Beavers have been found living wild in the Avon catchment, as the long-vanished mammal continues its comeback to England
Avon Wildlife Trust said monitoring had revealed three generations of beavers in the catchment, in the Bristol and Bath area, including three babies, or kits, born this year.
This marks the return to the area of the beavers after 400 years. The charity also said that it showed their natural expansion.
Beavers can be described as nature engineers. They restore wetland habitats by building dams and felling trees. This slows down, stores and filters water, which attracts wildlife and lowers downstream flooding.
In Britain, the species was nearly extinct due to its fur, glands, and meat.
Beavers are making a comeback to England. They can be found in the wild on the River Otter in Devon. This river was the location of an official trial reintroduction.
They are also being introduced to enclosures in several English counties to help with flooding and habitat creation.
They will be legally protected in England under government plans. Ministers are currently examining whether they will allow applications to release them into nature, subject to certain conditions.
Amy Coulthard, director of nature’s recovery at Avon Wildlife Trust, said: “A new sighting of wild beavers is extremely significant.
“Beavers are a keystone species and they have an extraordinary ability to change habitats to suit their needs while creating ecosystems for other species to thrive.
“The presence of this beaver population will support other wildlife and help us to tackle the ecological emergency.”
She said the origins of the beavers were a mystery, with possibilities including a release that occurred in the early 2000s on the Somerset-Avon border, or even the well-known wild population in Devon.
Ms Coulthard said: “We started receiving sightings two years ago, and our subsequent monitoring told us there are three generations of beavers living on the riverbank.
“This suggests they have been happily co-existing alongside humans for some years.”
Avon Wildlife Trust has launched a 30 by 30 appeal to raise £30,000 to help ensure at least 30% of land and sea is protected for wildlife.
The appeal raised funds to support nature recovery projects, such as Avon beavers or the newly established beaver management team of different organisations.
This group will work with landowners to minimize the impact of beavers on their catchment and maximize the potential benefits.
Ms. Coulthard explained that the goal was to create a comprehensive management plan for the animals. Any adjustments made to them, such as creating space surrounding water courses, could benefit other wildlife and improve water quality.
She urged the Government to support landowners and to compensate them for any necessary changes.