Trout and Beavers

Wild Trout Trust is member of the English Beaver Strategy Working Group, which aims to develop a strategy for the introduction and management of beavers in England. The group includes conservation charities, landowner and farmer representatives, academics and many other interested groups. Wild Trout Trust has chosen to participate in the group in order to influence how and where beavers might be introduced and how they are managed. Clearly, our objective is to look after our beloved trout (including sea trout) and ensure they are not adversely impacted, notwithstanding the benefits that beavers may bring for flood relief, water quality and other biodiversity. We are using our network of advisors and contacts to develop a broad and deep understanding of the issues and benefits that beavers may bring to trout and trout habitat, including learning from experience in Scotland, Europe and Canada / USA, updating the information paper prepared for us by our Research & Conservation Officer, Prof. Jon Grey (see below). We recognise that the recent decision by Defra to permit wild beavers to continue live on the River Otter in Devon has widespread media and public support; it is important for us to ensure that we provide expert input to future decisions. 

The first output from the Working Group has been released, Proposals for an English Beaver Strategy – current and future proposals for restoring and managing beavers (14 August 2020), and we have chosen not to support that document but to continue to work with the Group and to participate in upcoming discussions and consultations with Natural England and Defra. 

The Press Release from the Beaver Trust (who chair the Working Group) includes this quote from WTT Director, Shaun Leonard: 

Research shows the impact of beavers on trout and salmon can be both positive and negative. English rivers and their fish populations are already suffering from fragmentation of habitat due to tens of thousands of weirs and culverts. Beavers’ habitat engineering activity, including building dams, could be problematic for fish in many rivers. We can’t support the proposals at this stage, but by participating in the Working Group we will be able to influence the future strategy for beaver introductions and their management’.

This quote focuses on the barriers’ impact, but there are many other positives and negatives of beavers, as summarised in Jon Grey’s review of the literature on trout / beaver, available with other information on the Beaver page of our website. 

Beaver dam
Beaver female with kits 1 M Iike Symes comp

Left: beaver dam, image Mike Blackmore. Right: beaver with kits, image Mike Symes