The Wildlife Trusts announce that 2021 will be a record year for beaver releases

The Wildlife Trusts are releasing a record number of beavers in 2021 – twenty years after they brought the first beavers back to the UK.

Around 20 beavers will be released this year, including a project in Wales. The first release of the year was in Dorset this week.

Plans developed by wildlife trusts based in Dorset, Derbyshire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Nottinghamshire and Montgomeryshire will bring new families of beavers to these counties for the first time. The Wildlife Trusts have been at the forefront of beaver reintroduction and projects in the UK since Kent Wildlife Trust released the first pair in a fenced bog in 2001, followed by the Scottish Beaver Trial in 2009.

These hard-working herbivores are native to mainland Britain, but were threatened with extinction in the 16th century by people who wanted their fur, meat and scent glands. The loss of beavers led to the loss of the mosaic of lakes, meres, moors, tarns and swampy places that they were instrumental in creating. Their ability to restore and maintain vital wetlands is why the reintroduction of this species is so important.

European Beaver, Copyright Mark Hows, from the Surfbirds Galleries

Craig Bennett, executive director of The Wildlife Trusts, says:

“Beavers are a fantastic species of capstone that has played an extremely important role in restoring nature in the UK. It’s great to see wildlife trusts across the UK ensuring a brighter future for wetlands and an abundance of other wildlife by bringing back beavers whose technical skills are breathing new life into wild places. The benefits for humans are obvious: beavers help stop flooding downstream, filter out contaminants and create new homes for otters, voles and kingfishers. In addition, people love to see them and their presence encourages rural tourism.

“We live in one of the most naturally affected countries in the world. That is why we have the big goal of protecting 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030. We call on the government to develop an ambitious strategy for beavers to return to face the climate crisis and improve wetlands for wildlife. “

Five years of research from Devon Wildlife Confidence shows that beavers bring a valuable range of improvements for humans and animals:

  • They create a fantastic range of wetlands that are home to other wildlife and greatly improve the conditions for nature to thrive
  • The canals, dams and wetlands that beavers build hold back water and release it more slowly after heavy rain, reducing the risk of flooding
  • Their activities prevent the soil from being washed away after rainfall – their dams filter water, purify it, and reduce pollution downstream

The Devon Wildlife Trust and its partners in the River Otter Beaver Trial have gained extensive experience helping people reunite with these hardworking creatures. DWT led a locally agreed management strategy that has proven critical in allowing local communities, volunteers, and landowners to work together to maximize beaver benefits and successfully address local issues.

This year, individual wildlife trusts are collecting donations to bring the beavers back, get their new homes ready and carry out the necessary controls. Future publications are expected to capture, study and move beavers from a sizeable population in Scotland.

New Wildlife Trust beaver releases for 2021 – for the first time in these countries:

Dorset Wildlife Trust

On Monday February 8th, two beavers were released in an enclosed location in Dorset after feasibility studies and careful monitoring to see what difference they could make to an enclosed wetland. After several years of preparation, including installing a special fence to enclose the site and recording baseline data with experts from the University of Exeter and Wessex Water, the two Eurasian beavers, an adult male and an adult female, have settled in.

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

Two families of beavers and their kits will be released this year following a hugely successful fundraiser and feasibility study in 47 acres of enclosed space on the Willington Wetlands Reserve in the Trent Valley. Beavers will help increase the reserve’s water storage capacity. The site is being prepared so beavers can be rehabilitated from a location in Scotland later this year.

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust

Subject to a successful license application, the Trust plans to release Beavers on the Isle of Wight for the given name. The results of the Trust’s feasibility study on their reserves in Eastern Yar have been very positive, showing that the habitat is well suited for beavers. There is hope that they can be officially released into an open area rather than fenced-in enclosures. The Trust looks forward to discussions with landowners and local communities about the possible release of beavers later this year.

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust

The Trust plans to reintroduce at least four beavers in a huge enclosure in the spectacular Idle Valley Nature Reserve in North Nottinghamshire this summer. This will be part of a project to harness the power of natural processes to transform one of the already best inland nature observation spots in the region.

Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust

The Welsh Beaver Project (managed by the North Wales Wildlife Trust on behalf of the five wildlife trusts in Wales) has supported the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust in their plans to release a pair of beavers into an enclosure in their Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve near Machynlleth. It will be the first officially licensed publication of beavers in Wales. The beavers will play an important role in managing invasive pastures and scrub that threaten the wetlands of this lowland bog. A request with supporting information has been submitted to Natural Resources Wales for decision and they hope to see beavers in Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve this spring.

Urban Beavers – new for 2022!

Shropshire Wildlife Trust have identified 12 acres in central Shrewsbury where two beavers will be released in an enclosure in 2022. The beavers will replace grazing livestock to keep trees and scrub from entering the wetland. The area is surrounded by housing developments and a school, so that the local people have ample opportunity to get involved.

Recent beaver publications from The Wildlife Trusts

In November 2020 Cheshire Wildlife Trust re-introduced a pair of beavers at Hatch Mere Lake. The couple settled in their new 4.5 hectare enclosure as part of a five-year project. The Trust will oversee the changes these ecosystem engineers are making and review the water quality and impact on wildlife such as breeding birds, bats, aquatic invertebrates, and the rare plants and mosses.

Also in 2020 Cumbria Wildlife Trust helped reintroduce two beavers to an enclosure on the Lowther Estate in the Lake District. The movie below shows the amazing work the couple have done over the past month to slow the flow of water and improve the habitat for other wildlife.

In addition, the Wildlife Trusts have been involved in beaver reintroductions and projects in Kent, Argyll, Devon, Cornwall and Sussex for the past twenty years.

The Wildlife Trusts expect Defra to launch a public consultation shortly on a beaver strategy for England that will look in more detail at the management of beavers in the wild and future reintroductions. The Wildlife Trusts want clear support for the reintroduction of beavers to catchment areas across the country. We urge the government:

  • Clarify your legal status in England. Beavers became a legally protected native species in Scotland in 2019.
  • Agree on an ambitious strategic approach to enable their return to tackle the climate crisis and improve wetlands for wildlife.
  • Provide funds to landowners and local beaver management groups to help reintegrate beavers into our land.

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