Mission: The main aim of this project is to produce a high quality publication in the form of a management manual.
Species: Eurasian Beaver
Location: United Kingdom
Support: July 2012
Amount donated: £4,800 towards the managment manual research.
Background: Beavers have been absent from Britain for over 400 years after being hunted to extinction for their fur, scent glands and meat. It has been widely proposed to reintroduce the Eurasian beaver back into mainland Britain. Published studies by Natural England, the Countryside Council for Wales and Scottish Natural Heritage all recommend the restoration of this species for the significant ecological and water management benefits, its behavioural activities produce.
Beavers are capable of significant habitat alteration. Prehistoric beaver populations were at one time the driver of vast landscape changes, as archaeological evidence suggests. Since the beginning of the 20th century this once common species has been reduced to small populations in Western Europe. Today many beavers have re-colonised or have been reintroduced into much of their former range. Beavers are more than capable of existing in modern cultural landscapes alongside people. There is a lot of conflict between humans and beavers currently as they will feed on arable crops, dig burrows in fields, excavate living chambers in flood walls and block drainage culverts. While detailed experience of managing beavers in Europe demonstrates that there are many developed solutions, no comprehensive source of this practical information has been collated or published in English. It is intended that this information will result in a greater understanding and acceptance of the presence of beavers in our modern British environment.
This proposed project is expected to benefit the conservation of the Eurasian beaver through encouraging the expansion of its former native range by reintroduction to Britain. For this to occur, a broad based educational process is required. An important part of the process is the understanding of how potential beaver-human conflicts can be effectively resolved, given the length of time this species has been absent from the UK. The pragmatic management solutions developed through this project will additionally benefit animal welfare, public perception and diminish the potential for commercial damage.
Achievements: Currently a trial reintroduction is underway in mid-Argyll, Scotland, the Scottish Beaver Trial (SBT); there is also a licence application for the first English trial site, with Natural England - the Heligan Beaver Trial (HBT); and the launch of the Welsh Feasibility Study is imminent.
Future objectives: The principal aim of this project is to develop, publish and circulate an impartial management manual that identifies the potential conflicts likely to be generated by free living beavers in modern British environments, together with an established range of pragmatic solutions. The manual will be based on sound scientific knowledge and management principles. It will identify appropriate materials and produce a series of evidence based case studies, to support its contentions. It will identify landscapes, features and physical structures where beaver activity could result in negative impact. It will identify preplanning processes which enable the avoidance of long term conflict. It will draw comparisons from European landscapes which are similar to Britain and evaluate the potential for conflicts which could be unique.