Devon’s wild beavers have won a top national BBC Countryfile Magazine award.
Readers selected the Devon Wildlife Trust led River Otter Beaver Trial based in East Devon, along with the Scottish Beaver Trial, as their ‘Wildlife Success Story of the Year’ for 2017. The public poll attracted 56,000 votes across 12 award categories.
The Devon beavers are the first wild population of the animals to exist in England for 400 years. Devon Wildlife Trust leads the trial in partnership with Clinton Devon Estates, University of Exeter and the Derek Gow Partnership.
Mark Elliott, who manages the beaver trial at DWT, said: ‘We’re delighted to have won this prestigious award. The fact that thousands of members of the public have taken the time to vote for beavers in Devon and in Scotland shows the wide support these charismatic creatures enjoy.’
A breeding population of beavers was first discovered on the River Otter in 2014. No one knows how the beavers came to be living wild in East Devon. In 2015 Devon Wildlife Trust was granted a five-year licence from Natural England. This allowed the beavers to remain after they were initially threatened with removal. The licence also allowed the charity to establish a project, which will monitor the beavers until 2020 when a decision about their long-term future is to be made by the government.
Mark added: ‘The BBC Countryfile Award stands as a tribute to the strong partnership we’ve established to conduct the trial. Our research is now beginning to show the important role beavers could play across our wider countryside in improving water quality, mitigating against the worst effects of flooding and drought, and in benefiting other wildlife.
‘The trial has a long way to go, but this is a very public endorsement of the work we’ve done with beavers here in Devon and of the trial that has already been carried out in Scotland.’
Nominations for the BBC Wildlife Magazine Awards were made by a panel of judges, including the author Bill Bryson, and broadcasters John Craven and Anita Rani. Other nominated projects in the same award category as the beavers included conservation work with dormice, cirl buntings, bumblebees and bitterns.
Derek Gow, Devon-based mammal expert and project partner, said: ‘I’m over the moon the Devon Beaver Trial has been given this recognition. I’ve worked with this magnificent species for 22 years. It’s just brilliant that BBC Countryfile Magazine has recognised the importance of beavers in the presentation of this award.’
It’s thought around 20 beavers now live on the River Otter, which winds its way through 20 miles of East Devon countryside.