Return of beavers to Cumbria after 400-year absence welcomed by academics
Environment and conservation specialists at University of Cumbria have welcomed the reintroduction of beavers to the county after a 400-year absence and hope the scheme leads to new research opportunities for students.
Dr Alex Poynter, Associate Professor Volker Deecke and Professor Ian Convery from the university’s Institute of Science, Natural Resources and Outdoor Studies are involved in the Cumbria Beaver Group and are delighted that the latest UK beaver reintroduction has happened in Cumbria.
Cumbria Beaver Group has issued details about how two adult beavers, a male and a female, have been released into a 27-acre enclosure at Lowther Estate near Penrith, for a five-year scientific trial.
The aim is to obtain data on the impact of beavers in an upland environment, in particular on a stream in a farmed landscape.
Conservation lecturer Dr Poynter said: “Beavers have an integral and valuable place within our landscape and their role as ecosystem engineers is well documented. After a number of successful reintroductions in England it is great to see beavers return to Cumbria after a long absence.
“We are particularly interested in observing how the presence of beavers affects the structural and functional ecology of rivers, wetlands and riparian habitat, along with the wider social benefits that come from a species capable of slowing flows and improving water quality in our rivers. In broader landscape-scale terms, if beavers were once again deemed native and were ubiquitous in the British uplands, the potential social and environmental benefits are considerable and may enable greater resilience in our biodiversity, hydrology and soils to the effects of future climate change.”
Professor Ian Convery, Professor of Environment and Society at University of Cumbria, is co-leader of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s rewilding thematic group.
He added: “This is really exciting news for nature recovery in Cumbria and builds upon a number of existing species reintroduction projects such as the Heritage Lottery Fund supported scheme Back on our Map, alongside ongoing discussions about returning other missing species such as sea eagles and pine marten to Cumbria.
“I’m really pleased that University of Cumbria is part of the Cumbria Beaver Group. We’re keen to involve our students in this exciting project and also work with our partners to develop new research opportunities as the project progresses.”
Cumbria’s female beaver, called Dragonfly, was trapped and relocated from the River Tay catchment in Scotland, under licence from NatureScot, the public body responsible for Scotland's natural heritage. She was then was held at Five Sisters Zoo in West Lothian, for health screening.
The male, named Glen, was rescued from the outflow of a hydroelectric plant in Perthshire by the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA). It is thought that Glen became trapped while moving between areas, trying to establish his own territory. The SSPCA carried out health screening on Glen, before releasing him a week later at Lowther.
Cumbria Beaver Group is a partnership made up of Cumbria Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Lowther Estate and Eden Rivers Trust. It is working in consultation with Natural England, the Environment Agency, United Utilities, Forestry England, University of Cumbria and others. The group supports the well-planned and managed reintroduction of beavers to Cumbria through enclosed scientific beaver release trials.
Cumbria Beaver Group is working with local communities and stakeholders to inspire people about beavers and increase understanding about this native species.
There will be no public access to the beavers at Lowther Estate but Cumbria Beaver Group will be posting regular news and updates about the beavers online and on social media.
Read the Cumbria Beaver Group’s full news release about the animals’ release at Lowther Estate here.
You can find out more about beavers or ask questions about the project by contacting the Cumbria Beaver Group at https://www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/beavers, on Twitter @CumbriaBeavers or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photograph: David Parkyn, Cornwall Beaver Group