In 2015, two beaver families were released into the River Otter in Devon.
It was a pilot project initiated by the Devon Wildlife Trust to return beavers, once native to Britain, but wiped out by hunting 400 years ago.
Five years later, those two clans have successfully bred into 15 family groups, spread through up to 15 territories and 28 dams.
And now, the government has deemed the trial run to the bring the species back from extinction a success, and it could lead to more beaver releases throughout the country in the future.
Peter Burgess, director of conservation at Devon Wildlife Trust, called it the “most ground-breaking decision for England’s wildlife in a generation.”
“Beavers are nature’s engineers and have the unrivalled ability to breathe new life into our rivers,” he added. “Their benefits will be felt throughout our countryside, by wildlife and people.”
🎉AMAZING NEWS🎉 Following the 5 year River Otter Beaver Trial, we are thrilled to announce that Devon's beavers are back and THEY'RE HERE TO STAY! The government has just officially confirmed that beavers can stay in their Devon home!— Devon Wildlife Trust (@DevonWildlife) August 5, 2020
📸 Mike Symes @WildlifeTrusts @DefraGovUK pic.twitter.com/c5hMpBURFB
The government said the benefits are clear to the environment, the economy and people.
Yesterday Govt Minister, Rebecca Pow, came to see the work of Devon's beavers. The Minister said 'We are firmly committed to providing opportunities to reintroduce formerly native species, such as beavers, where the benefits for the environment, people and the economy are clear.' pic.twitter.com/SDo6HtvZUi— Devon Wildlife Trust (@DevonWildlife) August 6, 2020
“The River Otter beavers reintroduction trial has proven highly successful – improving biodiversity and water quality, mitigating flooding and making the local landscape more resilient to climate change,” Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said in a statement.
The government will now consult on management of beavers in the wild and create a national approach before approving any further releases.
“Reintroductions of iconic species like the beaver will be an important part of the Nature Recovery Network,” said Natural England chair Tony Juniper. “We now look forward to working towards the next stages of management of beaver more widely across England.”
“This is the most ground-breaking government decision for England’s wildlife for a generation. Beavers are nature’s engineers and have the unrivalled ability to breathe new life into our rivers and wetlands." @DevonWildlife pic.twitter.com/jlvbFRyjTT— The Wildlife Trusts (@WildlifeTrusts) August 6, 2020
Researchers from the University of Exeter have been studying the impact of the beavers in Devon finding fish, insects, birds and water voles have all benefited from the presence of the beavers.
Lead researcher professor Richard Brazier welcomed the announcement.
“The outcomes of our five-year study demonstrate the wide range of positive benefits that beavers can bring. These include flood attenuation, water quality improvement, carbon storage, greater biodiversity and socio-economic benefits to local businesses through wildlife tourism,” he said in a statement.
Prof. Brazier pointed out conflicts can be managed and the benefits the beavers bring “far outweigh” the costs associated with their management.
“Our research illustrates that the overwhelming majority of society would like to see this native species return to our waterways,” he added.
Photos: Mike Symes/Devon Wildlife Trust