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First beaver dam appears on Exmoor after 400 years - National Trust

Beaver dam at Holnicote Estate in Somerset (National Trust)
Beaver dam at Holnicote Estate in Somerset (National Trust)

Eurasian beavers released by the National Trust as part of a river restoration project have built what is believed to be the first beaver dam on Exmoor for over 400 years.

The construction appeared at the Holnicote Estate in October and has already created an ‘instant wetland’, according to rangers at the site.

Footage captured on wildlife cameras shows the animals gnawing nearby trees and collecting vegetation to create a dam across small channels that run through the Somerset estate.

It comes nine months after the animals were introduced to slow the flow of water through the landscape and improve river quality and biodiversity. The beavers were the first to be released into the wild by the National Trust in its 125-year history.

Beavers are often referred to as ‘ecosystem engineers’. Given the right conditions, they can build dams to create deep pools of water which offer shelter from predators and places to access and store food.

This evolutionary response enables them to move around their habitat more easily and, crucially, turns the surrounding land into a mosaic of nature-rich habitats.

Ben Eardley, Project Manager at the National Trust, said: “It might look modest, but this beaver dam is incredibly special – it’s the first to appear on Exmoor for almost half a millennium and marks a step change in how we manage the landscape. What’s amazing is that it’s only been here a few weeks but has created an instant wetland. We’ve already spotted kingfishers at the site, and over time, as the beavers extend their network of dams and pools, we should see increased opportunities for other wildlife, including amphibians, insects, bats and birds.”

Beaver dams, ponds and channels can also help prevent flooding by slowing, storing and filtering water as it flows downstream. The industrious animals create space for water and wildlife, leading to a more resilient river catchment.

Ben continued: “The recent rain we’ve had is a reminder of the significant role beavers can play in engineering the landscape. As we face into the effects of climate change and more frequent extreme weather events, natural interventions like this need to be part of the solution.

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