Bringing back beavers
Beavers in Dorset
The Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) is a large herbivore, a mammal that was formerly native to UK shores and once played an important part in our landscape from prehistoric times until it was hunted to extinction in the 16th century for its fur, meat and scent glands. The loss of this charismatic species also led to loss of the mosaic of lakes, meres, mires, tarns and boggy places that it so brilliantly built.
We want to bring these brilliant mammals back to Dorset, but we need your help!
Why are beavers important for Dorset?
This isn't just about the reintroduction of a species - it's about the reintroduction of an entire ecosystem that's been lost.
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. In turn these wetlands can bring enormous benefits to other species, such as otters, water shrews, water voles, birds, invertebrates (especially dragonflies) and breeding fish.
Beavers and the landscapes they generate benefit both people and wildlife because:
- 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 increase water retention
- They clean water
- They reduce siltation, which pollutes water
You can read the Devon Wildlife Trust beaver trial report here. This five-year trial started with two family groups in 2015 which have now bred and dispersed throughout the catchment. This fantastic report outlines the findings of the research programme.
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.
Long Read - everything you wanted to know about Beavers in Dorset
Will you help us bring back nature's engineers?
After a 400-year absence, we are planning to reintroduce beavers in an enclosed trial. We want to study a pair of beavers to see the difference they make to an enclosed area and waterway.
We have a potential site and have secured a significant part of the total funding needed to start the project. However, we still urgently need to raise the last £20,000 to make this happen and deliver the full project.
For every £1 that you give, £10 in match funding from grants could be released; which means that your donation, no matter how big or small, will make a considerable difference.