After being absent for more than 400 years, wild beavers are back in the UK. A true rewilding success story!
Beavers are the World’s second-largest rodent. They have a robust body, a short neck, and short limbs. They have large, flattened, scale-covered tails and webbed hind feet. They can grow to a length of up to 1m plus a tail length of 30cm and weigh between 25-30kg. Eurasian beavers have an average lifespan of 7-8 years.
Globally, the Eurasian beaver is of least concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, however, in Scotland, they are Endangered and, in England, critically endangered. Beavers are perhaps the ‘poster’ species of rewilding, and after an absence of over 400 years, the world’s second-largest rodent is back in the UK. After several planned and unplanned releases in Scotland, the beaver is considered once again a native species and has legal protection.
Beavers are considered ecosystem engineers. They change the landscape and restore it to a more natural state. They can create pools which benefit several other species including amphibians, fish, grass snakes and countless others. The beaver's influence on rivers can also reduce flooding downstream as they effectively slow down the flow of water.
The reintroduction of beavers is a classic example of why we must consider stakeholders when rewilding. For example, in Scotland, where releases were planned, they are generally supported. However, unplanned releases led to conflict with landowners as livelihoods were affected, resulting in beavers being shot, thankfully there are now plans to translocate beavers rather than cull them.
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