The first two beaver kits born in Dorset for more than 400 years

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Trail cams have captured sightings of two beaver kits, says Hazel Ormrod from Dorset Wildlife Trust; for two weeks it was thought there was only one

One of the Dorset beavers
Image: James Burland

Dorset Wildlife Trust has been closely monitoring the pair of beavers released into an enclosed site in West Dorset last spring. It has been clear that they formed a strong bond, and the sighting of a kit during July caused much excitement, being the first beaver kit born in Dorset for more than 400 years. Discreet observations finally bore fruit almost two weeks later when trail cameras captured images of two young beaver kits and their mother (see the video, right).
Seeing the first kit was an incredibly exciting moment for the team behind the project – breeding is a clear indication that the adult pair are healthy and happily settled in their Dorset surroundings. Staff and volunteers have been closely monitoring the pair of Eurasian beavers as they have worked to build dams, creating the watery woodland and deep pools in which they feel secure. While the trail cams have only identified two kits so far, it is still possible that there are more as beavers can have up to four kits in a litter. The team is watching patiently – the beavers are rather elusive and it’s difficult to get them on camera at the same time!

Beaver kits
Eurasian beavers were once native to Dorset, and common across the UK, but were hunted to extinction for their fur, glands and meat in the 16th century.
They are social animals who live in small family groups, typically consisting of an adult pair and two generations of young. Mating occurs once a year in the winter months between December and February, and if successful, after a gestation period of around 105 days, the young are born during spring. Beaver kits are born fully furred and with the ability to swim, and normally stay close to their parents as they are very vulnerable to predators. For the first two to three weeks, kits feed on their mother’s breast milk, but within six weeks they will begin to venture outside the lodge, exploring their parents’ territory while foraging and feeding on tree leaves, shoots and aquatic plants.

Beavers with benefits
Beavers have the potential to make a huge difference to a natural environment by increasing biodiversity as well as providing other, wider, benefits for humans such as storing carbon in the wetlands they create and reducing flooding downstream by slowing the water flow. The Dorset Beaver project is a five-year scientific study, in partnership with the University of Exeter and Wessex Water, to assess the potential impacts of re-introducing beavers on the environment and to raise awareness and understanding of what it means to have these influential mammals back in our county.

Find out more about the Dorset Beaver project here

  • Beaver facts
  • Beavers are large, semi-aquatic rodents – the second largest rodents in the world, after the capybara of South America.
  • Contrary to popular belief, beavers are herbivores – they don’t eat fish! They prefer to snack on herbaceous vegetation and aquatic plants in the spring and summer before turning their attention to trees and their bark, leaves and shoots in the autumn and winter months.
  • Beavers live for an average of 12 years.
  • There are two species of beaver: Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber – the species we have in the UK) and the North American beaver (Castor canadensis).

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