And they are dam cute!
Whilst we’re all busy beavering away, wildlife experts have discovered quite the surprise on the River Avon, and it’s been described as “extremely significant” too. It has been revealed that a family of wild beavers, including three baby beavers (kits) born this year, are living in the Bristol region for the first time in more than 400 years.
New evidence from Avon Wildlife Trust has shown wild beavers are thriving in the Avon catchment area – making this one of the UK’s first regions in which the endangered species has established themselves without human assistance or interference for over 400 years. Since the early 2000’s, beavers have been reintroduced across the UK, through conservation trials like the River Otter Beaver Trial in Devon.
At a time when the UK government has launched a landmark consultation on the reintroduction of beavers in England, this new sighting of three generations confirms that beavers are successfully expanding their range naturally. The Wildlife Trusts have been at the forefront of beaver conservation in Britain, and Avon Wildlife Trust are now delighted to have beavers on their own patch.
The origins of the wild beavers on the River Avon are said to be a mystery. Possibilities include escapees from other releases, which have occurred across the South West since the early 2000s. The Trust started receiving sightings two years ago, and their subsequent monitoring tells us there are three generations of beavers living on the riverbank. This suggests they have been happily co-existing alongside humans for some years.
Amy Coulthard, Director of Nature’s Recovery, Avon Wildlife Trust, commented: “A new sighting of wild beavers is extremely significant. Beavers are a keystone species and they have an extraordinary ability to change habitats to suit their needs while creating ecosystems for other species to thrive. The presence of this beaver population will support other wildlife and help us to tackle the ecological emergency.”
A keynote species is a species which plays a unique and critical role in the way an ecosystem functions, or in the structure and health of a habitat. Avon Wildlife Trust use an analogy of the keystone being a brick arch, if you remove the keystone then the arch collapses. When beavers were removed from Britain, the habitats they supported collapsed.
A five-year scientific study conducted by the Wildlife Trusts shows that the presence of beavers has a wide range of positive effects on biodiversity, nature and people. The research found that active beavers improve water quality, reduce flood risk and increase biodiversity. Ponds created by beavers may host 50% more unique species than other wetlands.
Avon Wildlife Trust also recently launched the 30 by 30 appeal, to raise £30,000 to help ensure at least 30% of our land and sea is connected and protected for nature’s recovery by 2030. Funds raised through the appeal will go towards nature recovery projects like the wild beavers on the River Avon and the newly appointed Beaver Management Group, which involves statutory partners, NGOs, and other local interest groups. The group will monitor the new population and work with landowners in the catchment area to maximise the benefits beavers provide as well as manage their impact.
[Image and video footage credit: Bevis Watts]