Bringing back the beavers
After being hunted to extinction in the UK 400 years ago, The Cornwall Beaver Project brought beavers back to Cornwall in 2017. This was done thanks to public support and the efforts of Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Woodland Valley Farm and the University of Exeter.
The beavers are housed in a 5 acre fenced enclosure of plantation woodland. It borders Nankilly water, a stream at Woodland Valley Farm near Ladock. Initially two adult beavers, one male and one female, were released into a pond on-site. They have been left to re-engineer the area through dam and canal building.
Roughly a year later, two beaver kits were born. This was a strong signal that the beavers were well settled into their home at Woodland Valley Farm.
The benefits of beavers
Beavers provide a cost-effective and sustainable solution to the serious issues of flooding, pollution and species loss in the UK. Beavers are ecosystem engineers and a ‘keystone’ species.
They are a vital addition to our natural landscape if we want to see more wildlife-rich wetlands and watercourses being managed in a way that slows the flow of water.
These benefits are likely to be amplified and become crucial as we continue to see more severe weather as a result of the climate crisis.
Improved water quality
Beaver dams slow and filter water, causing sediment and nutrients to deposit in ponds. This improves the quality of water flowing from sites where beavers are present.
'People Engaged With Wildlife' icon. It shows a basic cartoon silhouette of a head and shoulders in green.People engaged with wildlife
People are fascinated by beavers. The presence of beavers in an area provides an opportunity for people to engage with wildlife. It also creates a market for nature tourism in some places.
Beavers create diverse wetland habitats. These can provide a home for a wide range of wildlife, especially aquatic invertebrates which act as a food source for other species.
Land holds more water
The dams, ponds and channels created by beavers increase capacity of land to store water and produce a more consistent outflow below their dams. This can result in less water being released during storms and heavy rainfall, and more water availability during times of drought.
Positive impacts of Beavers at Ladock
This photo is a close-up of a Beaver's head as it swims in the water. The Beaver is facing to the right of the image as it swims. Photo taken by Jack Hicks.
A considerable amount of research has been carried out across Europe on the impacts of Beavers. This project’s research objectives have been chosen to focus on aspects that are less well understood. The research will look at water quality and flow, impact on fish and other wildlife, as well as public perception.
So far, alongside other measures, water monitoring equipment at Ladock has identified significant positive flow impacts. Water used to take less than 15 minutes to travel through the site and now, thanks to the beavers, it takes over an hour.
Weekly ‘beaver watches’ at Ladock are also helping to engage people with wildlife and raise funds for the project. Over 1000 people have been shown around the site so far, and the farm has seen increasing bookings for residential stays by schools, colleges and universities.
Find out more
The Trust created a video documenting a trip they made to Bavaria in Germany. They went to observe and learn how humans, particularly farmers, can live alongside beavers in harmony.
The Wildlife Trusts run five beaver reintroduction projects across the UK with a range of partners – from farmers to government agencies. Find out more about the other projects on their website.