Beavers back in UK – after 500-year absence

Beavers back in UK – after 500-year absence

[Ed. – I know, right?]

A family of wild beavers has been seen in the England countryside in what is believed to be the first sighting of its kind in up to 500 years.

Three European beavers (Castor fiber), believed to be adults, have been filmed together on the River Otter in east Devon and can be seen gnawing at the base of trees, grooming themselves and playing together.

Experts said the sighting was “highly significant” as it strongly suggested a small breeding population of beavers now existed outside captivity.

European beavers were once widespread in the UK but were hunted to extinction by the 16th century in England and Wales for their fur, medicinal value and meat. …

The sighting in Devon would be the first time in centuries that European beavers have bred in the wild in England. …

Beavers are a “keystone species”, meaning they provide more important ecosystem services than their numbers alone would suggest. Known as “ecological engineers”, their dams, burrows and ditches and the branches they drag into the water create habitats for a host of other species. Their dams slow rivers down, reducing scouring and erosion, and improving water quality by holding back silt.

During the recent wet weather and flooding crisis, naturalists called for the reintroduction of beavers to control floods.

Otter tracks and spraint was found alongside the beaver prints, indicating they may have been interacting with wild otters too.

Hussey added: “There’s evidence that otters, beavers are coming together here face to face perhaps for the first time in two or 300 years.”

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