Devon grassland study to watch beavers

Two beavers have been placed in a secure fenced-off area in west Devon to see if they can help restore grassland.

The three-year experiment, by the Devon Wildlife Trust, is under way at a secret location near Okehampton.

The trust said it was hoped the beavers would improve water quality and reduce flood risks by clearing scrub and trees and improving watercourses.

Farmers have previously criticised plans for beaver enclosures. The trust said the animals would remain confined.

Another aim of the project was to study any negative impacts the animals had on the landscape, the trust added.

Beavers have not roamed wild in England for about 300 years.

Plans to reintroduce the European beaver to Wales were criticised by NFU Cymru earlier this year.

The union said it was concerned the animals could escape from a planned habitat.

Governments in Scotland and Poland have sanctioned culls of wild beaver colonies which have escaped from captivity.

Farmers there said the beavers had damaged crops and livestock.

'Valuable insights'

The trust said the animals were moved to the site at the start of spring after a year of planning.

They are on a 2.8-hectare (seven-acre) area of neglected grassland and wet woodland site in private ownership.

It added that it had installed high-grade fencing to ensure the beavers remain confined.

Conservation manager Peter Burgess said it was "not a release into the wild".

He said: "We hope our experiment studying these interesting creatures over the next few years will yield valuable insights into the impacts on one of our most treasured wetland habitats."

The trust said it was now to begin measuring the impacts the animals had wildlife, hydrology, biology and water chemistry.

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