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RRC position statement on beavers

Beaver factsheet


The Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) is a large herbivore that was once widespread in England, Scotland and Wales. They played a crucial role in our wetland landscapes from prehistoric times until hunted to extinction in the 16th century for their fur, meat and scent glands. Beavers also declined significantly across Europe, leaving a small population (1000-2000) by the late 19th century. Since then there have been more than 200 formal beaver reintroduction projects (as well as numerous unofficial releases) in more than 26 European countries, where they have recolonized most of their former extent. Their ecology and management is now well studied, and beavers and people can co-exist even in urban areas and best-value agricultural land with management protocols to deal with any adverse impacts.

In Scotland, beavers have been a major topic of interest and debate since the mid-1990s, culminating in a national consultation in 1998. A trial reintroduction saw beavers being released at the Knapdale site in Argyll in 2009, the first licensed reintroduction of a mammalian species in Britain. A wild population has also become established on the River Tay and these were assessed in parallel and reported on in 2015 by Scottish Natural Heritage (now NatureScot). The two populations were allowed to remain and the species was declared native by the Scottish Government in 2019.  A plan to achieve a favourable species condition for beavers was published in the Beaver Strategy 2022-2045 (by NatureScot in association with the IUCN).  

In England a number of enclosed introductions have been made, and a wild population was found on the River Otter in Devon in 2015. Natural England (NE) agreed to permit these individuals to remain for a 5-year trial. In 2020, based on this trial, the decision was made to allow the beavers to remain and to extend their range naturally. A number of enclosed trials have also provided data and NE consulted on the reintroduction of beavers in 2021. Based on the fact that stakeholders and the public were largely supportive, the species was declared native in October 2022. The development of management schemes for England is continuing.

The Welsh Beaver Project, led by the Welsh Wildlife Trusts with support from Welsh Government, has been investigating beaver reintroduction since 2005. The proposal is to consult on plans for a 5-year trial of free-living beavers in the Dyfi catchment. Natural Resources Wales is expected to hold a public consultation on their return in due course.

The Irish Wildlife Trust advises that beavers are considered non-native in Ireland as they have not been present since the last Ice Age.

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