Charity asks public to ‘take last chance to back beavers’

Charity asks public to ‘take last chance to back beavers’

Photo credit, Mike Symes

The Government is considering reintroducing beavers into the wild in England. Now a leading local charity is calling on people to back the return of these incredible eco-engineers before it is too late.

The Government is currently holding a ‘Consultation on the approach to the beaver reintroduction and management in England’. The conclusions it draws from this are set to decide whether the water-loving, vegetarian rodents should be returned to rivers across England after they were hunted to extinction 400 years ago.

With only days before the consultation closes on 17 November, Devon Wildlife Trust is urging people to get behind its call to ‘bring back beavers.’ It wants people to show support for the animals via the charity’s website here.

Devon Wildlife Trust led the pioneering work in 2015 which saw the first wild population of breeding beavers to be returned to an English river. The beavers, which are now thought to number around 20 family groups live on East Devon’s River Otter, where they were given permanent permission to stay in August 2020.

This landmark decision came after evidence showed beavers make streams, rivers and wetland habitats better for both wildlife and people. The habitats they create provide new homes for a wealth of wildlife like dragonflies, otters, kingfishers and water voles. Their dams naturally filter pollutants helping to improving water quality, store water to reduce the risks of flooding and drought, and help tackle climate change by locking up carbon.

Now the charity is hoping that the benefits of beavers can be felt in rivers across England. Mark Elliott has been part of Devon Wildlife Trust’s beaver work since its beginning and says:

“Beavers once flourished in the nation’s rivers and streams, but hunting led to their extinction around 400 years ago. In the centuries since they’ve been badly missed. Our rivers are now in a terrible state and their wildlife is struggling.

Beavers build dams and create wetlands – the perfect conditions for countless other species to flourish in. They are a missing piece in our nature and now we have the chance to get them back in rivers across England, not just here in a corner of Devon. We urge as many people as possible to back the beaver.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated that the government does wish to see beavers return to some English rivers. One of the headline statements to emerge from his recent speech at the Conservative Party Conference was an intention to ‘Build back beaver!’

Mark Elliott from Devon Wildlife Trust says:

“While we are encouraged by the signals from government, it’s also vital that the levels of public support for beavers is made clear.

Recent flood and pollution events have shown that our rivers and wetlands are in a desperate state. Beavers are one of the natural solutions which can help us in tackling these issues. But to do that we need an ambitious plan for reintroduction, one in which beavers can be returned to river catchments throughout England.”

People can take part in the consultation in two ways:

  1. By adding their support via an ‘e-action’ which can be found here.


  1. By filling in the full public consultation at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website here.

The consultation closes on Wednesday 17 November. It is expected that government will announce its plans for beavers in England in 2022.

Find out more about DWT's work with beavers

Editor's notes

  • For the scientific findings from Devon Wildlife Trust’s five-year River Otter Beaver Trial see its ‘Science and Evidence Report’ (2020) here.


  • The River Otter Beaver Trial was led by Devon Wildlife Trust working in partnership with The University of Exeter, the Derek Gow Consultancy, and Clinton Devon Estates.  Expert independent advice is also provided by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Dr Roisin Campbell-Palmer, Professor John Gurnell, Professor Alastair Driver and Gerhard Schwab. 


  • The total cost to Devon Wildlife Trust of the River Otter Beaver Trial stands at more than £500,000. The work has been made possible by contributions from the charity’s supporters. Local communities have also contributed generously.


  • The River Otter Beaver Trial has also received support from Defra, The Peter De Haan Charitable Trust, The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, Garfield Weston Foundation, Wellcome Trust, Natural Environment Research Council, the Tale Valley Trust. Plymouth City Council has contributed to the Trial’s socio-economic work, and the Environment Agency and Wessex Water have funded the installation of monitoring equipment.


  • Devon Wildlife Trust is the county’s leading environmental charity, with more than 44,000 members. The charity manages 58 nature reserves across Devon, including a range of beautiful landscapes such as woodlands, meadows, wetlands and heaths.  Devon Wildlife Trust relies on charitable donations, grants and the generous support of its members and the general public to raise more than £5 million every year. Money raised is spent maintaining our work for wildlife conservation and education in Devon, for present and future generations.


  • More on the River Otter Beaver Trial, its work, reports and other information can be viewed here.