After an absence of perhaps as much as a thousand years, beavers are back on Dartmoor! At the beginning of December we released a mama beaver, her eldest daughter and two younger kits into their specially made six acre enclosure at Moor Barton Wilding.
The family, who have come from Scotland where there are now hundreds of beavers, have quickly settled into their new home and have been as 'busy as beavers'! In just a few short weeks the stretch of the Trenchford Stream which runs through their enclosure has been utterly transformed. Beavers are shy creatures who like to be hidden in the water as much as possible. Rather than taking their food (the shrubs and small trees surrounding the stream) to the water, they try to take the water to their food.
They do this by damming the stream to slow and spread the flow of the water, effectively creating a series of pools and reuniting the water course with its flood plain, rather than a canalised stream rushing as fast as possible to its destination.
Stream before beavers
In this newly created wetland, which feels reminiscent of a Canadian landscape, life is already flourishing. The still and slow moving pools are havens for insects and amphibians and these, in turn, draw more birds and mammals to the area. Just three weeks after the beavers arrived we saw our first ever snipe at Moor Barton. We're looking forward to the summer when the area will be humming with insects, dragonflies and butterflies.
At one time, a third of the UK would have been 'beaver engineered'. Standing inside the beaver enclosure at Moor Barton Wilding provides an opportunity to experience what our landscape would have been like all those years ago - and gives a sense of hope around what it may be like once again.
At the moment we are giving our beaver friends some time to settle in, however we will be running beaver education and observation sessions later in the year. Please subscribe to our mailing list to receive updates.