Illegally released beavers can stay on the River Otter

Beaver in the USA

This is a great decision by the current government. About 15 pairs of wild beavers are living on the River Otter in Devon, UK. It is not known how they got there but it is believed that they were released illegally. They’ve built 28 dams and were first seen on the river in 2013.

Beaver in the USA

Photo by Scott Younkin from Pexels. The image has been cropped heavily by me.

In 2015, the government granted a licence allowing them to remain on the river so they could be monitored in a trial by Devon Wildlife Trust and the University of Exeter. It is now reported that government ministers have decided to let them remain on the river and to spread naturally. It is very pleasant to know that beavers have been allowed to make their home on the River Otter. It is a return to the way the world was but there are objectors.

For instance, the decision has upset anglers. Beaver dams prevents salmon and sea trout from migrating up river. Comment: I think anglers should keep quiet because in the enjoyment of their pastime they cause pain to fish. I predict that in the long term their days are numbered. One day angling for pleasure will be banned.

Farmers don’t like the decision either because the dams can cause fields to become waterlogged. The environment minister, Rebecca Pow, said that the trial from 2015 had proved that water quality had been improved and that the beavers had protected homes from flooding and their presence had benefited other wildlife. She did acknowledge that there were potential negative implications for landowners.

Peter Burgess, the director of conservation at Devon Wildlife Trust is delighted. He regards it as a groundbreaking government decision. He said that beavers are nature’s engineers and they can breathe life into rivers and wetlands.

He too acknowledged that they can cause problems but they could be relocated if that happened. There is also a possibility that if the numbers became too great licenced culling may have to be instigated as is allowed in Scotland.

A spokesperson for the Angling Trust, Mark Owen, said that the government’s decision created concerns about its impact on protected migratory fish species.

For completeness, beavers were hunted to extinction in the UK 400 years ago for their fur, meat and the castoreum oil in glands under their tails. FYI – “castor oil” is a replacement for castoreum, which is a perfume base made from the oil of these glands.