Monday, 2 February 2015

On the River Otter: Devon's beavers are allowed to stay: Natural England grant DWT a five year monitoring licence

Following a meeting last month
Futures Forum: On the River Otter: Public meeting to consider beavers: Wednesday 14th January in Ottery St Mary

... and following an application from the DWT
Futures Forum: On the River Otter: Natural England responds to Devon Wildlife Trust's licence application to return beavers ......... Public meeting: Wednesday 14th January in Ottery St Mary

... Natural England have decided to allow the beavers to return for the long-term, as reported in today's Herald:

Dam good news: Beavers can stay in River Otter

06:26 02 February 2015
The future of a family of beavers on the River Otter is looking brighter thanks to an ‘historic’ decision to allow their re-release into the wild.

Campaigners welcomed the ruling from Natural England on Wednesday which grants Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT) permission to carry out the managed release of the beavers - if they are free from disease after testing.
The animals are believed to be England’s only breeding population of wild beavers, and the subject of an ongoing campaign to secure their future, which united conservationists, politicians and Ottery residents.
Harry Barton, chief executive of DWT, said he is ‘delighted’ by the decision, which the charity has hailed ‘as a key moment in the history of modern conservation’.
The licence means the charity can go ahead with plans to trap and test the creatures for disease, before re-releasing them, in order to monitor them and their impact on the local environment for the next five years.
Mr Barton said: “This is an historic moment. The beavers of the River Otter are the first breeding population in the English countryside for hundreds of years.”
District and county councillor Claire Wright said: “Hopefully a marker has now been set down which will avoid knee-jerk reactions in the future. If it wasn’t for local people turning out in large numbers and showing their support for the animals, we might have lost the battle to keep them.”
Friends of the Earth campaigner Alasdair Cameron said: “This is great news for Devon’s beavers. If, as seems likely, they can now remain in the wild, it will be a major victory for common sense and everyone who has campaigned on their behalf.”
DWT now faces the task of funding its River Otter Beaver Project.

Dam good news: Beavers can stay in River Otter - News - Midweek Herald

The news has been reported throughout the local, national and international media:
River Otter beavers can stay for now | East Devon Watch
BBC News - 'Mystery' beavers permitted to stay
Devon beavers living in wild given reprieve - Channel 4 News
Beavers are back – and we should welcome them with open arms | Environment | The Guardian
VIDEO: Beavers given five year stay on UK river - Independent.ie

Here is the coverage from the Devon Wildlife Trust:

Devon's wild beavers


****Update, 28 January: Its official, beavers are back! England’s only breeding population of wild beavers look to have a brighter future after the announcement by Natural England granting DWT a five year monitoring licence****

Natural England has granted Devon Wildlife Trust a five year licence to monitor the beavers on the River Otter. This is a key moment in the history of modern conservation and has come after months of hard work trying to secure a long term future for the animals. 

The beavers, which live on the River Otter in East Devon, were first discovered to be breeding in February 2014.  Defra announced its intention to capture and remove the animals in July citing the risk to human health from a tape-worm that European beavers are known to carry, but which is not currently present in the UK. Defra’s decision sparked an overwhelming response from local people, with the vast majority showing their support for the beavers to remain.

Devon Wildlife Trust has spent the last six months working with Defra, Natural England, local farmers and the wider community to secure a solution that would see the disease risk addressed and the beavers remain. 

Find out more about Natural England’s announcement here 

See film of the beavers in their east Devon home here
See film of the beavers with their young, or 'kits' - watch the amazing footage here

Where did the beavers come from?

The origin of the population is unknown, though presumably is the result of an escape or unsanctioned deliberate release. There is now evidence of beaver activity on the River Otter from Honiton to Budleigh Salterton, a distance of around 12 miles. The breeding pair with young was filmed in 2014 on land south of Ottery St Mary. DWT assumes there are at least nine beavers on the river, including one confirmed breeding group.

What does the future hold for the beavers?

On Wed 28 January Natural England granted DWT a five year licence to monitor the beavers. This gives the beavers a long term future on the River Otter. 

As part of the licence the beavers will be briefly brought into captivity in order for health checks to be made. This process will be overseen by DEFRA with expert advice from leading zoological and beaver experts. 

The beavers will then be monitored for the next five years. The River Otter Beaver Trial will work with international experts to record and evaluate the impact of the animals. 
At the conclusion of the project in 2020 the River Otter Beaver Trial will present Natural England with its evidence. Using this information a decision will be made on the future of the beavers on the river. 

What is Devon Wildlife Trust doing?

On Wed 28 January, Devon Wildlife Trust was granted a five year licence to monitor the beavers on the River Otter. 

The River Otter Beaver Trial will oversee the population, range and health of the beavers - and the effect they have on the local landscape and people. It will focus on the beavers' impacts on wildlife, vegetation, water flow, water quality, communities and infrastructure. 

Using the experience gained from our own captive-bred beaver trial in the west of Devon (see 'Finding out more' below), we have the know-how to run a successful five-year study of east Devon's wild beavers.

You can help decide the beavers' future

For the River Otter Beaver Trial to go ahead DWT needs two things: government approval, which was received on Wed 28 Jan, and sufficient funds to get started. We have already approached sympathetic individuals who would consider contributing large sums to help make this project happen. But we need to raise £54,000 to demonstrate to the authorities - as well as to potential funders - that we are committed to keeping beavers on the River Otter. 

Find out more about the Devon's Wild Beavers appeal here or if you know you want give without reading more click here  - thank you!

Finding out more

We've put together these beaver-related resources to let you discover more about these fascinating animals...
Devon Wildlife Trust is conducting its own research into the impact of beavers on the landscape and wildlife. The Devon Beaver Project is studying a family group in north west Devon. These beavers are held in a secure compound and are not the source of east Devon's wild beavers. Learn more about the Devon Beaver Project here

Devon Wildlife Trust | Devon's Wild Beavers

And here is an overview from Cllr Claire Wright - in whose constituency the River Otter runs and the beavers have been living:
Government decisions should be based on working with nature, rather than attempting to control it - Claire Wright

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