River Otter Beaver Trial

River Otter Beaver Trial

Beaver. Photo, Ben Lee

Re-introducing Devon's beavers

Devon Wildlife Trust is the lead partner in England’s first licensed beaver re-introduction and monitoring project, on the River Otter in east Devon.

About the project

A population of beavers, of unknown origin, has been present on the River Otter since around 2008. However, when video evidence emerged proving that the beavers had given birth to kits (young) in 2014, the UK Government initially planned to have them removed from the river.

DWT opposed their removal and after consulting with the local community, landowners and public bodies, presented an alternative plan: to turn the situation into a five-year trial to monitor the beavers’ effects on the landscape.

Devon's beavers urgently need your support

In order to meet the conditions set by government agencies, the River Otter Beaver Trial is anticipated to cost the charity around £600,000. We rely on donations from individuals who support the return of the beaver to our countryside. And if the Trial cannot be funded, there is a risk the beavers would be removed.

Thanks to the support of people like you there are now eight family groups of beavers thriving on the River Otter and its tributaries. Please help us fund this project with a donation or by 'Adopting' a beaver - and you'll be playing a role in the century's most exciting conservation project.

The River Otter Beavers give you the opportunity to see wild living beavers in the English landscape for the first time in 400 years - what a privilege!
Steve Hussey
Devon Wildlife Trust
ROBT April 2019

An alternative plan

Our proposal was approved by Natural England in February 2015 on condition that the beavers were shown to be healthy Eurasian beavers and free of non-native diseases.

Following these test results, the beavers were re-released on the River Otter in March. In June 2015, video evidence showed three further kits had been born.

In spring 2017 we released a report that summarises the results of the research being undertaken in Devon to investigate the effects of beavers on the water environment.

Read our annual River Otter Beaver Trial update

Learn about the impacts of nature's fascinating water engineers


Devon River Otter Beaver scratching it's chin

Mike Symes

Hoping to see beavers?

Beavers are very charismatic animals and not that difficult to see if you spend enough time by the river in the right areas.  They are nocturnal for much of the year, but during the light summer evenings they can be seen during daylight hours.  They are resident in the lower reaches of the River Otter in areas well covered by the public footpath network, and if you spend enough time on these paths during the summer evenings between May and September you stand a good chance of seeing them, as well as otters, kingfishers, dippers, etc.

One of the best areas is currently around Otterton village where the footpaths go north, south and west from the main river bridge, but this can change.  

You should aim to be out from the early evening, and be prepared to stay out until it’s almost dark (so worth having a small torch with you). Wear warm, dark and quiet clothing, and have a pair of binoculars with you if possible.

It’s worth spending a bit of money in the local business (Otterton Mill and the Kings Arms are good places to eat and drink in the village) and always worth mentioning that you are in the area to see the beavers - local businesses should benefit from having beavers in their area.

Please make sure you respect the landowners and other users of the river, and follow the Countryside code.

To stand a better chance, if possible, don’t bring a dog with you. Beavers have a very acute sense of smell and although they can be quite tolerant of dogs, they can perceive them as a threat, especially if they have vulnerable kits (May – July) – certainly make sure your dog stays out of the river in these areas at this time of year.

Tell us about sightings. Many of the beavers are wearing ear tags, so if you are lucky enough to spot a beaver, look carefully to see if it is wearing ear tags – it will help us understand where the different beavers are living. Let us know the date, time, exact location, and the details of ear tag colours and which ears they are in. 

Email us your photos 

River Otter – Beaver Management Strategy

The River Otter Beaver Trial (ROBT) five-year term concludes in March 2020. Natural England / Defra are responsible for deciding the future of the beavers currently living wild on the river.

The ROBT Steering Group, made up of a diverse range of stakeholders, recognise the critical need to prepare for a potential scenario that Defra allows the beavers to remain in the River Otter catchment after 2020.

The development of a Management Strategy Framework now will help inform decisions regarding the long-term management of beavers, the wetland habitats they establish, and their general activities in the River Otter in the future.

The Management Strategy was produced with expert input from a wide range of national stakeholders and international advisors.

Two beaver kits and mother on the River Otter, Devon

Mike Symes

About the River Otter Beaver Trial

The River Otter Beaver Trial is 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, Professor John Gurnell, and Gerhard Schwab, an international beaver expert based in Bavaria.

The River Otter Beaver Trial is supported by The Peter De Haan Charitable Trust, The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, Garfield Weston Foundation, Tale Valley Trust and donations from local residents, DWT members and the general public.

5 Years
42 Landowners
6 Beaver families

Two new beavers released into River Otter

On Monday 23 May 2016 we released two new adult beavers into the river's catchment in order to widen the genetic make-up of the resident population.

You can watch the story of this historic event unfold and hear about why the new beavers are so important to this groundbreaking project... 

Footage by Sylvia Meller

Beaver and kits footage!

Sylvia Meller captured some wonderful footage of the mother beaver and her 3 kits

Need to talk to us about beavers?

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Help us help beavers thrive