Beavers have returned to Dorset after being extinct in the area for around 400 years. As a part of a conservation project, two adult beavers have been relocated from Scotland to an eight-acre woodland enclosure near the Mapperton estate in west Dorset.
The male and female beavers were welcomed with a purpose-built lodge home and a feast of apples.
Ben Padwick, ranger and keeper at Mapperton, said: “It’s been very exciting preparing for the beavers to arrive. I have been busy clearing the old pheasant pen, creating dams, and even building them a home – and we are delighted to see them using it!
“We are looking forward to seeing their positive impact on the landscape and to giving guided tours around the enclosure to members of the public.
“It’s an incredible achievement for all the team and everyone involved with the project. Releasing a keystone species back here at Mapperton Wildlands is a huge milestone for us, especially as they have been absent from the landscape for such a long time.”
Beavers are a species that is native to Britain, but they were hunted to extinction around 400 years ago. The creatures were killed for their fur and their meat, and the oil from their castoreum glands was used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes.
Beavers help to conserve landscapes and alleviate floods due to their natural dam-building skills.
In Devon, the animals were returned to the River Otter in 2008 as a part of a five-year study, which was proved to have been successful when the land where the beavers lived remained a lush green while adjacent land turned a parched yellow during hot, dry weather conditions.
Viscount Hinchingbrooke, the owner of the Mapperton estate, said: “The arrival of beavers is a major milestone for our rewilding project, Mapperton Wildlands. They are such impressive animals, and within a few days have already got to work building dams and creating new wetland.
“And while we recognise that they can cause problems when not properly managed, our beavers are safely contained in a well-constructed enclosure. We really look forward to inviting visitors to come and see the positive impact they will have on the landscape over the coming months and years.”