All about beavers

We're bringing beavers back to Derbyshire!

(C) Shutterstock

Beavers are herbivores - they don't eat fish!
Beaver dams and habitats can reduce flood risk
Beavers create wetland habitats that help wildlife
Beavers help people by improving water quality

Beaver Update October 2020

A huge thank you for all the support we have received on our beaver release appeal. 

Plans to release beavers back into Willington Wetlands in Derbyshire are well underway and we were hopeful these amazing creatures would be here before the winter.

However we are going to have to wait a little longer.

Preparing the reserve, trapping and then moving two beaver families from Scotland to Derbyshire was a huge and ambitious project at the best of times and with the complexity which has been added due to Covid-19, we're now not going to be able to complete it before the winter weather sets in.

We will keep you updated but we are confident that our beavers will be here next year, hopefully in the spring. 

Once in situ, beavers create a mosaic of habitats, from small and large ponds and channels with leafier edges, wet meadows and areas of mud and silt trapped behind dams which fish and insects love. They are ecosystem engineers, and experts in wetland management, creating more diverse habitat for wildlife, from the smallest invertebrates to birds and large mammals.

We would like to thank all our supporters, including Biffa Award, Severn Trent and wildlife watchers for their ongoing support and enthusiasm for our plans. It’s meant a lot to us over the last few months and we’ll keep you updated on our plans.

Why are we bringing back the beaver?

This isn't just about the reintroduction of a species - it's about the reintroduction of an entire ecosystem that has been lost. 

After 800 years, we are bringing beavers back to Derbyshire!  Our beaver family will play a really big part in making Willington wilder. They will enjoy over 20 acres of Wetland habitat, within a special beaver-proof fence. Egginton Brook flows through the beaver zone, and the native plants and trees will offer our beavers all the food variety they need to thrive.

Beavers are known as nature's engineers. They make changes to their habitats which create diverse wetlands for other species to thrive.

What will the beavers do on site?

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 the 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.

Want to know more?  Our Head of Nature Recovery Networks, Matt Buckler and Living Landscapes Officer, George Bird have more information for us about beavers below!

Where do the beavers come from?

The beavers will be coming from the River Tay in Scotland.  We are excited to announce that we will be getting two families of beavers!  Two adult pairs and their dependant young as well.

They will be transported in special wooden crates in a pick up truck.

There are two species of beaver; the European/Eurasian (Castor Fiber) and the Canadian/North American (Castor Canadensis). The European beaver was native to Britain so this is the species we are re-introducing.

What happens if they escape?

Don't worry!  They will stay near their families and we’re trained in re-capturing them so we will be able to rescue them quickly.  The fence will be checked by our staff daily to make sure there is no damage.

The beaver fencing that is being installed is to an exact specification from Natural England that has been agreed following a full site survey with the anticipated flood risk and levels appropriately considered, making sure we keep the beavers safe and that they don't escape.

All pedestrian and stock gates are designed to an approved beaver proof specification.

What do they eat?

Contrary to what many people believe, beavers only eat plants!  Not just trees but they’ll be eating brambles and other plants too. They’re big fans of Himalayan balsam, which is an invasive non-native species that can spread easily and become problematic for our native wildflowers.

Will we lose our trees and will they build dams?

No, they don’t kill trees, they coppice them.  These grow back and provide more spaces for wildlife.  Beavers are often known as eco-engineers, they are only doing what our team of rangers would be doing on our wetland reserves to provide the best habitat for wildlife, but they will be doing it far better than we can!

We are not sure if they will build dams but it is a possibility. Beavers build dams to create lagoons in which they can better protect themselves from predators and in which they often build their family lodges which are accessed from underwater. The ideal depth of water a beaver seems to seek behind these dams is around 70cm (28”). The average depth of Willington isn’t far off this so beavers initially may feel no need to dam. In fact in other areas of the world such as Telemark in Norway where studies have been carried out, no damming activity has taken place at all in similar circumstances. They could of course choose to create new lagoons by damming Egginton Brook but this is by no means a given.

Do they need a home to start with?

Yes, we’ll have to make them a temporary lodge, but they’ll build their own pretty quickly.

This is costing thousands of pounds per beaver – what are the benefits and will they have adverse effects on the wading birds?

Beaver create a mosaic of habitats, from small and large ponds, canals, vegetated margins, wet meadows and areas of mud and silt trapped behind dams. They are ecosystem engineers, and experts in wetland management, creating more diverse habitat for inhabitants, from the smallest invertebrates to large mammals.

We want to show people how great beavers are for wildlife, habitats and us humans as well.  Our dream is that soon beavers will be allowed to live wild across the country, as they are in most of Europe, and we won’t need to fence them in.

Success Stories

We aren't the first Trust to be getting back on board with beavers!

Devon Wildlife Trust

As ecosystem engineers, beavers are able to quickly make a positive impact on the landscape they occupy.

These before and after images taken from a fixed-point post in the enclosed beaver project run by Devon Wildlife Trust, show the impact the beaver activity has had on the capacity of the land to hold water in just five years.

This example of landscape engineering ‘slows the flow’ of water, thereby decreasing the chance of flooding downstream.

Show your support for our beavers!

Donate now

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What else is happening at Willington?

Learn about our plans

(C) George Bird