Once a staple species of the ancient British woodland, habitat-destruction and an aggressive fur-trapping industry all but eradicated the Eurasian beaver from Britain by the end of the 16th century. 

 

Beaver ponds, the last remnants of a once thriving British beaver population, provided wetland habitat for an array of ancient species.

 

From wildflowers to willow trees, dragonflies to water voles, the extinction of the beavers set off a chain reaction of ecosystem destruction that is still visible in our countryside today. 

As the beavers disappeared, native fish populations dwindled in the absence of beaver ponds. Without the fish, inland fishing birds such as herons and kingfishers faced growing scarcity in their hunt for prey. 

 

For centuries, British woodlands declined in the absence of beavers as farmland and urbanisation shrank the UK's forests to just a fraction of what they once were. 

In May 2009, 400 years after they were declared extinct, the first Eurasian beavers were reintroduced into western Scotland thanks to the efforts of the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Forest Commission of Scotland. 

 

Just over a year later, photographers monitoring the population captured images of two kits estimated to be 8 weeks old and showing signs of good health. 

 

Following this success, a second population was introduced into the river Tay and recent monitoring has shown that the beavers are spreading naturally throughout Scotland’s rivers; as young males leave their home ponds in search for new territories. 

 

Following in the footsteps of the Scottish government, the first english beavers were released into the wild in 2015.

Despite the initial success of these reintroduction projects, tensions between farmers and beavers are growing as the beavers naturally reclaim the land that was once theirs. 

 

In 2018 alone, 28 beavers were shot dead by Scottish farmers.

 

2019 saw the Scottish government introduce a law which prohibits the killing of Scottish beavers and extra measures were put in place to stop beavers from encroaching onto farmland and other private property. 

 

Tragically however, just weeks after the law was passed, images emerged of a pregnant beaver being illegally shot dead by a farmer in western Scotland. 

Although the Britain we now live in has changed drastically since the last time beavers roamed our forests, the impact that they have on our ecosystems is more crucial than ever. 

 

In a time where local councils are bulldozing river channels in a last-ditch attempt to prevent flooding, beavers provide a sustainable answer to one of the most pressing environmental-economic issues of 21st century Britain: flooding.

Instead of destroying river beds and changing the natural course of whole river systems, beaver dams significantly slow the flow of rainfall before it reaches the main river channel - helping to reduce the lag time of storms and eliminating the need for unsustainable hard-engineering of Britain’s rivers. 

What's more, the re-emergence of beaver dams has seen a dramatic resurgence occur in our woodlands.

 

Grey herons, now mostly dependant on man-made canals, have returned to the forests for the first time in a generation and species of wildflower - some not seen in the UK for decades - have also been sighted.

It would be an understatement to say that our land-use has changed immeasurably since the 16th century.

 

Rivers that once sustained whole forests are now no more than trickles, pitifully making their way through countless dams before eventually washing out to sea. 

 

The story of our ancient forests is just as depressing; with nearly 50% of our ancient woodlands having been cleared or replaced by commercially-grown conifers since 1930.

 

There is now also the issue of land-ownership, with 50% of England being owned by less than 1% of the population.

 

Ironically, this statistic would have looked very similar the last time beavers were present in the UK. 

 

If we are going to successfully reintroduce beavers on an island-wide scale, we must create co-operation between land-owners and conservation groups to ensure that the benefits of reintroducing beavers are not just understood, but implemented so that beavers are able to behave and interact with their environment as naturally as it possible to do so in 21st century Britain. 

Since 2019, we have been raising both funds and awareness for the reintroduction of Eurasian beavers back into Britain.

 

Not only are we in in awe of their ability to regenerate whole ecosystems, but we see their potential as a gateway species to the re-wilding of the rest of the UK.

 

If we can reintroduce beavers successfully, then predators such as Lynx are a natural next step in rebalancing our woodlands. 

 

Through various fundraising efforts, ranging from 1% of monthly sales to our very own Strava club, we have donated £167.48 towards the Devon Wildlife Trust and their Beaver reintroduction project.

 

We have even received generous donations from across the UK and from as far away as Germany and Canada. 

As an independent business, we are committed to supporting the reintroduction of Eurasian beavers back into the UK for as long as we are in existence. 

 

To make a donation towards the Devon Wildlife Trust's beaver trial, click here.

 

To learn more about what charities such as the RSPB and the Devon Wildlife Trust are doing to help beaver populations in Britain, click the links above. 

 

To see what work is being done and what challenges beavers are facing in the UK, watch our UK beaver playlist here. 

 

If you would like to know more about our work with to support British beavers, please do not hesitate to contact us directly via e-mail at antarctica54@icloud.com