An adult pair of Eurasian beavers were released yesterday, (Thursday 30 January), on the Holnicote Estate on the edge of Exmoor in Somerset to help with flood management and to improve biodiversity.
Beavers are currently only present in a handful of sites across the country. Having once been an important part of the natural environment, beavers became extinct on mainland Britain in the 16th century due to hunting for their fur, meat and scent glands.
The enclosed beaver release is the first to be made by the conservation charity, as part of its ambition to create priority habitats for nature and to increase the diversity of species and wildlife numbers on the land in its care. As nature’s engineers, they are also a natural solution to help tackle climate change. The two beavers – a male and a female - will be released into a 2.7 hectare fenced area of unmanaged woodland on the estate. The beavers have been relocated from wild populations on the River Tay catchment in Scotland, under licence from Scottish Natural Heritage, to England under licence from Natural England.
Ben Eardley, Project Manager for the National Trust at Holnicote says: “As ecosystem engineers the beavers will develop wetland habitat, increasing the variety and richness of wildlife in the local landscape. Their presence in our river catchments is a sustainable way to help make our landscape more resilient to climate change and the extremes of weather it will bring. The dams the beavers create will slow the flow, holding water in dry periods which will reduce the impact of drought. They will help to lessen flash-flooding downstream, reducing erosion and improving water quality by holding silt and pollutants. Although we are introducing a species that used to live here in the wild, this project is all about developing our landscapes of the future, helping us respond to the challenges the landscape and communities now face.”
The releases will be carefully monitored by National Trust staff and volunteers with help from Exeter University and others, to document ecological and hydrological changes to the habitat.