Environment

Devon Wildlife Trust

Devon Wildlife Trust strives to make Devon a place where wildlife is plentiful, varied and widespread and help secure it for future generations. Established in 1962, the Trust now has around 33,000 members and it manages 50 nature reserves throughout the county totalling 2,000 hectares.

In 2014 the discovery of breeding Eurasian beavers on the River Otter in Devon marked the first known breeding of this species in England since their extinction some 400 years ago. Beavers are a ‘keystone’ species, and as such they have a profound effect on the environment around them. As nature’s very own aquatic engineers they manage rivers, wetlands and adjacent woodland, shaping the water environment and the wildlife living on or near our rivers.

As nobody knew where the beavers had come from, or even what species they were, the Government at the time decided they should be removed. An alternative solution was found by the charity in consultation with the local community and public bodies – to undertake a five-year reintroduction and monitoring project to examine the practical realities of living alongside beavers in a farmed landscape. The results of the study will be presented to Government in 2020. Raising funds for such a complex project can be particularly challenging but the Trustees were happy to support the charity to investigate and measure the potential long-term ramifications of the project.

“Devon Wildlife Trust is honoured to have the responsibility of leading England’s first ever wild beaver trial. Our approach combines rigorous research and robust science with extensive grassroots engagement, and it is truly fascinating to study this animal as it establishes itself in a well-populated, highly productive landscape. Funding from the Garfield Weston Foundation for the duration of our project has been vital.” Peter Burgess, Director of Conservation and Development