Beavers move into Essex after 400 years

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Two Eurasian beavers have been released in Finchingfield, Essex, as part of an Environment Agency (EA) flood management programme

The pair will be contained in a four hectare woodland enclosure, part of the grade II listed Spains Hall Estate, 16km north-west of Braintree. Beavers have been absent from England for 400 years since they were hunted to extinction, although they have been reintroduced in other parts of the country, including Devon.

Taken from the Devon beaver colony, the two beavers are expected to reduce the risk of flooding in the village by building dams along the Finchingfield Brook, the EA said.

A man-made natural flood management scheme on a second strand of the brook using a “leaky dam” approach is also being put in place, the EA said. This consists of securing tree branches or trunks across a watercourse, which helps slow the flow after heavy rain.

The scheme should also create wetland that will release water in drier periods, the EA added.

The agency will collect data along the watercourses using sensors installed around individual leaky dams and the beaver enclosure.

Scientists will then be able to establish if this approach is more successful than conventional flood prevention methods.

The project is being led by Archie Ruggles-Brise, whose family has lived on the estate for 250 years, and has been supported by the Environment Agency, Essex Wildlife Trust and Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust and local councillors with locally raised funding from the Anglian Eastern Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFCC).

In Devon, the charity Devon Wildlife Trust is expected to spend £600,000 on its five-year beaver enclosure pilot programme, which started in 2015. Its license from wildlife regulator Natural England is due to expire in 2020. After that the government will make a decision on Devon's wild beavers based on the evidence and conclusions the trust presents, it has said.  

In 2018, two beavers imported from Bavaria were released into the Forest of Dean by the Forestry Commission. They had built five dams but were removed last month over tapeworm fears – one was put down – and two new beavers are set to take their place.

In Scotland, Eurasian beavers in the country will be given legally protected species status from 1 May.


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