For hundreds of years, the furry, paddle-tailed figure of the Eurasian beaver has been missing from the rivers of the UK. Once widespread, they were hunted to extinction for their fur, meat and scent-glands (used for making perfume). The last wild British beaver died in England in the 12th Century.
They are now being reintroduced across England and Scotland for the range of benefits their engineering skills bring to our natural world.
Beavers are a special species that can play a particularly crucial role. As they go about their day to day life shaping the wetlands for their own benefit, they have a huge impact on surrounding areas. By digging canal systems and damming water courses, they create diverse wetland areas and homes for other animals such as otters, water voles and water shrews. They also reduce siltation, which helps to keep the water clean. .
The dams are an engineering marvel! A site where beavers live will be able to hold far more water in the winter months, releasing it over days, weeks and months, rather than in hours – providing natural flood alleviation and defences.
With these benefits, it’s easy to see why there is so much interest in bringing beavers back to the UK.