Country diary: They’re on the move – the first beaver kits here for 400 years | Wildlife

Trailcam footage recorded last month at a secret location showed a beaver kit making its first foray outside the lodge. Nosing between nettles, it felt its way over a fallen twig before turning back at the bank’s edge. Mother was close behind, and the baby embraced her with its forepaws as she squeaked reassurance.

Even more exciting, the latest video evidence reveals that there are two kits in this litter. They are believed to be the first born in the county for 400 years, and are the offspring of a pair of Eurasian beavers (Castor fiber), reintroduced from Scotland as part of a five-year project managed by the Dorset Wildlife Trust. In February 2021, an adult male and female were released into a large enclosure in a remote, marshy valley filled with alder and willow.

The kits spent their first weeks inside the lodge, a massive, domed heap of branches and soil resembling a giant woody nest. The interior is above ground, but accessible only through an underwater passage. Purple loosestrife sprouts crazily from one side, its magenta spears the only streaks of color in the thick green of late summer.

Beavers like to hide by submerging themselves completely in deep, still water and they build dams to create the conditions that they need to feel safer. This pair has made four so far, creating a large pool around the lodge, plus three smaller ponds and gulleys.

The dams are a complicated weave of dead twigs and branches infilled with fresh-cut hazel and wads of hemlock water dropwort (Oenanthe crocata). Using their strong forearms and hand-like paws, the adults have reinforced the structure with boulders, hunks of turf and slabs of mud, working around living trees and incorporating fallen trunks. Now about 55 meters long, the main construction provides a refuge and route for many creatures. Toads and newts nestle into its damp crevices, and wood mice, weasels and voles run across the top.

My visit was supervised by the project officer Steve Oliver. He witnessed the speed with which the beavers have reshaped the landscape: “This was just one small pond, all silted up. On only their third night here they started collecting dead wood to plug a narrow pinch point – then the water poured over the land, transforming everything. It’s been magical to see.”

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