A beaver reintroduction project in Exmoor, West England, has recently bore its first fruits: a group of beavers that were introduced not long ago have built the first dam in the area in more than 400 years.
The semi-aquatic rodents were released into the wild in Somerset earlier this year as part of an ecosystem restoration project led by the National Trust which aimed to restore streams in the area and reduce flooding.
Hunted for their meat, pelts, and scent glands, beavers became extinct in the UK in the 16th century, but have been successfully reintroduced to a few sites in Britain in the past two decades.
Footage captured by wildlife cameras showed the animals gnawing at trees and collecting vegetation as part of the dam-building process. Rangers described the beavers as “ecosystem engineers” for creating an “instant wetland” on the Somerset estate only nine months after they were introduced to slow the flow of water and improve river quality.
Their construction has allowed for deep pools of water that offer animals shelter from predators and a place to safely store their food. Beaver dams benefit human communities too, as they prevent the risk of flooding by slowing down and storing water as it flows downstream.
“It might look modest, but this beaver dam is incredibly special – it’s the first to appear on Exmoor for almost half a millennium and marks a step-change in how we manage the landscape,” said Ben Eardley, project manager at the National Trust. “As we face into the effects of climate change and more frequent extreme weather events, natural interventions like this need to be part of the solution.”