Beaver trial gets go-ahead in Cumbria

Beaver trial gets go-ahead in Cumbria

We're delighted that scientific trial to release beavers into enclosure gets go-ahead in Cumbria
Image of beaver © David Parkyn Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Eurasian beaver © David Parkyn Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Beavers, a native species in Britain which became extinct in the 16th century, will soon be reintroduced to Cumbria in an enclosed scientific trial. Cumbria Beaver Group (CBG), which includes Cumbria Wildlife Trust, has announced that a licence application by a landowner in Cumbria has just been approved by the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

David Harpley, Chair of Cumbria Beaver Group and Conservation Manager at Cumbria Wildlife Trust said: “It is great news that Eurasian beavers will be returning to the county. Evidence from trials elsewhere in the UK shows that they offer great benefits, including flood risk alleviation, improved water quality, habitat creation for other wildlife and increased revenue for the local economy through nature-based tourism.

“This is the first beaver trial in the North West of England. We’re looking into the feasibility of setting up a camera to live stream the beaver activity once they’ve been released. This would mean people could watch them close up from the comfort of their laptop or phone.”

The enclosed trial will take place at Lowther Estate in the Eden Valley. David Bliss from Lowther Estate said: “This will be a trial release to assess how beavers can restore small, modified streams within a farmed landscape and will be done under the conditions of a licence from DEFRA. We are delighted that Lowther Estate has been granted a licence for this exciting project and look forward to finding out the results from this scientific trial. There have been trials elsewhere in the country, but this trial will look specifically at how beavers fare in an upland environment.”  

A second licence has been applied for by a private individual at an undisclosed location in South Cumbria and is awaiting approval. The aim of this trial is to assess the impact of beavers on a small stream system in an upland woodland, helping to slow the flow, with the expectation of creating new habitat that’s beneficial to the surrounding environment and wildlife.

Cumbria Beaver Group is made up of Cumbria Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Lowther Estates and Eden Rivers Trust and is working in consultation with Natural England, the Environment Agency, United Utilities, Forestry England, the University of Cumbria and others. CBG has undertaken feasibility studies across a number of sites in Cumbria and is working closely with local people.

The approved scheme is not for free-roaming beavers and that the animals will not be able to move into the wider surrounding countryside. In the longer term, if the government decides that beavers can be allowed to return to the wider countryside and establish free-living populations, CBG advocates that any reintroduction is well planned, well managed and has the support of the local community.

As well as providing a range of environmental and socio-economic benefits, CBG recognises that beavers can, in some circumstances, create impacts such as localised flooding and burrowing but advocates the use of well-established mitigation and management techniques to prevent these becoming a problem.

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