East Devon residents are being urged to back beavers

Beavers on the River Otter. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

Beavers on the River Otter. Picture: Alex Walton Photography - Credit: Alex Walton Photography

The government has launched a public consultation on the future of beaver introductions in England.

The way the consultation is designed means the most likely responses will be from stakeholders who have a particular interest in how the presence of beavers in our rivers could affect them directly – anglers and farmers, for example.

But every resident of villages and towns along the River Otter and its tributaries also deserves a voice in this consultation on the future of beavers. Local people have been living alongside beavers for around a decade now.

The science and evidence gained from the five-year River Otter Beaver Trial demonstrated the benefits beavers have brought to the River Otter. Beaver activity has helped reduce flood risk in villages downstream of their dams, has increased diversity and abundance of other wildlife and has also improved water quality, thanks to beaver dams trapping sediment washed into watercourses.

Where beaver dams have caused localised problems for landowners, DWT has demonstrated practical solutions to reducing water levels so the landscape can continue to be shared by beavers and people without conflict.

Beaver-watching near Otterton has become an annual summer activity, with locals and visitors enjoying the experience of being among the first people to see beavers in an English river for hundreds of years. Many such visitors also spend money with local businesses on food, drinks and accommodation.

It is important that all these aspects of local people’s experience of living alongside beavers is featured in responses to the government’s consultation.

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But as the online consultation is not especially easy to navigate, Devon Wildlife Trust has produced the following guidance on submitting a response, so the government hears the voices of East Devon residents who have lived alongside beavers for years.

DWT’s Director of Nature Recovery Pete Burgess said: “It is vitally important that we reintroduce beavers in a planned, responsible way, and that we have a toolkit of management techniques available, so we know exactly how to deal with issues if they arise. To maximise the benefits beavers can bring, we need to continue to provide advice and support for farmers and landowners and provide grants for those who allow more space for water on their land. The launch of the public consultation is the start of a vitally important conversation about the future of these once widespread animals, and we would urge everyone to share their views about the future of beavers in the English landscape.”

Devon Wildlife Trust are asking everyone to respond to the consultation around four key asks which they believe are necessary for the safe return of beavers in the wild.

They also ask to formally recognise beavers as a resident native species in England, as has already been done in Scotland. And to ensure beaver populations thrive in the wild by supporting reintroduction projects.

The government consultation runs until November 17 and is online at https://consult.defra.gov.uk/natural-environment-policy/beaver-reintroduction-and-management/

For more information on beavers in Devon and on the government’s consultation see https://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/what-we-do/beavers