UPDATE: Devon Beavers are Breeding!
Back in February, we told you the great news of the Devon beavers being allowed to stay on the River Otter. It isn’t known for sure how they came to be there, but being allowed to stay came with the condition that they would be tested for diseases and have an eye kept on them.
And it’s a good thing, too, because one of the females has recently given birth to some of the first wild beaver kits in hundreds of years!
Beavers are what is known as a keystone species. This means that they affect the environment in a way that is either unique or crucial to how the surrounding ecosystem functions. As you might know, beavers create huge and sophisticated dams, made from the trees they fell, which dramatically impacts the local environment. The dams they build hold huge amounts of water which they then use to get to their foraging areas.
As we said, one of the conditions of the beavers being allowed to stay was that they were tested for diseases. When they were brought in, two of the females were found to be pregnant. The other female is not thought to have had her babies yet, but excitement levels are high!
The first evidence of the beaver babies came from local filmmaker Tom Buckley, who happened to catch the kits having a swimming lesson from their mother.
“When I saw these newborn beavers, I was totally overwhelmed and I thought it was a miracle,” Mr Buckley said.
The DWT – Devon Wildlife Trust – is slowly expanding the beaver reintroduction programme in the hope that it provides more insight into the beavers’ effect on the River Otter and surrounding areas.
DWT Publications Manager Steve Hussey explained that there are no plans as of yet to tag the beavers, so they don’t get disturbed. He added that if the beavers were to be tagged, it would only be for identification purposes, but they’re healthy, breeding beavers so there shouldn’t be anything to worry about.
One thing the DWT is worried about, though, is the beavers being disturbed, so visitors are urged to keep their distance. “Like all new parents, the beavers will need a bit of space and peace at this time,” explained Mark Elliott, one of the project managers for DWT.
All in all, though, everyone is thrilled at the breeding. “The baby kits appear fit and healthy and the adults seem as if they are taking their parenting responsibilities very seriously,” concluded Mr Elliott. “It tells us the beavers are very much at home in this corner of Devon.”
If you want to see the little kits having their first swimming lesson, watch Tom Buckley’s video below!