Beavers reintroduced to tackle flooding in Essex have given birth to two kits, the first in the county in over 400 years

Beavers reintroduced in Essex as part of a natural flood management scheme have given birth to two kits – the first time the animals have been born in the county since the Middle Ages.

Spains Hall Estate in Finchingfield welcomed a pair of Eurasian beavers to its site last year as part of a river management project to help reduce flood risk in Finchingfield.

In 18 months, the beaver duo, recently named Woody and Willow, have been working relentlessly over the last year in their Finchingfield enclosure on the historic Spains Hall Estate. They have been building dams to reduce flood risk to the village and creating wetlands which release water during drier periods.

This is complemented by a human-made natural flood management scheme on a second strand of Finchingfield Brook, which features a “leaky dam” approach. This consists of securing tree branches or trunks across a watercourse, which helps slow the flow after heavy rain.

Beavers were hunted to extinction in the UK by the beginning of the 16th century due to demand for their meat, fur and scent glands.

The arrival of the two healthy kits at Finchingfield means the beaver reintroduction is off to a rapid start.

The beaver reintroduction project in Finchingfield is a partnership between the Environment Agency, Spains Hall Estate, the Essex & Suffolk Rivers Trust, Essex Wildlife Trust, and the Anglian Eastern Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFCC).

Numerous reintroduction programmes across the UK are now underway to bring back the “keystone species” which through their re-engineering of watercourses have dramatic positive ecological impacts on the landscapes they inhabit.

Spains Hall Estate manager Archie Ruggles-Brise described news of the beaver babies as “fantastic”. He said: “If they are anything like their parents, the two kits will become phenomenal dam builders, and we will be watching closely as they expand the wetland and provide even more protection against flood and drought, and provide homes for loads of other wildlife,” he said.

Darren Tansley, River Catchment Coordinator at Essex Wildlife Trust, added: “We always hoped that having beavers present would benefit the wildlife on site, but the changes we have mapped over the past 18 months have exceeded our expectations.

“DNA samples from the main beaver pond recorded everything from deer to tiny pygmy shrews and all this to create the perfect environment for their young kits, the first beavers born in Essex for 400 years. We are thrilled by the addition of two more ecosystem engineers in the county.”

The gender of the baby beavers is unsure at the moment but Archie Ruggles-Brise is asking social media users to head to his Facebook and Twitter to vote for what they would like them to be called.

Image Credit: Russell Savory

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living.

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