A pair of Eurasian beavers have successfully bred in Cheshire in northwest England for the first time in over 400 years. The couple, named Willow and Rowan, were released at Hatchmere near Delmere Forest by the Cheshire Wildlife Trust (CWT) in November 2020.
The CWT described the sighting of the newborn beaver as “a real milestone,” given the mammals’ ability to revive the reserve’s ecosystem. Hatchmere reserve’s manager, Kevin Feeney, said, "The dams and wetlands they have created are helping to improve water quality within the catchment and help reverse the decline in Cheshire's wildlife.” The beavers are even encouraging unseen species into the area, including kingfisher, stoats and waterfowl.
The Eurasian beaver was once widespread in Eurasia but was soon hunted to near-extinction in the 16th century for their meat, fur and castoreum – a waterproofing oil that they secrete. At the start of the 20th century, only about 1,200 beavers survived in eight populations in Europe and Asia.
Since the early 2000s, beavers have been reintroduced across the United Kingdom. In 2020, fifteen families of beavers were given a permanent "right to remain" on the River Otter in Devon. The River Otter trial confirmed that the animals' skill enhanced the ecology of the river and their dams functioned as natural flood defenses.
“Beavers have played a critical role in maintaining wetland landscapes since prehistoric times,” says Tayla Lance of Animal Survival International (ASI).
“The successful reintroduction of Eurasian beavers in Cheshire offers a renewed sense of hope for not only the formerly near-extinct species, but for the area’s entire ecosystem. As a keystone species, beavers are vitally important as they transform the environment around them, support other animals and lower the risk of floods.”