For the first time in over 400 years, beavers have bred in Dorset.
Dorset Wildlife Trust established an enclosed beaver site in West Dorset at the beginning of 2021 and, now, it has captured images of a young beaver, known as a kit, with its mother, exploring the watery woodland created by its parents since their release. The images were taken by trail cameras inside the enclosure.
The project is hosted by Dorset Wildlife Trust, which is working with partners University of Exeter and Wessex Water. They are undertaking scientific studies to assess all the impacts that beavers make on the natural environment including river flow, water quality and biodiversity.
Since the beavers were released on the site, they have built dams, creating a wetland to suit their needs but which also provides habitat for many other species, such as frogs and newts, which depend on water.
Steve Oliver, rivers conservation officer, said: “We have been closely monitoring the pair since their release and it has been clear that they have formed a strong bond in the time they have been on site, and this latest discovery is further evidence of this, alongside their industrious dam building activity. The trail cams have only identified one kit so far, but beavers can typically have one to four kits in a litter, and we are discreetly observing their activity to see if any others have been born.
“Seeing the first kit is an incredibly exciting moment for the project and breeding is a clear indication of normal behaviour and that the adult pair are healthy and happily settled in their Dorset surroundings. This local project is an enormous step forward on the journey to restore beavers to Dorset, helping us to raise awareness and understanding of what it means to have these influential mammals back in our county. Beavers have the potential to make a huge difference to our natural environment and can assist nature’s recovery as well as providing other benefits for humans.”
Eurasian beavers were once native to Dorset. Due to their activities, such as dam building to create deep water in which they feel safe, they are known as nature’s ecosystem engineers, and their activities have a positive effect on their environment.
Once common in the UK, the 16th century saw Eurasian beavers hunted to extinction for their meat, fur, and castoreum, a secretion from their castor glands.
To find out more about the Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Beaver project, visit dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/BeaverProject
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