Beavers to return to Cheshire after almost 500 years

image copyrightDavid Parkyn
image captionThe Eurasian beaver was hunted to extinction in England in the early 1500s

Beavers are to be reintroduced in Cheshire almost five centuries after the species went extinct in England.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust will release a pair of the mammals in an enclosure at Hatchmere, near Delamere, as part of a five year-project.

It will be the tenth such project in England and comes shortly after beavers released in a similar scheme in Devon were given a permanent right to remain.

The trust's Kevin Feeney said the beavers would be a "huge benefit".

"Beavers are a natural and sustainable solution to managing habitats," the reserves manager at Hatchmere said.

"We spend a lot of time managing sites for nature, which beavers do better and cheaper."

'New landscape'

Eurasian beavers were hunted to extinction across the UK in the 16th Century, being killed for meat, pelts and a waterproofing oil they secrete.

A wildlife trust spokeswoman said there was evidence they continued to exist in places such as Bar Mere in south Cheshire, which gets its name from the word beaver.

image copyrightCWT
image captionThe beavers will be released into an enclosure close to Hatchmere

She said the project would see a pair from Scotland released into a 11-acre (4.5 hectare) enclosure near Hatchmere in the autumn.

It is hoped the animals will create a new landscape as they adapt to their surroundings, she said, with the removal of trees "bringing the woodland floor to life".

Beavers' dams would also slow water flow, allowing polluted sediments to drop before reaching Hatchmere.

She added the project could lead to better local flood defences as the dams could help to reduce the risk of flooding downstream.

While beavers in Devon's River Otter have been allowed to stay, it is not clear what will happen to other wild populations across England.

The mammals were reintroduced to Scotland a decade ago, and made a protected species in 2019, but following concerns from farmers, Scottish Natural Heritage granted licences to cull about a fifth of the population.

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