Fifty beavers living on River Avon near Bristol after hundreds of years of UK extinction

Until 2021, beavers had not been spotted in the West Country for more than 400 years. Credit: Elaine Gill/Natural England

At least 50 wild beavers are thought to be living on the River Avon after hundreds of years of being extinct in the UK.

Wildlife organisations have been trying to reintroduce the protected species to rivers in the UK since the early-2000s.

In 2021, a family of wild beavers was spotted on the River Avon for the first time in 400 years.

A survey was carried out by Natural England earlier this month after an increased number of reported sightings of the species around the river.

The survey found the existence of around 50 beavers with 'established territories' across 175 miles of the River Avon near Bristol and its tributaries in North East Somerset and Wiltshire.

  • Watch footage of a beaver family said to be 'thriving' on the banks of the River Avon

A spokesperson from Natural England said: "Little is known about the distribution, population size and origins of the of the population on the river.

"Surveys were conducted during January-March 2022 on canoe and foot, covering approximately 280km of channel length."

Almost 800 signs of beaver activity have been recorded by researchers, with an estimated 13 established territories identified.

The areas surveyed included the Avon upstream of Bath, the Somerset Frome, By Brook, Semington Brook, Biss Brook and the River Brue.

Natural England says the research findings will be used to understand the impacts of the animals in the area and for further research to be done on the genetic origins of the beaver population.