where we are working with a farmer-led organisation, The Bevis Trust. For more information please visit our website www.welshbeaver.org .

However, the reintroduction of beavers does require funding and support to get this project off the ground! If you want to see beavers returned to Wales, please consider supporting the Welsh Beaver Project’s work via our donation page: https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/radnorshire-wildlifetrust/w... .

The Cornish Beaver Project

After being hunted to extinction several hundred years ago, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and local farmers Chris and Janet Jones from Woodland Valley Farm are bringing Eurasian beavers back to Cornwall this summer 2017. This ground-breaking project intends to show that beavers can help create new wildlife habitat, make our streams cleaner and crucially reduce flooding.

Chris Jones, Farmer at Woodland Valley said “I can’t wait to get the beavers on the farm and watch what they do. The site at the moment has one pond, the stream, a young even-aged tree plantation and not a great variety of plants – but the beavers could transform it into a truly natural wetland oasis. I’m really hoping the amount of wildlife and wetland increases.”

Beavers will be re-introduced to a specially fenced area, upstream of Ladock village, just outside Truro. Ladock has suffered severe flooding in recent years and this project is designed to help. Universities will study the before and after impacts of the beavers – something never done before at this scale in an intensively farmed landscape like Cornwall. The project will build on research from other re-introductions in the UK and Europe, putting Cornwall on the global map. The results will help find out if this long-lost species could once again become part of the Cornish landscape to help us combat flooding in a natural way.

Two adult beavers will be introduced to a purpose-built five acre enclosure that contains prime beaver habitat and a stream that flows into the Tresillian River

Scientists from the University of Exeter have been studying the stream for over a year now.

Professor Richard Brazier, from the University of Exeter said “The Woodland Valley Farm site is the perfect location and scale to show how effective beavers are at creating lots of environmental benefits and crucially whether their activity could reduce Ladock’s flooding problems.”

Cornwall Wildlife Trust will be launching a Crowdfunder campaign to raise the funds needed to bring beavers back to Cornwall. For more information about the project please visit www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/beaverproject

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