The first known release of eels into a beaver created wetland
Over 200 eels have been released into a new wetland created by beavers in Somerset, in what is believed to be a first.
The Eurasian beaver, Castor fiber, Credit: Gordon Muir, Perthshire
Beavers are increasing being introduced to streams and rivers in the UK to enhance wildlife and reduce flooding. The dams created by beavers create wetlands that enhance the environment for a wide range of wildlife, and also slow the release of water during high rainfall which can reduce flooding.
New beaver wetland on the Upper Frome near Bruton. It was previously a shallow ditch
In a new beaver wetland at the top of the Somerset Frome catchment near Bruton, in just 5 months beavers have made a massive change to the landscape – transforming a narrow and featureless ditch, previously designed to help drain the upland, into a series of pools.
SEG’s David Bunt on a beaver dam
The wetland will be naturally recolonised by many different species of wildlife: plants, bugs, insects and fish, improving the biodiversity of the area. The ponds are also a perfect habitat for eels, however they are unlikely to colonise naturally due to the many existing barriers to their migration from the sea, up the Bristol Avon and the Frome.
Baby eels, also known as glass eels or elvers
So 200 young eels, also known as elvers, caught and donated by fishermen, have been released to the new wetlands to help to accelerate the ecosystem’s diversity and help them establish. More eels and other wildlife can exist in the expanded wetland habitat created by the beavers, so such releases will help the recovery of the eel, which has declined by 90 – 95% over the past 40 years.
This is the first known introduction of eels into a beaver wetland in the UK.
Ben Goldsmith releases eels into the beaver wetland
David Bunt, Director of Conservation Operations with the Sustainable Eel Group said:
“This was the first time I’d seen a beaver created wetland and I was amazed at the improvements they’ve made to the environment in such a short space of time. We’re delighted to have helped to accelerate the rewilding of this wetland, and to help eel recovery, by providing some eels with the help of the Bridgwater elver fishermen”.
Ben Goldsmith, owner of the land with the beavers, and a rewilding ambassador said:
“A pair of beavers which moved onto our farm last year have transformed a long, straight ditch running along the length of our boundary into a string of beautiful ponds behind small dams. This ribbon wetland positively thrums with life of all kinds. Dragonflies, butterflies, amphibians, wildflowers, kingfishers and other birds all abound here. We’ve also noticed that the water stays on the farm for far longer after heavy rainfall than previously, which must be reducing the risk of flash flooding (and drought) downstream from us.”
Sandra King, Chief Executive at the Beaver Trust said: “As beavers return across Britain it is wonderful to see other species benefiting from their arrival. We are delighted to see this partnership of eels and beavers and will watch this site with great interest“.
Beavers were common in Britain until hunting caused them to become extinct in the early 1600s. Following the completion of various scientific trials including a five year study of a wild beaver population at the River Otter in Devon, more beavers are being introduced to the wild where they are thriving and reproducing. For more information see: https://beavertrust.org/