After an absence of 400 years beavers are again to be found in Cumbria following the release of a male and female of the species into an enclosure on the Lowther Estate, near Askham.
Cumbria Beaver Group has announced that the two adult beavers have been released into a 27-acre enclosure for a five-year scientific trial.
The aim is to obtain data on the impact of beavers in an upland environment — in particular on a stream in a farmed landscape.
The female, named Dragonfly, was trapped and relocated from the River Tay catchment in Scotland, under licence from the public body NatureScot.
She was then was held at Five Sisters Zoo, West Lothian, for health screening.
The male, called Glen, was rescued from the outflow of a hydroelectric plant in Perthshire by the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
It’s thought Glen became trapped while moving between areas, trying to establish his own territory.
The SSPCA carried out health screening on Glen before releasing him a week later at Lowther.
Jim Bliss, conservation manager at Lowther Estate, said: “Both beavers were checked thoroughly before being transferred to their new surroundings at Lowther Estate.
“The transfer would not have been possible without working closely with the Tayside farming community.
“This work was led by Roisin Campbell-Palmer, an experienced and licensed trapper, who looks after the beavers’ welfare and who carried out their trapping and releasing.
He explained that the beavers are being left undisturbed so they can adapt to each other and their new surroundings, and that it hoped there will be young beavers — known as kits — in the spring.
He added: “We have already seen signs of dam-building and canal systems, built to allow access to the woodland area. The dams they’ve constructed will hold back a lot of water, as well as storing silt.
“This all helps to improve the water quality and biodiversity of the area.”
David Harpley, chairman of Cumbria Beaver Group and conservation manager at Cumbria Wildlife Trust, said: “This is fantastic news and very exciting for all those who want to see beavers return to Cumbria.
‘Results from trials elsewhere such as Devon show beavers can provide a range of environmental benefits, including reducing flood risk, by constructing dams which can slow the flow of flood water.
“Other positive impacts include improving water quality and creating habitats for amphibians and other wildlife.
“Beavers are often referred to as ‘ecosystem engineers’.
“They make changes to their habitats, such as digging canal systems, damming smaller water courses and coppicing tree and shrub species, creating open water habitats which provide a home for many other creatures, such as otters, water shrews, water voles, birds, invertebrates — especially dragonflies — and breeding fish.”
A 1.2m secure fence surrounds the release site, which is a mixture of woodland and wet grassland on the private estate.
The fencing includes an anti-climb feature and a green weld mesh that goes into the stream bed, to stop the beavers burrowing under the fence at the water course.
Other preparations to the area included creating a 10 square metre wetland scrape and building a lodge — the focal point of beaver families.