Kent hosts hundreds of wild beavers, survey finds

A close-up of a beaver in the river
Kent has the biggest beaver population in England [Yvette Austin/BBC]

A new survey suggests the number of wild beavers now living in Kent runs into the hundreds.

The animals, which were extinct in the UK for centuries, can even be spotted in the centre of Canterbury.

There have been increasing reports of beaver signs along the River Stour in East Kent and the data indicates that an established beaver population has been present for more than 10 years.

One of the report’s authors said Kent hosted the biggest population of beavers in England.

Beavers, although present on mainland Europe, were hunted to extinction in the UK around 400 years ago.

They were brought back to Kent in 2001, when they were introduced onto a nature reserve.

Across southern England, 10 other populations have been identified.

One of the report’s authors, Ben Morris from the Environment Agency, said: “We don’t count individual beavers because it is very difficult; they are nocturnal for the most part.

“We count territories, so we use field signs like chewed wood for example, to estimate the number of territories we’ve got.”

Experts say there can be up to 10 beavers in one territory.

A beaver with a stick in the river
Beavers help increase biodiversity, improve water quality and help alleviate flood risk [Yvette Austin/BBC]

Mr Morris said the survey found 51 territories in the Stour catchment with territories averaging three to four animals each.

Natural England commissioned the survey in Kent from December 2022 to March 2023 to establish an estimate of the distribution and population size.

The survey - carried out by the Beaver Trust and Kent Wildlife Trust - recorded a total of 2,157 field signs, with cut wood being the most common.

Mr Morris added: “Beavers have a range of benefits. They help with increasing biodiversity, improving water quality and they can help with alleviating flood risk downstream.”

In 2022, beavers became a protected species by law in England, making it an offence to deliberately capture, injure, kill or disturb them, or damage and destroy their breeding sites or resting places without a wildlife management licence from Natural England.

Dr Roisin Campbell-Palmer, head of restoration for the Beaver Trust, said: "This comprehensive distribution survey of beavers in Kent, the first of its kind despite beaver presence being recorded for over a decade, demonstrates that beavers can become a normalised part of our fauna.”

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