the uk beaver project
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 what was once a thriving british beaver population, provided wetland habitat for an array of ancient species.
from wildflowers to willow trees, dragon flies 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, uk woodlands continued to decline in the absence of beavers as farmland and urbanisation shrank britain’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 in 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 photos 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 of scotland’s beavers has shown that they are spreading naturally throughout scotland’s rivers and woodlands as young males leave their home ponds in search for new territories.
following in the footsteps of the scottish government, the first english beaver populations were released into the wild in 2015 and the eurasian beaver became officially recognised as a british native species the following year.
despite the initial success of the reintroduction projects, tensions are arising between farmers and beaver populations as they naturally try to reclaim the land that was once theirs.
in 2018 alone, 28 beavers were shot dead by scottish farmers as they started building dams on their land.
2019 saw the scottish government introduce a law which prohibits the killing of scottish beavers and extra measures have been put in place to prevent beavers from encroaching on the land of farmers which have not agreed to be part of the reintroduction project.
tragically, just weeks after the law was passed, images emerged of a pregnant beaver being illegally shot dead by a farmer despite the new law.
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 returned.
it would be an understatement to say that our land-use has changed immeasurablly 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 urbanised britain.
since 2019, we have been raising both funds and awareness for the reintroduction of 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 december sales to our very own strava club, we have donated just under £200 towards the devon wildlife trust and their beaver reintroduction projects. we have even received generous donations from across the uk and from as far away as germany and canada.
as an independent ‘business’ which has found itself with the ability to influence hundreds of people each month, 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 of £1 towards our uk beaver project, click here.
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 uk beaver project, please do not hesitate to contact us directly via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.