River Otter Beaver Trial begins as animals are released into the wild
Their release marks the start of the River Otter Beaver Trial – a partnership project involving Clinton Devon Estates, Devon Wildlife Trust, the Derek Gow Consultancy and the University of Exeter.
Over the next five years under a licence granted by Natural England to the Devon Wildlife Trust, the project will measure the impact of the animals on the local landscape, economy, communities and wildlife. When it concludes in 2020 the project will present Natural England with its evidence and, using this information, a decision will be made on the long term future of the beavers.
The beavers are thought to have been living on the River Otter for a number of years, having probably been released illegally, but they became national news in February 2014 when film evidence emerged showing kits (youngsters) with their parents. This proved that a population of breeding beavers were present in England, the first time this had happened since the animal’s extinction several centuries ago.
Five beavers including four adults and a juvenile were captured by the Animal and Plant Health Agency and taken to a specialist facility in Devon where they were tested for a range of diseases, a condition of the licence granted by Natural England to Devon Wildlife Trust.
Clinton Devon Estates is the largest landowner in the beavers’ territory. Nature Conservation Manager, Dr Sam Bridgewater was at the release on the banks of the River Otter. He said: “As soon as the cages were opened the beavers headed immediately towards their lodge and then for the next half an hour they swam around, enjoying the evening sunshine and being back in the river.
“We are now looking forward to working as a key member of the reintroduction trial partnership over the coming years and building our understanding of the behaviour and impacts of this species on the River Otter. An important part of the trial is to clarify how beavers are to be managed in the long term – a lesson learnt from similar introductions on the continent.”