Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust are reintroducing Eurasian beavers (Castor fiber) to our neighbouring county, Hampshire. A breeding pair of beavers will be released into an enclosure on an estate near Basingstoke, this year.
Beavers are ecosystem engineers, a keystone species. They coppice trees and dam streams to build a deep water habitat for themselves, thereby creating a complex wetland habitat for hundreds of other species: otters and water voles, dragonflies and damsel flies, wading birds and wildflowers. Their water-engineering slows down the flow of streams and rivers, protecting land downstream from erosion and flooding, and improving water quality for fish and amphibians.
Beavers were hunted to extinction in Britain more than 400 years ago but they are beginning to reappear in our landscape. Since 2009, the government has licensed beaver releases into enclosures and, in what environmentalists hope will be a precursor to permitting beavers to be released into the wild, legislation was passed in 2022 formally recognising them as native wildlife and therefore protecting them under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, making it illegal to kill or harm them or their habitat.
It is believed that there have been illegal releases and some experts think that there are already many hundreds of beavers living wild along our waterways. Are there plans to reintroduce beavers into wild Wiltshire? Let’s hope so.