Breaking gnaws: Public asked for views on returning beavers to the wild in England

The UK Government is asking people for their views on whether beavers should be brought back to the wild in England.

The move comes after the species, once native across the UK, was given protected status in Scotland in 2019 following a successful reintroduction trial.

Trials have also been under way south of the border in recent years.

Under government proposals, applications for licences to release beavers in England would need to meet certain criteria, including demonstrating positive engagement with local people and stakeholders, plus proof that comprehensive assessments of the impacts on surrounding land, water courses, infrastructure, habitats and protected species have been carried out.

The UK government has launched a public consultation into proposals to return once-native beavers to the wild in England - Scotland granted the species protected status in 2019, following a successful reintroduction trial in Argyll. Picture: Lorne Gill

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Projects would also have to ensure that support for landowners and river users is put in place.

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The 12-week consultation follows a successful reintroduction scheme in Devon, known as River Otter.

It is seeking views on potential future releases into the wild, releases into enclosures, and mitigation and management of beaver activity and impacts in the wild.

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Plans to give beavers legal protection in England are also being announced, to support the recovery of the species.

This will make it an offence to deliberately capture, kill, disturb or injure beavers, or damage breeding sites or resting places.

UK environment secretary George Eustice said: “We are committed to providing opportunities to reintroduce formerly native species, such as beavers, where the benefits for the environment, people and the economy are clear.

“Today marks a significant milestone for the reintroduction of beavers in the wild, with the launch of the government’s consultation on our national approach and management of beavers in England.

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“But we also understand that there are implications for landowners, so we are taking a cautious approach to ensure that all potential impacts are carefully considered.”

Tony Juniper, chair of nature agency Natural England, said the move marked “an important and positive moment” for the future of beavers in England.

“Beavers are not only fascinating creatures in their own right, but are also eco-system engineers that will play a key role in restoring and linking habitats, in the process bringing many environmental benefits,” he said.

“I encourage everyone to respond so that the way we shape the future of wild beavers reflects as many perspectives as possible.”

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