Average lifespan: 10-15 years
When to seeActive January to December but easiest to see in daylight between May and September.
AboutThe European beaver is a ‘keystone species’, with an amazing ability to alter its surroundings. Where it doesn’t have access to deep water, it can build dams that can transform landscapes. It fells and coppices riverside trees (especially willow) for food and for building dams and lodges. In late spring and summer, it eats mainly aquatic plants, grasses, ferns and shrubs, but at other times, woody species form the major part of its diet. Beavers live in family groups with an average of about five individuals, comprising adults, kits and yearlings. Females produce a single litter of one to six kits per year (average about 3). Beavers are semi-aquatic, mostly active at dawn and dusk, and do not hibernate.
How to identifyAs large as a Labrador dog, but with shorter legs, the European beaver is robust and heavily built. Two distinctive features are a broad, flat tail, covered with scales, and webbed feet. It has small eyes and ears, and light brown fur.
In our area
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. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/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, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org