The Devon Beaver Project

From outside the enclosure

Rather apt for a wetland visit, it started raining pretty soon after we all arrived but we were well prepared and at least it wasn't sleet!

'We' included members from the county mammal groups and Launceston U3A and a few of us belong to LAPWG as well, about 22 in all.

The 3 hectare enclosure is on private farmland where willow scrub with a few oaks had grown up in a field on the Culm measures and extra wet because of a small stream meandering through. The main expense was the fencing, which had to be very secure with electrified strands run from a solar powered battery and fully funded by Viridor Environmental Co.

Water quality and quantity measuring

Two Eurasian Beavers were released into the enclosure in 2011 with the idea of monitoring and recording the effect on the habitat in terms of preventing scrub encroachment, increasing water holding capacity and lessening the impact of flash floods and pollution.

An artificial lodge was constructed and the beavers were moved in, quickly extending and expanding the area to provide an extension where their kits were born in 2013 and an underwater exit to access their winter food larder of fresh sticks.

No supplementary feeding has been given and there is no sign of there being a shortage of available food.

Regular surveys of the vegetation, habitat structure and behavioural characteristics are taken by measurment, fixed-point photography and by using trail cameras (because the beavers are mainly nocturnal).

Gnawed branches taken from 2 metres up

When you attend an event like this, you always learn so much more that you can read in the books. Most of us had no idea just how high Beavers can climb or that they dig canals to reach new feeding areas. 

Beaver canal

The dams are constructed, not just of sticks and toppled tree trunks (quite small, no larger trees used although one is being worked upon), but mud and grass/reed roots and turf as well. Many of the sticks, being willow, will root into the dam and in turn grow into small trees.

And all this water has increased the numbers of frogs depositing spawn (no sign yet of toads) and the variety of aquatic invertebrates. 

Despite the rain, this was a very interesting afternoon and we look forward to a folow-up visit. Thank you to Dave for arranging this visit in the name of the Mammal Group and also to Mark Elliot, the project manager for the talk before and during our visit. 

Work in progress, lodge in the distance  Looking up along one of the dams A dam edging one of the ponds 

Here is a link to the Devon Wildlife Web site which gives a lot more information and includes some videos of the Beavers at the site. 

Species Seen:
Signs of Beaver!