Earlier this year Natural England approved a licence to allow a family of beavers which had been living along the River Otter in Devon to remain in the wild (click here for more information). Issued to Devon Wildlife Trust who are responsible for managing the beavers this five year licence was subject to a number of conditions. A key condition was that the beavers on site are tested to confirm that they are European beavers and are free from parasites.
Now the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has confirmed that this is the case and that the beavers can stay and they have now been re-released. Although Beavers are a native British species they disappeared from our rivers 300 years ago and it remains unclear where these Devon beavers came from. At the moment there are four adults along with at least three young ‘kits’.
Under licence conditions all of these individuals had to be checked for the parasitic disease echinococcus multilocularis, a tapewormwhich is transmissible to humans. These tests have now been conducted with no harm to any of the beavers.
The plight of these beavers is being watched closely to assess the potential for reintroducing beavers in other parts of the UK as part of rewilding projects. This will include identifying and assessing any negative impacts of the species on people and the countryside. Additionally the benefits of beaver presence will be watched closely as they provide important ecosystem services. In particular Beavers can improve flood resilience within our rivers, river catchment management, improve fish stocks and increase water quality. In addition, they create a varied structure within river systems which will enhance biodiversity.
These beneficial impacts have been seen as part of ongoing trials in Scotland. Meanwhile initial feasibility studies have shown that beaver reintroduction in Wales is both ecologically and economically feasible and the first introductions could take place in Ceredigion as early as this year.