Beaver Project

Beavers are back in Dorset

Beaver being released © Dorset Wildlife Trust/James Burland

Beavers are herbivores - they don't eat fish!
Beavers create wetland habitats that help wildlife
Beavers help people by improving water quality
Beaver dams and habitats can reduce flood risk

Two beavers have been released onto an enclosed site in Dorset

Following years of preparation for their arrival, on 8th February 2021 a pair of beavers were released into a suitable enclosed site in west Dorset. 

You’ll soon be able to see footage of the beavers and learn about how the beavers, an adult male and female, are impacting their surroundings. With our partners from University of Exeter and Wessex Water, we’ll be monitoring water flow and quality and biodiversity, comparing these to the baseline data gathered before the beavers arrived to see how beavers can improve the habitat they occupy. 

The pair are now settling into their new home with purpose-built fencing and all of the essentials they need to thrive. But we really want to make the most of this opportunity to study one of nature’s great engineering species, right here in our county. Additional equipment including night-vision binoculars and extra cameras will allow us to learn and share more about how beavers could help Dorset’s ecosystem. You can donate now to ensure we have everything we need to observe and learn from these fascinating creatures.

Support the beaver project

This isn't just about the reintroduction of a species - it's about the reintroduction of an entire ecosystem that's been lost.

Why beavers are important for Dorset

Beavers are often referred to as 'ecosystem engineers'. They make changes to their habitats, such as digging canal systems, damming water courses, and coppicing tree and shrub species, which create diverse wetlands that benefit both people and wildlife. 

  • They help to reduce downstream flooding - the channels, dams and wetland habitats that beavers create hold back water and release it more slowly after heavy rain
  • They benefit other species, such as otters, water shrews, water voles, birds, invertebrates (especially dragonflies) and breeding fish 
  • They increase water retention and clean water
  • They reduce siltation, which pollutes water

How many beavers have been released?

Dorset Wildlife Trust has released two beavers, an adult male and female, into the enclosed site. They were relocated from Scotland under licence from NatureScot.

How long is the project going to run for?

The project licence is initially for five years (2020-2025). 

Can I visit the Beaver Project site and see the beavers?

The site is a locked site with no parking or public access and will be accessible by invitation only. We’ll be sharing footage and photographs of the beavers periodically so you can stay up to date with how they are doing. 
We’re working on a program of public engagement, providing opportunities for accompanied visitors to attend when it is safe to do so and the beavers have settled in.

What’s being studied at the site?

The scientific study site will be used to gather information on biodiversity and hydrology (water quality and flow) changes following beaver activity.
Baseline data has been collected for comparison, so we can understand the impact of the beavers on their environment.

How can I find out more?

Sign up to our regular emails for updates on this and other work we’re carrying out in Dorset to protect wildlife. Stay tuned to our news pages and this webpage for updates on the beavers and ways you can help. 
The site itself is closed and not accessible to the public.

Did you know? Myth busting facts

  • Beavers are vegetarians. They do not eat fish. In fact, they are known to co-exist well with them, boosting fish populations. Beavers snack on riverside plants, grasses, as well as tree bark and shoots.
  • Beavers feel safest in still, deep water (around 70cm). They are very unlikely to stray far from it and will create dams if the water levels aren’t what they would like them to be.
  • Where beavers go – more wildlife will follow. Beavers create diverse wetland habitats that can provide a home for a wide range of wildlife such as amphibians, water voles, dragonflies, birds and even plants.
  • Beaver dams vary in size and structure. In many cases they are small temporary structures made of twigs, which gradually break down as water levels rise. In others, they can be larger stable structures that create big ponds. Both water and fish are able to move through and around them and they are not the huge dam structures made by the North American beaver.

  • Beavers can reduce flooding. Beaver dams slow the flow of water; in storms more water is stored; in droughts more water is available. The potential for beavers to reduce flooding and maintain baseflows downstream is significant.

  • Beavers can improve water quality. Impoundment of water behind dams can positively affect the quality of water by diffusing pollutants being transported downstream. Their dams act as sediment traps cleaning our waters.

Watch footage of the moment the male beaver was released into the enclosed site. © Dorset Wildlife Trust/James Burland

Long Read - more about Beavers in Dorset

Read more

Beaver © David Parkyn/ Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Devon Wildlife Trust Beaver Trial

This five-year trial started with two family groups in 2015 which have now bred and dispersed throughout the catchment.

Read about the trial

Devon Wildlife Beaver female with kits © Mike Symes 

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Photo - Beaver close up © Dorset Wildlife Trust/James Burland

One of two beavers released at the enclosed site in Dorset © Dorset Wildlife Trust/James Burland