England's first wild beavers in 400 years allowed to stay in river

August 05, 2020

England's first wild population of beavers for 400 years has won the right to stay in a Devon river.

The government said the breeding beavers - comprising up to 15 family groups - can remain in the River Otter, where they were discovered in 2013.

The beavers had been threatened with removal but a five-year trial found their dam-building brought benefits.

It helped reduce flooding for some at-risk homes, created wetlands for other animals, improved water quality and even boosted local tourism.

There were some localised problems for landowners, as beavers can damage trees and flood parts of fields, but these were managed with the help of Devon Wildlife Trust.

Beavers were hunted to extinction four centuries ago in Britain but a family were found in the river seven years ago.

The government decision means the future is secure for the first reintroduction of an extinct native mammal to England, said Devon Wildlife Trust.

"This is the most groundbreaking government decision for England's wildlife for a generation," said the organisation's Peter Burgess.

"Beavers are nature's engineers and have the unrivalled ability to breathe new life into our rivers and wetlands. Their benefits will be felt throughout our countryside, by wildlife and people."

There are believed to be other beavers living on English rivers after having escaped or being released, and there are calls to help these populations too.

Mark Elliott, also from Devon Wildlife Trust, said: "It's now vital that decisions are made on the national status of beavers that allows them to be reintroduced into other river systems in England.

"There also needs to be funding to support landowners who wish to allow beavers to restore wetlands on their land, and to assist landowners who do not wish beavers to affect their farming practices.

"This is vital if we are to see beavers welcomed back into the English landscape after such a long absence."

A consultation on a national approach will open later this year, said environment minister Rebecca Pow.

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