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Female beaver released into the Forder Valley

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The first beaver in Plymouth for over 400 years finally has a female companion.

The female Eurasian beaver arrived in Plymouth on Sunday and was immediately released in our specially designed re-wilding enclosure near Poole Farm.

Remarkable footage shows her meeting with her companion, who was released in November last year, for the very first time.

Having left her cage, she swam around the pond for several minutes, before the male emerged from his lodge. They swam together before having a little ‘getting to know you tussle’ in the water. 

Like her male friend, the new arrival weights around 20kg and was also caught in the wild in the Tay Catchment in Scotland.

Photo showing the two beavers meet each other for the first time - photography by Chris Parkes

The pair's behaviour and actions will now be monitored in the hope that its actions will reduce flooding further downstream and create habitats for wildlife in the Bircham Valley.

It’s all part of the Green Minds project, a city council initiative which will re-wild urban parks, gardens and verges and introduce a new system of working with partners. Crucially, it will encourage more people from all walks to life to enjoy the health benefits that our green spaces provide.

Exciting! Will there be baby beavers?

We sincerely hope so. That’s why we’ve got a pair. Of course, these things are not guaranteed.

Although around 20% of beavers are solitary, most are sociable and prefer to live in family groups where they build dams, ponds and live in lodges together. We’ll be keeping a very close eye on proceedings.

So why are you doing this?

Photo showing the new beaver getting used to her surrounding s- photography by Chris ParkesThe introduction of the new arrival continues the work of the Green Minds project, which will create more spaces for wildlife and nature in different pockets around the city and encourage more people to connect with nature.  

As well as being charismatic, beavers are fascinating creatures as they engineer their surroundings by felling trees, damming sections of river and creating a network of canals. They also create wetland habitats which are great for birds, fish and invertebrates and they also ‘slow the flow’ of water during and after rainfall that can help reduce flooding downstream.

We’re going to be monitoring two very similar rivers – Bircham and Seaton - to see how the beavers are able to make positive impacts. We can compare and contrast with the Seaton stream which has similar characteristics.

Beavers also lead to improved water quality and quantity and store carbon in a really efficient way to help combat the climate emergency.

The beaver is coming from the wild to an enclosure. Is this cruel?

Both our beavers have come from the Tay catchment in Scotland. There, beavers have been in the wild for some time and as a result, where there are conflicts with farmers, a licence can be obtained to cull them. Both beavers have been rescued from this fate and will now live a very happy life in our six hectare re-wilding enclosure, which covers 600 metres of river in a wooded valley.

It is important that in any reintroduction the welfare of the animals is of paramount importance, that why we’ve been working with partners including leading beaver experts at Devon Wildlife Trust, re-wilding specialist Dereck Gow and Roisin Campbell–Palmer, the UK’s top beaver ecologist, to ensure that this is the case.

Isn’t there a lot of construction work going on nearby?

Yes, but beavers are pretty resilient to disturbance. The construction phase of the Forder Valley Link road is a possibly risk, but we have come to the conclusion that they would cope with it ok, particularly as they are a nocturnal animal and most of the activity would be during the day, so it wouldn’t impact on their natural behaviour too much.

Interestingly, despite the construction noise, our male beaver chooses to live on the pond which is the closest point to the construction site.

Also, the enclosure is large, so there’s plenty of scope for them to move upstream and further away from the noise, if they feel threatened. It will be interesting to see if they do - but we're not anticipating it.

Can I come and see them?

Absolutely, but just not at the moment. Poole Farm is still closed to the public but as soon as we can open gain, we will.

Where can I get more information?

We’ve got a special Green Minds website set up at www.greenmindsplymouth.com and you can follow our Natural Infrastructure team on social media at www.facebook.com/natureplymouth and www.twitter.com/NaturePlymouth

You can find out more about Poole Farm and the surrounding Derriford Community Park project on our website - www.plymouth.gov.uk/poolefarm

Photo showing the new beaver eating a branch - photography by Chris Parkes