Beavering away: nature's heroes

A beaver swimming in the river at Holnicote

We've released beavers to an area of river running through the edge of Exmoor to help us tackle the challenges brought by climate change.

In January 2020, an adult pair of Eurasian beavers were released at Holnicote Estate in Somerset to improve flood management and support wildlife on the rivers we care for. 

The beavers are helping to make areas of the river more resilient to climate change and the extremes of weather it will bring. The dams they create will hold water in dry periods, help to lessen flash-flooding downstream, reduce erosion and improve water quality. 

First baby beaver born on Exmoor for 400 years

The beavers at the Holnicote Estate have had their first baby beaver, which has been caught on camera just 18 months after the pair were first introduced to their new home.The footage shows the six-week-old kit and its mother (pictured left, at night) swimming back to the family lodge in July.

Our rangers thought the beavers were about to become parents in late spring when the male became very active and started dragging wood and vegetation around.The female beaver left the male to work alone and wasn't spotted again for several weeks.

Jack Siviter, one of the rangers on the Holnicote Estate, said: 'We are particularly pleased for our female, nicknamed Grylls due to her survival instincts, as she didn’t have the easiest start to life being orphaned at an early age. As a first time mum, she seems to be thriving and it’s great to see her with her new kit. 

'The family should now stay together for the next two years before the kit will naturally want to go off to create a new territory of its own.' 

Since we released the two beavers at Holnicote, they have been busy creating a dam complex from trees, mud, stones and vegetation. Beavers build dams to create deep pools of water, which offer shelter from predators and allow them to access and store food. The dams, ponds and channels they create have the added advantage of preventing flooding by slowing, storing and filtering water as it flows downstream. 

The changes the Holnicote beavers have made to the landscape will help us tackle the impact of floods and droughts, which are expected to increase because of climate change. The new wetland habitat is also attracting a diverse variety of wildlife, including bats, dragonflies, kingfishers, owls, moorhens and woodpeckers.

Video

Eager beavers help us prevent flooding

Meet the two beavers living in a peaceful river enclosure on the Holnicote Estate in Somerset. Watch these shy creatures tentatively explore their new home for the first time.

Beavers were once an important part of the natural environment but became extinct on mainland Britain during the 16th century because they were hunted for their fur, meat and scent glands.

The pair we've released at Holnicote have come all the way from wild populations on the River Tay catchment in Scotland, under special licences arranged with Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural England. Beavers can only be found in a handful of places across the country and this is the first time we've released the animals into a river enclosure.

Looking after rivers

We've released the beavers as part of a £13m project to restore the health of rivers, streams, brooks, and becks.The work will focus on five key areas: the River Conwy in North Wales, the Derwent in Cumbria, the Upper Bure in Norfolk, the Bollin in Cheshire and Porlock Vale streams in Somerset.

Rangers and tenant farmers on the Holnicote Estate are working to create more space for nature by reconnecting rivers and streams to the surrounding landscape. Not only does this allow more plants and animals to flourish it also helps to guard against severe weather. 

National Trust staff and volunteers, and experts from Exeter University, will monitor the beavers we've released into this area and record the changes they make to the river. 

" Although we're introducing a species that used to live here in the wild, this project is all around creating our landscapes of the future, helping us respond to the challenges the landscape and communities now face."
- Ben Eardley, Project Manager for the National Trust at Holnicote

Fascinating facts about beavers

  • Beavers are the second-largest living rodent
  • They are herbivores, eating aquatic plants, grasses, herbaceous plants and shrubs in the summer months and woody plants in the winter
  • They will often store food underwater so they can access it if the water freezes over in the winter
  • They can remain underwater for up to 15 minutes
  • They have protective eyelids to see underwater and can close both their nostrils and ears to prevent water from entering
  • Beaver teeth are orange from the iron content in the food they eat

We need your support

To continue playing a key role in nature's recovery, we need to step up our efforts to unlock the full potential of the precious land we care for so it can support even more wildlife. We need to create sanctuaries for people and nature to thrive, as well as tackle the threat we all face from the climate emergency.

Holnicote Estate on Exmoor

Help protect nature and wildlife  

Climate change poses a serious threat to rivers and other wildlife havens we love to escape to. Everyone needs nature – donate today to help us protect it for future generations.