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First wild beaver colony to live on an English river for 400 years will NOT be evicted

England’s first wild beaver colony to live on a river for 400 years will not be evicted after the Government said it was eager for them to stay.

The animals mysteriously appeared on the River Otter in Devon more than a decade ago and faced calls for their removal.

But now after a five-year environmental assessment, the Government has ruled the beavers – now numbering 15 family groups – can stay for good and expand their range naturally.

The ruling was welcomed by conservationists as a ground-breaking decision that paves the way for the introduction of beavers to other UK rivers.

The mammals, dubbed ‘nature’s engineers’, were hunted to extinction 400 years ago, but experts say they have the ability to breathe new life into wet lands – and reduce the risk of flooding for downstream properties.

Devon Wildlife Trust’s Mark Elliott said it was now vital for a national plan on the beavers’ future as well as help for landowners adversely affected. Environment minister Rebecca Pow said the Government was committed to the reintroduction of native species. 

Now attention is turning to the national strategy for releasing and managing beavers in England, amid reports that the rodents are already living wild on other rivers and with many being introduced into enclosures in the countryside.

James Wallace, director of the Beaver Trust, said: ‘Having shown through research and community engagement many of the benefits, challenges and ways of living alongside beavers, it is time to apply the learning from the River Otter Beaver Trial across the rest of the country.’

He said the Beaver Trust, Devon Wildlife Trust and other conservation, fishing, farming and forestry stakeholders are developing proposals for an English beaver strategy.

‘We invite the Government to collaborate with us on planning, resourcing and supporting the future management and restoration of beavers across suitable river catchments in England,’ he said.

Wildlife groups back the wider return of the aquatic mammals, which manage the landscape by cutting down trees and damming rivers, for the benefits they can provide.

There are high levels of public support for beavers returning to England, and some landowners are keen to use the landscape engineering they perform to help ‘rewild’ parts of the countryside to help nature.

But farmers have raised concerns that they can damage farmland.

There have also been calls for funding for landowners to support them to make space for beavers, which are now classed as an endangered native species, in the landscape.

The Government is planning a consultation later this year on the national strategy for beavers in England and how to manage them.

But for the beavers in East Devon, at least, although they are unaware of it as they take to the river at dusk to forage on willow and check out the occasional wildlife watcher on the banks, the future is secure.

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