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Well, it was bound to happen and a couple of months ago we had two otters reported in a overflow drain. One of our staff went to look at the problem and was surprised to find two juvenile beavers! Using a net, he was able to catch both beavers and return with them in a cage. They were both very heavy so obviously in good condition but with all the heavy rain we have had through the month, they had probably been caught in a flood.

One was slightly larger than the other so were given the romantic names of Big Tail and Little Tail. They were passed on to the RSPCA at West Hatch as they have dealt with this species before but with the ever-increasing population, we shall probably see beavers again.

As a species they pair for life, breeding between December and April. Young are born from early summer onwards with the kits weaning at two to three weeks. They remain as a family with the young staying with the parents for the first year and often remaining for the second year to help them build dams and a home called a lodge.

I went to Kent about 30 years ago to see one of the first re-introduction of beavers released in an area where the habitat required coppicing but the land was too wet for machinery. It was amazing to see the size of their dams and the channels that filtered off each side of the water course. This was so that they could travel near to their food source of tree bark, twigs, buds and roots. They are true herbivores. Beavers can swim very fast but are cumbersome on land hence the channels out of the water course. Their flat tails are used as rudders but also store fat ready for the winter. It’s also surprising the size of trees that they can fell. Beavers were hunted to extinction about 400 years ago for their fur and meat.

Now we are seeing them return as a species all over Britain and we should be pleased that their work of building dams slows down the water but still allows it to filter through. With so many houses and roads being built, we are seeing the effects of run off because we are not using materials that will absorb the rain. Strange that progress is now looking at a species to help, when it was humans that caused their extinction in the first place.

Pauline Kidner 9th January 2024

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