Friday, 22 August 2014

On the River Otter: Devon Wildlife Trust consultation to discuss beavers: Ottery St Mary: "overwhelming support": reports from Devon Wildlife Trust

There have been sevearl reports out since thic week's public meeting:
Futures Forum: On the River Otter: Devon Wildlife Trust consultation to discuss beavers: Ottery St Mary: "overwhelming support": more reports
Futures Forum: On the River Otter: Devon Wildlife Trust consultation to discuss beavers: Ottery St Mary: "overwhelming support"

Here's the report from the DWT:

Community backs beavers

Added: 21st August 2014

An east Devon community has given its backing to a local population of wild beavers.
160 people attended a ‘beaver meeting’ in Ottery St Mary on Tuesday 19 August. The meeting had been specially convened by the Devon Wildlife Trust in an attempt to give everyone what the charity called, ‘a chance to make their views known about the future of their new and unusual neighbours.’
Beavers are a species that were once native to England and were widely found, including in Devon. However they were hunted to extinction several hundred years ago. The source of this wild beaver population is unknown and whether the animals were deliberately introduced or escaped remains a mystery. 
It is thought that a population of wild beavers has been living on the River Otter for some time, with the first confirmed sightings emerging in 2007. In summer 2013 film footage showing the animals was broadcast. It had been taken by retired scientist Tom Buckley using night camera traps on land owned by local farmer David Lawrence. In February this year further film emerged this time showing a mother beaver with kits (young), signalling that the river was home to the first breeding population of beavers in England for several hundred years. 
However, the presence of the beavers has drawn controversy. Recently Defra has expressed its intention to capture and remove the beavers. The Government department cites the low risk of disease posed by the animals and their potential impact on the local landscape and wildlife as reasons for wanting their removal. 
In response Devon Wildlife Trust has come forward asking that the charity should instead be given a licence which would permit them to monitor the beavers for five years, allowing a clear picture of their impacts to be gained. 
Speaking for the charity which has 32,000 members Steve Hussey said, ‘We called this meeting to gauge local people’s views on the beavers that are living wild in the nearby River Otter. What we’ve heard tonight is that almost all that attended are very positive about these fascinating animals. In short the clear message is that local people want them to stay.’ 
Speakers at the meeting included Prof Bryony Coles, a beaver expert from the University of Exeter, along with Peter Burgess and Mark Elliott from Devon Wildlife Trust. Representatives from Defra, and The Angling Trust who have supported Defra’s call for the beavers’ removal, were also invited but were unable to attend. 
After hearing about the history of beavers in the UK and about beavers’ potential impacts in today’s countryside, members of the audience were invited to ask questions. Amongst the topics addressed were the impacts of beavers on local fish stocks, their impact on flooding, the experiences of other countries where beavers live and the potential benefits to the local tourist economy of the animals. 
Steve Hussey from Devon Wildlife Trust summed up the evening, ‘The event has been an outstanding success. It’s brought publicity to the issue with news interest from TV, radio, social media and newspapers. It’s also demonstrated to us that if the beavers were to remain they would receive the widespread backing of local people.’ 
More than 30,000 people have also signed on-line petitions is support of the beavers. 
Devon Wildlife Trust has said that it is now in the process of compiling an application to Natural England which would allow the beavers to remain on the River Otter and allow the charity to properly monitor them over the next five years. 
People wishing to make their views known on the future of Devon’s wild beavers are being urged to let them via Devon Wildlife Trust here  
All the statements gathered will be used as evidence in the Devon-based charity’s application to Natural England. 

Devon Wildlife Trust | view-news

The Trust has put together an impressive project:

Devon Beaver Project

Beaver_close_upDWT, thanks to the support of Viridor Credits Environmental Company and The Truell Charitable Foundation, has been running a captive beaver project since March 2011 to help find out more about how this long lost riparian mammal can enhance a landscape and its biodiversity.  
The first phase of the Devon Beaver Project is complete and two years’ worth of valuable data has already been collected and analysed. A report on the Devon Beaver Project so far is available to download from our publications page.

Thanks to new funding from Westland Countryside Stewards, the Devon Beaver Project is continuing into its second phase. DWT has been given £44,700 to support the project for a further three years. This money will be used to monitor the ecological effects the beavers are having on their environment – from changes in the vegetation composition to effects on the populations of amphibians, bats and breeding birds. Water levels and quality will also continue to be monitored at the site and all results will be published in 2016.

Why a beaver project?

Beavers are a vital missing link in the UK’s ecosystem and the wetland environment is suffering from the loss of beaver activity. In principle we support the EU’s call for governments to reintroduce lost endemic species and note that England is one of the few remaining countries not to reintroduce beavers.

However we have no specific plans to reintroduce the beaver into the wild in Devon. We would in principle like to see this come to pass but recognise that a great deal of work would need to be done before it could happen in practice.

BeaversThe main aim of this project is experimentation and fact finding. It is thought that the beavers will greatly enhance the wetland value of the site and they will in effect be used as a conservation management tool for three years, much as cattle and ponies are. They will be removed from the site once the project is complete.

At the same time, DWT will be developing techniques for measuring the impact the beavers have on the hydrology, biology and water chemistry of the site.

DWT has kept the statutory authorities fully informed of its intentions and has complied with all of their stated requirements.

Original_pond_and_felled_treeThe site

The site which has been chosen is a self contained 2.8 hectare plot which has been securely fenced in order to contain two beavers. This site is privately owned and located in northern Devon.

DWT has carried out baseline monitoring before introducing the beavers and we will measure changes in the biodiversity, water quality and other impacts.  At the end of the project the results will be fed into the England Beaver Reintroduction Forum.

Can we visit the site?

To ensure disturbance is minimised and for safety reasons, access to the site will be by invitation only. You can see the video below which was taken on their first day on site in March 2011.

June 2014

Visit the Beaver Blog

Get regular updates on the beavers progress and activties. Visit the Blog here

Looking for Devon's wild beavers?

A population of wild beavers is now living on the River Otter in east Devon. Devon Wildlife Trust's own Beaver project is not the source of these animals, but if you'd like to find out more about them go to our Devon's Wild Beaver page 

BACE_Beaver_Advisory_Committee_for_England_logoFind out more about Beavers in England


Devon Wildlife Trust | Devon Beaver Project

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