Ecosystem benefits of Yorkshire beavers to be investigated

Beavers moved from Scotland to a Forestry Commission forest in North Yorkshire are being studied to see what their impact is on water management and the wider environment.

Image: Hugo.arg (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Image: Hugo.arg (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) licensed a pair of beavers to be moved from Scotland to a secure 10-hectare site in Cropton Forest within the North Yorkshire Moors National Park earlier this year.

As part of the wider Defra-funded Slowing The Flow programme centred on the nearby town of Pickering, the five-year trial will assess the beavers’ impact on not only on flood management and water quality but also on local biodiversity, thanks to a team of over 40 volunteers.

Over 100 man-made dams have already been installed on Pickering Beck, but the Commission says these are are expensive and time-consuming to look after. It hopes the beavers will now maintain these and create their own.

The pair have now given birth to two kits, which have already been captured on video swimming and exploring their territory.

SNH’s Beaver Project manager Ben Ross said: "We almost lost the beaver, an important ‘ecosystem engineer’ completely – there were only a few isolated and scattered pockets left in Europe by 1900.

"But their conservation has been a great success. There are now well over half a million in Europe and their numbers continue to increase – including in Scotland, and now in England."

Deavon Wildlife Trust has been running an enclosed beaver trial on the edge of Dartmoor since 2011, while the impact of unenclosed beavers of unknown provenance on the county's river Otter is also being studied.

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