England’s first wild beavers for four centuries have been given the permanent “right to remain” in their Devon river home.
Up to 15 beaver families are estimated to live on the River Otter, where they have been living wild for some years.
Conservationists hailed the “groundbreaking decision” by the government to allow “nature’s engineers” to “breathe new life into our rivers and wetlands”.
The news marks the first ever reintroduction of an extinct native mammal to England, Devon Wildlife Trust said.
Beavers were hunted to extinction in Britain four centuries ago for their meat, fur and gland secretions used for perfume and medicine.
In 2013, a family of beavers were discovered to be living on the River Otter in East Devon – England’s first wild breeding population of beavers for 400 years.
The animals were initially threatened with removal by officials, until Devon Wildlife Trust stepped in to lead a study to examine the impacts of wild beavers on the river, landscape and community.
⚠️EXCITING NEWS⚠️ Today, we wake up to groundbreaking news: the government has officially said that Devon's beavers can stay. Their benefits will be felt by wildlife and people, and we are THRILLED! More here: https://t.co/xgsNBoQBb4@WildlifeTrusts@UniofExeter@DefraGovUKpic.twitter.com/fD3sBPcSuM— Devon Wildlife Trust (@DevonWildlife) August 6, 2020
The five-year trial found their dam-building helped reduce flooding for at-risk homes, improved water quality, and created wetlands that supported fish, insects, birds and endangered water voles. Their presence has even boosted local tourism.
The results showed how rapidly beavers can bring a “wealth of benefits” to the areas they inhabit, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said.
Two family groups of beavers were first identified and have since bred and dispersed through the river system, building 28 dams.
They will now be allowed to remain in the river permanently, and are expected to...