Beaver sightings confirmed in city

A glimpse of a mystery animal in a Wolverhampton canal has been confirmed to be a rare sighting of a beaver.

Photos and videos from excited onlookers on Wednesday and Thursday sparked an online debate as to whether the animal was an otter or a beaver - a mammal hunted to extinction in the UK hundreds of years ago.

However, Harvey Tweats, a wildlife ranger at Trentham Estate in Stoke-on-Trent, ruled "100% beaver" on the sighting, adding the footage was "remarkable".

Beavers - hunted in the early 16th Century for their fur, scent glands and meat - were reintroduced to selected sites in the UK some years ago, with Trentham among them.

There were at least two sightings last week, one in the canal and another in Smestow Brook.

In 2009, the Scottish government authorised the release of beavers from Norway in Argyll’s Knapdale Forest, which Rewilding Britain said was Britain’s first official reintroduction of a mammal species to the wild.

Sites in England followed, although it is currently illegal in the country to release beavers into the wild without a licence from Natural England.

Mr Tweats said: "The wild population of beavers in England probably exceeds 1,000 animals, which are living in a range of habitats, with wild population centres in the south-west and Kent.

"Observation from European cities, such as Munich and Berlin, demonstrates that beavers can surprisingly thrive in urban environments – already wild beavers in England are living within cities, such as Exeter and Frome."

He added: "I’ve noticed in my work how accustomed beavers can become to the presence of people."

Beaver reintroduction at the Trentham Estate
A family of beavers was released at Trentham Estate in Stoke-on-Trent in March 2023 [BBC]

Beavers are often referred to as ecosystem engineers due to their ability to shape natural environments to benefit other species, as well as slowing the flow of water which can help reduce the risk of flooding.

A family of beavers was released at the Trentham Estate in March 2023, in one of the largest enclosures in the UK.

Mr Tweats said all of Trentham's beavers were safe and accounted for.

"Our beaver project has reintroduced beavers into a managed environment where the public can observe their activities, learn about their ecological benefits, and imagine a future where humans and beavers coexist harmoniously," he said.

“I advise members of the public to refer to the Beaver Trust’s Beaver Code if they spot one, and maintain distance.

“At Trentham we hope for a future where these fascinating creatures can be safely and legally reintroduced into their natural habitats across the Midlands.”

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