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The re-introduction of beavers to Studland

A Eurasian beaver perched by the water and eating
A Eurasian beaver perched by the water | © National Trust Images / Nick Upton

We’re working on a project to establish a viable population of Eurasian beavers at Little Sea in Studland, Dorset. Beaver activity can increase biodiversity by providing habitats for a wide range of species including fish, amphibians, mammals, water-loving plants and insects.

Why restore beavers to Purbeck?

Previously beavers were an important part of the natural ecosystem but became extinct across the UK in the 16th century due to hunting for their fur, meat and scent glands. Restoring lost species to our landscapes is an important part of our work to reverse the declines in nature.

Although beavers have already appeared at Little Sea (see January 2024 update below), we are now working with Natural England and Defra to obtain a licence for a 'wild' or unenclosed release so we can ensure a viable population. Beavers have been released at other sites in the UK but within enclosures.

The habitat beavers need

Beavers need areas of deep, still or slow flowing fresh water to feel safe. Although Little Sea originated as a landlocked body of seawater, it has been replenished by fresh water draining off the heathland and is now classed as fresh water. Surrounded by dense woodland, it is thought to be a highly suitable habitat for beavers.

How beavers will benefit Little Sea and beyond

Beavers create their own wetlands and bring wildlife back to the landscape as they do so. There is evidence that a range of species (aquatic plants, amphibians, aquatic invertebrates) hugely benefit when beavers are present in a landscape.

Little Sea is surrounded by a dense wet woodland of willow. As the beavers fell trees, they will create glades and open patches. This allows light to penetrate the canopy, attracting myriad wildlife such as dragonflies, bees, butterflies, birds and wildflowers. New saplings will quickly grow again, creating a much more dynamic woodland with trees of all ages.

If the beaver introductions at Little Sea are successful, the aim is that they will eventually spread onto the Purbeck Heaths. They will create beaver wetlands that help retain and purify water resources and slow the flow in our rivers, reducing the risk of flooding and drought. These wetlands are also one of the best ways to capture carbon.

A carefully managed approach

Across the UK beavers are gradually being brought back into the countryside as part of a managed approach. Beavers have been successfully reintroduced at several National Trust sites in recent years, including Holnicote in Somerset where several kits have been born.

For more information on the Purbeck Beaver Project or about how to get involved, please email Gen Crisford at

Follow the latest project updates here

April 2024

Monitoring and managing the new arrivals

Since the discovery of beavers at Little Sea in January, we have been working to implement monitoring protocols and to incorporate these animals into our long-term plans. 

Monitoring: Our first priority was to find out more about the beavers that had appeared and ensure their well-being. As they are nocturnal, we have used trail cameras and thermal imagery to establish that there is likely to be two beavers. By looking at the evidence of their feeding activity, we have been able to roughly map out their territory. 

Management: Beavers are a native species so there is no requirement for us to remove them from Little Sea, and it is also against the law to deliberately injure, kill, capture or disturb beavers. We are liaising with partner organisations and stakeholders on the management of the site now beavers are present. We will also be making local residents and walkers aware of the situation. 

Future beaver releases: We are still keen to gain a licence for an unenclosed or ‘wild’ release of beavers at Little Sea as we had originally planned to release three pairs to ensure a viable breeding population. We continue to work with Natural England and Defra on a licence application for a wild release.  

A view of visitors walking along Knoll Beach from the dunes at Studland Bay, Dorset


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