CORNWALL Wildlife Trust has confirmed at least one beaver is present at Helman Tor, near Bodmin, the charity’s largest nature reserve.

Following an observation reported by a member of the public, careful surveying of the site, including with the use of wildlife camera traps, has been undertaken to confirm that the animals are present.

Given the extent of the activity already underway in the area, there may be more than one.  

 Although it is possible the beavers arrived through natural dispersal, Cornwall Wildlife Trust believes it more likely this is an unlicensed release by an unknown third party.

Cheryl Marriott, director of nature and people at Cornwall Wildlife Trust said: “We know Helman Tor is highly suitable for beavers and that they would benefit other wildlife and help towards reducing flood risk further downstream.

“However, we also know some people have legitimate worries about beavers returning to our landscape, and we have been meeting them to understand their concerns and plan how to manage any future issues.

“This is not how we wanted beaver reintroduction to happen at Helman Tor. We do not condone the unlicensed release of beavers. Their arrival at Helman Tor has taken everyone by surprise, but we are ready to monitor them and work with others to manage any problems.”

Helman Tor has been identified by national experts as a suitable site for beaver reintroduction. This is because there are several streams and ponds onsite and plenty of vegetation for the beavers to eat, grasses and herbs in summer and willow bark in winter. Research has shown that the leaky dams beavers build in smaller streams lead to an increase in many other species including plants, birds, small mammals and amphibians.

Their dams can also slow the flow of streams after heavy rain, helping trap silt and reduce flood risk downstream. At the opposite extreme during drought periods, beaver-created wetlands can help to keep streams flowing, protecting fish and other wildlife.

There is potential for beaver activity to have some unwanted localised effects, but there are established management techniques that can help to avoid and mitigate these.

Cornwall Wildlife Trust staff are undertaking surveys in the area to better understand where, and if, territories are being established. Alongside working with key stakeholders such as Natural England, Trust staff are speaking to local residents to keep them updated and discuss any concerns.

The trust had already been preparing to apply for a government licence to legally introduce beavers to the site in a responsible way. The government gave beavers protected species status in 2022 and tasked Natural England with developing the wild release licensing process, but licences for wild releases of beavers are still not being accepted.