Native to England, Wales and Scotland, the Eurasian beaver was hunted to extinction in the 16th century, according to The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. But they have been slowly returning to England and conservationists say they are now being reintroduced to the Nene Wetlands nature reserve in Northamptonshire, England, for the first time in 400 years.
Beavers’ gnawing behavior has a positive impact on their environment. By cutting back tree stems, homes for birds and insects are created from the regrowth.
“This is an exciting and unique opportunity to see this iconic species return to the Nene Valley, bringing back both its natural habitat restoration skills as well as providing an opportunity for the visitors to see beavers in the wild at our most visited reserve,” said Matt Johnson, Wildlife Trust in Northamptonshire conservation manager, in a press release from the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs & Northants.
Conservationists are counting on the beavers being released in Nene to help manage its wet woodland habitat. They will help with the restoration of reedbeds in an enclosed area by Delta Pit. Their wetland work will be beneficial to a variety of species, as well as offer visitors the chance to observe them through the Rushden Lakes visitor center.
“We know that nature is critical for our wellbeing and for a secure future, and urgent action is needed to tackle the decline in nature and biodiversity,” said Mike Thomas, regional asset director of the Crown Estate, in the press release.
A feasibility study was successfully completed, and a license was procured by Natural England for the release of the beavers, which will be reintroduced to the wetlands next winter.
Beavers weren’t officially recognized as an English native species until October of 2022, when they also became a European protected species. Various Wildlife Trusts around England have been implementing beaver release programs, as they have been found to have a significant positive impact on wetlands as a keystone species.
Known as eco-engineers, beavers will be able to help with removing the growth of willows around lake edges at Delta Pit to the extent that not as much site management will be required. Their foraging will also diversify marginal vegetation. The restructuring by the beavers will not only benefit birds, but other species like bats and invertebrates.
Beavers only dine on plants, and love the non-native invasive species called Himalayan balsam that can interfere with the growth of native wildflowers, another added benefit to having them in the wetlands ecosystem.
The release of the beavers into the Nene Wetlands will be the first time beavers have been released onto Crown Estate land.
“These will be the first beavers to be reintroduced on our land and we are looking forward to welcoming them into our community,” Thomas said in the press release.
This article by Cristen Hemingway Jaynes was first published by EcoWatch on 12 July 2023. Lead Image: A Eurasian beaver on a pond bank dragging a plant to water. rterra / Universal Images Group via Getty Images.
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