Five brilliant facts about beavers

Inspired by the River Otter Beaver Trial in Devon, environmental campaigner Brenda Pollack rounds up five reasons to be a beaver believer

Inspired by the River Otter Beaver Trial in Devon, environmental campaigner Brenda Pollack rounds up five reasons to be a beaver believer
Devon beaver kit nibbling willow. Pic: Nick Upton/naturepl.com

I’ve just come back from a trip to see the Devon beaver project and I was amazed – these creatures have such positive effects on the environment so quickly! 

Before I joined Rewilding Britain, I confess I hadn’t really thought much about beavers. But now I’m a big fan and I’ve had my mind boggled by how brilliant they are, particularly when it comes to reducing the risks of flooding. 

My role here is to build awareness and campaign for nature restoration projects that address flooding problems while also benefiting wildlife and people. Check out the following list and you’ll see why I’ve got so much time for these mighty rodents.

They’re water purifiers. The ponds they create allow pollutants in water to filter out naturally before flowing downstream

Top beavertastic facts

  • They are nature’s flood defenders. Beaver dams create ponds that store water and allow rivers to flow more slowly. So when there is heavy rainfall, people downstream are less likely to be inundated. Humans are now mimicking beavers by creating woody dams in places like Pickering, Belford and Holnicote.
  • They’re water purifiers. The ponds they create allow pollutants in water to filter out naturally before flowing downstream. Studies at the trial beaver site in Devon show that on average each litre entering the area contained 6mg of nitrates with only 1mg per litre leaving the site.
  • Beavers are important for the survival of other wildlife. The wetlands they create provide food, shelter and homes for creatures such as dragonflies, butterflies, brown trout and various bats. All of this makes them a keystone species, which is one of the many reasons that we at Rewilding Britain want them back.
  • They’re vegetarians! They don’t eat salmon, trout or any kind of living creature. They just love munching bark, tree shoots, riverside plants and grasses.
  • They’ve got incredible incisors. These never stop growing so they have to keep chomping on wood to keep them trim. If they didn’t, their teeth would grow to an amazing four feet in a year!

Making it work

images/Brenda-Beaver-Blog/beaver-kennel.jpg

All set for beaver release at the River Otter Beaver Trial. Pic: Nick Upton/naturepl.com

These amazing architects of nature are not universally adored however. Some even see them as a threat. It’s true they can cause problems if they build their dams in the “wrong” place or chomp a precious tree. But other countries have shown that good management and acting on problems quickly is the key to successful coexistence of beavers and people.

Under EU nature laws, the UK should be reintroducing lost species like the beaver. But we aren’t seeing any drive or ambition to do this for beavers. It’s about time official agencies set out a clear plan of how we can roll out beaver releases now that the Devon and Scottish trials have happened.

Meanwhile, do support the Devon Wildlife Trust and Exeter University’s Geography Department in their great work with the brilliant, mind-boggling beaver.


About the author

Brenda Pollack is taking time out from her role as south east regional campaigner for Friends of the Earth to work with us here at Rewilding Britain.

Back to magazine