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England's First Wild Beavers In 400 Years Will Continue To Live On River Otter

England's First Wild Beavers In 400 Years Will Continue To Live On River Otter

The first beavers to live wild in England in four centuries have been allowed to remain at the place they've called home for the past five years - the River Otter, in east Devon.

While that might sound like the cute, semi-aquatic rodents were facing eviction for not paying their rent, it's actually because the furry critters were part of a reintroduction trial which recently came to an end.

On Thursday (6 August), the government gave permission for the re-established colony to remain in place.

Credit: Mike Symes/Devon Wildlife Trust
Credit: Mike Symes/Devon Wildlife Trust
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Remarkably, it's not only the first wild breeding of beavers in 400 years, but also the first legally sanctioned reintroduction of an extinct native mammal to England. Which, given all the bad news going on in the world right now, is a wonderful piece of good news.

The first group of beavers to appear on River Otter - clearly the river has the wrong name - was actually a family group that was spotted in 2013, though nobody is quite sure where they came from. Although threatened with removal, the Devon Wildlife Trust, together with community groups, stepped in.

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They showed that the beavers were actually European and not North American, and were able to gain a licence for a five-year trial. That trial was extended in February to conclude this month.

Credit: Mike Symes/Devon Wildlife Trust
Credit: Mike Symes/Devon Wildlife Trust
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Currently, there are up to 15 family groups of beavers estimated to live on the Otter. Peter Burgess, director of conservation at Devon Wildlife Trust - the organisation which has overseen the reintroduction trial - spoke to the Guardian and explained the ups and downs of the trial.

He said: "There have been some sleepless nights, and it was very stressful in the early stages. We knew the benefits, but things were hanging on a knife edge over securing the licence at the beginning."

Richard Benwell, who is the chief executive of the Wildlife And Countryside Link, said: "It's great to see that the reintroduction of beavers in this trial has resulted in a win-win for the local area, boosting wildlife and tackling man-made problems.

"The trial clearly proves the benefits of nature-based solutions to dealing with flooding, water quality and resilience to climate change. We hope to see more such welcome projects introduced by government as part of flooding, water and climate planning."

Featured Image Credit: Mike Symes/Devon Wildlife Trust

Topics: UK News, Animals

Mischa Pearlmen

Mischa is a freelance journalist usually based in either New York or London. He has written for Kerrang!, Record Collector, NME, the New York Observer and FLOOD magazine, among others. Contact him at [email protected]