Beavers set to return to the north west in trial at beauty spot

Beavers are to be reintroduced to the north west in an enclosed trial on the Lowther Estate, Cumbria. Picture: David Parkyn/Cornwall Wildlife Trust
Beavers are to be reintroduced to the north west in an enclosed trial on the Lowther Estate, Cumbria. Picture: David Parkyn/Cornwall Wildlife Trust

An animal which had disappeared from our region is to be reintroduced in a north west beauty spot.

Beavers, a native species in Britain which became extinct in the 16th century, will soon be reintroduced to the north west in an enclosed scientific trial.

The enclosed trial will take place at Lowther Estate in the Eden Valley, after the scheme was granted a licence by the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

David Harpley, chairman of Cumbria Beaver Group (CBG) and conservation manager at Cumbria Wildlife Trust said: “It is great news that Eurasian beavers will be returning to the region. Evidence from trials elsewhere in the UK shows that they offer great benefits, including flood risk alleviation, improved water quality, habitat creation for other wildlife and increased revenue for the local economy through nature-based tourism.

“This is the first beaver trial in the North West of England. We’re looking into the feasibility of setting up a camera to live stream the beaver activity once they’ve been released. This would mean people could watch them close up from the comfort of their laptop or phone.”

David Bliss, from Lowther Estate, said: “This will be a trial release to assess how beavers can restore small, modified streams within a farmed landscape and will be done under the conditions of a licence from DEFRA. We are delighted that Lowther Estate has been granted a licence for this exciting project and look forward to finding out the results from this scientific trial. There have been trials elsewhere in the country, but this trial will look specifically at how beavers fare in an upland environment.”

A second licence has been applied for by a private individual at an undisclosed location in South Cumbria and this application is pending approval. The aim of this trial is to assess the impact of beavers on a small stream system in an upland woodland, helping to slow the flow, with the expectation of creating new habitat that’s beneficial to the surrounding environment and wildlife.

The CBG says that the approved scheme is not for free-roaming beavers and that the animals will not be able to move into the wider surrounding countryside.

In the longer term, if the government decides that beavers can be allowed to return to the wider countryside and establish free-living populations, CBG advocates that any reintroduction is well planned, well managed and has the support of the local community.

As well as providing a range of environmental and socio-economic benefits, CBG recognises that beavers can, in some circumstances, create impacts such as localised flooding and burrowing but advocates the use of well-established mitigation and management techniques to prevent these becoming a problem.

Find out more about beavers and Cumbria Beaver Group at https://www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/about/what-we-do/groups-and-partnerships/cumbria-beaver-group