A baby beaver has been born in Exmoor for the first time in 400 years.
The National Trust captured the event on camera at the conservation charity’s Holnicote Estate in Somerset, in a 6.7 acre enclosure where the Eurasian beavers were recently introduced back in January 2020. This was done to hopefully reintroduce the species back to Britain, after being hunted to extinction during the 16th Century for their meat, fur, and glands.
It was a successful endeavour. Since the beavers have been in the enclosure, the unmanaged woodland that existed before has now become more open, and the wetlands that have been created by them have since attracted more wildlife to the area. The beavers have built a dam network out of mud, rocks, vegetation, and trees, which has helped build a more diverse habitat for country wildlife and insects to share.
Beavers are considered the engineers of nature. They restore wetland habitats through tree felling and dam-building, and this effectively filters water, reduces downstream flooding, and attracts more wildlife.
Images from the Trust’s static camera revealed the beavers had successfully bred, with the new arrival of the now seven-week-old kit swimming with its mother towards the family lodge. The family are expected to stay together for the next two years before the kit will want to go off and build a new territory of its own.
One of the rangers on the Holnicote Estate, Jack Siviter, said: “We first had an inkling that our pair of beavers had mated successfully when the male started being a lot more active building and dragging wood and vegetation around the site in late spring.”
“The female also changed her usual habits, and stayed out of sight, leaving the male to work alone. It was then several weeks until we spotted her again, and this is when our suspicions were confirmed that she had given birth, due to having very visible teats.”
He concluded: “We are particularly pleased for our female, nicknamed Grylls due to her survival instincts, as she didn’t have the easiest start to life, being orphaned at an early age. As a first-time mum she seems to be thriving and it’s great to see her with her new kit.”
A number of organisations and landowners across England are following in the footsteps of the National Trust and are introducing beavers to protected sites to help boost nature and reduce flooding. Beavers have also been found wild on a number of rivers in England and Scotland.
The beaver kit was named after Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, which was chosen by thousands in a Twitter poll, and has been given the rather appropriate nickname, “Gnashford”.
Ben Eardley, project manager for the Holnicote Estate, said of the name: “We’ve been overwhelmed with the interest in the latest addition to our beaver family. It’s fantastic that so many people are just as excited as we are that our project to reintroduce beavers to this special landscape has been such a success.
”Rashford is a brilliant choice for this new addition to the family – and remind people of a moment in this country’s footballing history after an amazing tournament for the England team. The kit, the first to be born in 400 years, gives us hope for future generations.”