Beavers should be free to roam, scientific study says

Monday, 17 February 2020

By Helena Horton
Article from The Daily Telegraph
BEAVERS boost fish numbers and have little impact on farming, the first study into their reintroduction has shown, which means the Government is likely to decide to set them loose in England.

Since 2017, Natural England has issued 13 licences around England allowing beavers to roam within enclosures. Ecologists argue that the mammals can prevent flooding and drought by building their leaky dams, which also boost biodiversity.

However, farmers worry that unchecked beaver populations could cause localised flooding on their land.

The rodents were hunted to extinction in Britain 400 years ago, but in 2015 a fenced-off trial reintroduction was set up on the River Otter by the Devon Wildlife Trust. Scientists from the University of Exeter have tracked the impact of the trial population on the environment and farmland to determine if the beavers are safe to be set free.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is set to base a decision on their findings.

Evidence presented today by a team of scientists overseen by Prof Richard Brazier has concluded that the “quantifiable costs and benefits of beaver reintroduction demonstrates that the ecosystem services and social benefits accrued are greater than the financial costs incurred”.

The government has waited for the results of the study on the River Otter beavers before making a decision on their reintroduction.

The study concludes that wildlife has greatly benefited; in the pools created by beaver dams, there were 37 per cent more fish.

It also concludes that while beavers have created localised problems for a handful of farmers and property owners, these can be successfully managed.

Defra said the River Otter trial would be extended until Aug 31 for “assessments of the trial reports and findings [to] inform decisions on the future of the status of beaver in England”.