People urged to support plans to 'bring back the beavers'

  • Watch: Plymouth's first beaver in over 400 years released

A wildlife charity is urging the public to back plans to reintroduce beavers to rivers across England.

A Government consultation closes in a little over a week's time which will decide whether to go ahead with a programme to fully reintroduce beavers following several trials.

The dam-building rodents were hunted to extinction in England 400 years ago but have now successfully colonised a number of rivers, including the River Otter in east Devon.

The Devon Wildlife Trust is calling on people to support its "bring back beavers" campaign on its website or by filling a consultation form on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website.

An Eurasian beaver on Exmoor. Credit: PA

Beaver dams have been shown to help filter water pollutants, reduce flood risk by breaking up water flows following heavy rain, and create new carbon-sequestering wetlands.

They can have a cascade of benefits for other species such as dragonflies, otters, kingfishers and water voles which thrive in the habitat they create. The Devon Wildlife Trust led the programme to reintroduce the first wild population of beavers to an English river in 2015.

There are now thought to be 20 family groups living on the River Otter in east Devon, and they were given permanent permission to stay in August 2020.

He added: "Beavers build dams and create wetlands - the perfect conditions for countless other species to flourish in.

"They are a missing piece in our nature and now we have the chance to get them back in rivers across England, not just here in a corner of Devon. We urge as many people as possible to back the beaver."

Mr Elliot said the trust was heartened by the Prime Minister's "build back beaver" comments at the Tory Party conference last month, but said the public still need to get involved.

The male beaver 'Brian' who was given a new home in Plymouth after being saved from being culled in Scotland. Credit: Chris Parkes

"While we are encouraged by the signals from Government, it's also vital that the levels of public support for beavers is made clear," he said.

"Recent flood and pollution events have shown that our rivers and wetlands are in a desperate state.

"Beavers are one of the natural solutions which can help us in tackling these issues.

"But to do that we need an ambitious plan for reintroduction, one in which beavers can be returned to river catchments throughout England."

In November, a beaver was released in Plymouth for first time in 400 years. The 20kg male, which was caught in Scotland in September, was introduced to a specially-designed enclosure in Forder Valley.

The beaver taking his first steps in his new enclosure in Forder Valley. Credit: Plymouth City Council

A female was shortly brought along to keep the male company, but tragedy struck when she was hit by a car and died in July.

The pair, named Brian and Beryl, escaped from their paddock during stormy weather, and Beryl’s body was later found in Forder Valley Road. Brian was then rehomed.