Beavers to be legally protected from harm in England from October

Beavers to be legally protected from harm in England from October

July 18, 2022 0 By bimola

Under new legislation, it will be an offence to deliberately capture, kill, disturb or injure beavers in England or damage where the animals breed and rest


18 July 2022

Two beavers in water

Beavers have been established at several sites in England

Ann & Steve Toon/robertharding/Alamy

Beavers will be given legal protection from deliberate harm in England from October, under legislation being put forward tomorrow.

Hunted to extinction in the wild across the UK 400 years ago, the “keystone species” was first released in Scotland in 2009 and later spotted in England in 2014 following an unauthorised release near the river Otter in Devon. Populations have been established at several sites, including 20 enclosures across England and Wales. Beaver kits were born this month at projects in Cheshire, Derbyshire, Dorset, Essex and Montgomeryshire.

Under legislation being laid on 19 July, beavers will be listed under schedule 2 to the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations, making it an offence to intentionally capture, kill, disturb or injure them, or damage where they breed and rest. The law change will also see the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) treated as a “native animal” rather than “animals no longer normally present.” A licence will still be required to release them into the wild.

“We welcome this milestone to afford beavers legal protections and remind government that a licensing regime should be sensible and pragmatic. Landowners must be supported with the much-needed return of beavers to our landscapes,” says Ali Morse at The Wildlife Trusts, a non-profit organisation.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will wait until autumn to outline how it will allow for the legal release of more beavers into the wild, a step proposed during a consultation in August 2021. The proposal led UK prime minister Boris Johnson to joke that the UK would “build back beaver”.

Beavers have been called keystone species and “ecosystem engineers” because they create habitat used by other species, including amphibians and invertebrates. They have also been shown to improve water quality through their landscape changes and are seen as a way of reducing flood risk, since they slow river flows by putting trees in the water. A five-year government trial on the river Otter concluded that beavers had “brought a wealth of benefits to the local area and ecology.”

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