Beavers are now protected species and native species in England

Today (Saturday) is a historic day for beavers in England as they are now recognised as a native and protected species.

Remember that in 2014 it was only public outcry that stopped the culling of the colony of Beavers that had become established in the Otter. – Owl

Lisa Young

The new law, that came into force at midnight on October 1, is good news for this mammal which can do so much to restore wetlands across Britain.

Protected status will make it an offence to harm beavers or their habitat without a license.

Classification as a native species means that measures previously available to ‘control’ beavers as a non-native species will no longer apply.

The Wildlife Trusts pioneered the reintroduction of beavers. They are now calling for greater clarity and urgency from the government in relation to the plans for the widespread return of the animals.

The government published guidance in early September which outlines how beavers might be managed in the future.

However, both Beaver Trust and The Wildlife Trusts are concerned that it does not give sufficient support to landowners – and that the proposals lack ambition and detail.

The charities warn that, in their current form, the plans will not deliver the widespread reintroduction of a species which scientific studies have shown can improve water quality in rivers, stabilise water flows during times of drought and flood, store carbon and boost other wildlife.

Harry Barton, Devon Wildlife Trust’s chief executive, said: “A summer of record-breaking heat and drought has highlighted the urgency of making our landscapes more resilient to the unfolding climate emergency.

“Beavers have created green oases in our parched river valleys, because of their ability to store water through dam building and wetland creation. And we know they can reduce peak flows in times of flood and help improve water quality.

“The government’s recent announcements on protection for beavers and their management are good news, but they lack clarity and a sense of urgency. We need a clear plan and timetable so these amazing animals can become part of the wildlife of rivers throughout England.”

In 2015 Devon Wildlife Trust led a successful trial on the River Otter in Devon where England’s first wild population of beavers were reintroduced – 400 years after their extinction due to hunting and habitat loss.

This trial was a great success and the government subsequently agreed that the beavers on the River Otter could remain in the wild and spread naturally to other rivers.

Sandra King, chief executive of Beaver Trust, said: “It remains urgent and vital that the government delivers a clear, ambitious policy and licensing guidance to support beaver restoration in the wild.

“At the end of the day, if we are to welcome beavers back as a native animal our primary objective must be to target positive coexistence with beavers. A properly resourced, forward looking strategy will enable land managers and communities to do this.”

The charities have written to Ranil Jayawardena, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.