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Beavers to return to Wales in 2014?

25/06/2013 21:44:10

Will beavers return to Wales in 2014? Photo credit Welsh Beaver Project

Welsh Beaver Project planning to reintroduce beavers to Wales in 2014

June 2013. Since 2005 the Welsh Beaver Project, which is led by the six Wildlife Trusts in Wales, has been investigating the feasibility of undertaking a managed reintroduction of beavers to Wales for the many benefits their presence can bring to wildlife, the environment and the economy. After much investigation and consideration, the River Rheidol (which enters Cardigan Bay through Aberystwyth) is looking like the most promising site for an initial pilot reintroduction and local consultation is underway.

Assuming everything goes according to plan, 30 - 40 young (2-3 years old) beavers, (equally split between males and females) sourced from a combination of captive bred beavers from collections within the UK and beavers from Norway, will be released in the spring/summer 2014.

Once widespread
Beavers are native to Wales and were once widespread from Britain to Siberia, but hunting by humans for fur, meat and scent glands dramatically reduced their populations and led to their extinction from Wales by around the 15th century.

Ecosystem services
Beavers are natural managers of rivers and wetlands, performing ‘ecosystem services' that assist many other species, including humans. They are herbivores, eating vegetation, coppicing bankside trees, creating glades and enabling woodland and aquatic plants to flourish. This provides ideal habitat for insects, birds and mammals, as well as increased food for fish.

Small streams dammed
Beavers only dam smaller streams and usually only if the water is less than around one metre in depth. The resulting pond mosaics are fabulous for wildlife such as dragonflies, frogs, waterfowl and water voles. They also provide excellent habitat and cover from predators for fish, especially during prolonged dry periods.

Healthy rivers
Beaver dams also help slow water-flow through catchments, reducing bank erosion, trapping sediment, cleaning rivers and improving them for fish such as Atlantic salmon. By holding back water, dams can also reduce downstream flooding. Evidence from mainland Europe and elsewhere shows that beaver dams pose little problem to migratory fish, especially when managed.

Beavers stay close to water, rarely wandering far, with 95% of activity occurring within just 10m of the water's edge, and their populations are naturally capped by habitat availability.

Beavers can sometimes cause localised problems such as dam building in the ‘wrong' place, or unwanted tree felling, but there are well-established, low-cost solutions to all these issues and a controlled reintroduction of beavers would include a comprehensive plan for their future management. This would ensure that we can maximise all the benefits of beavers whilst minimising any problems.

Scottish beavers driving tourism
Beaver-watching is very popular and as beavers come out at dawn and dusk seeing them usually involves overnight stays, which helps local guesthouses, campsites, pubs, restaurants and local businesses. The Scottish Beaver Trial in Knapdale has provided hard evidence of this with one hotel owner reporting an increase in profits of £25,000 as a result of the beavers being present. A report by Oxford University's consultancy WildCRU suggested that, all things considered, the economic benefits of beavers can outweigh the costs of their management by as much as 100:1, so beaver reintroduction also makes economic sense (However, in the case of the Scottish beavers, this is ignoring the estimated £2 million cost of the reintroduction scheme).

For more information, visit the Welsh Beaver Project website at or call 01352 755472.

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

The UK is obliged under EU legislation (Habitats Directive 1992) to reintroduce species where it is considered feasible. Therefore, should this be deemed feasible, it must go ahead by law.

In other news, perhaps the editor is simply being fair and unbiased in acknowledging the downsides to a project?

Posted by: James Brown | 23 Jul 2013 12:27:11

£2 million ? I should bleedin' coco...

Listen, Mr Editor, has it escaped your notice that our little old government has seen fit to gaily - yes, gaily - toss HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS of (nominally) our dosh down the gaping maw of the British banking system (RBS, Lloyds, Northern Rock, who-evah, wot-evah) in the vain attempt to make it all better? Now THAT is extravagant... THAT is a questionable assignment of public money. (considering that it was all supposed to be a 'capitalist' wealth generating free-market economy!)

Me? I would really like our government to allocate just the SAME amount of financial resources to ecosystem maintenance and repair (includes species restorations, like bustards, beavers etc) as they are proposing to throw at "capital projects".

Beavers at £2 million a pop? I'm saying they're are thumping good value for anyone's money when you match 'em up against say, a Millennium Dome or an HS2 scheme.

Posted by: Dominic Belfield | 29 Jun 2013 22:15:19

Sharon T. Brown

Whatever the cost of returning beavers to Wales and Scotland, the enormous ecological benefits of this keystone species are priceless. In addition, not everyone knows that half a dozen years before the official beaver reintroduction at Knapdale began in 2008, wild beavers had returned to Scotland as accidental escapees from private estates. An official 2012 survey of this Tay River population estimated 140 beavers and they’ve cost the taxpayers very little. More information about the Tayside beavers is at:

Posted by: Sharon T. Brown | 28 Jun 2013 19:44:50

Bias against beavers?

Phil, there is no bias against beavers, bustards, or any other species. The issue is with the cost of the beavers in Scotland. We are delighted to see beavers, bustards, cranes, wild boar and other back in the UK and have been staunch supporters. However we have always believed that there should have been a much better way to spend £2 million, and that it was really not necessary to spend that amount.
Editor - Powell Ettinger

Posted by: Powell Ettinger | 28 Jun 2013 08:18:40

Beaver envy?

I was thoroughly enjoying that article until I got to the last line.. the editor can never help putting in a negative comment about reintroducing beavers to the UK, look at every post about them and it's always the same story. Bustards, cranes and corncrakes don't seem to cop the same flack. I wonder where the bias lies.

Posted by: Phil | 27 Jun 2013 13:08:59

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