After years of uncertainty, DEFRA has announced that the first wild breeding population of beavers in England have the right to stay in East Devon permanently.

The announcement, made on 6th August, is a landmark decision, as it signals the first legally sanctioned reintroduction of an extinct native mammal to England, which means that the beaver population, which lives on the River Otter and was reintroduced after 400 years, is estimated to consist of up to 15 family groups, now has a secure future.

This comes after the successful completion of a five year trail to see how the animals have impacted the area, which was led by the Devon Wildlife Trust. The report concluded that the beavers had brought huge benefits to the people and wildlife living along the River Otter.

Peter Burgess, Director of Conservation at Devon Wildlife Trust, told reporters: “This is the most ground-breaking government decision for England’s wildlife for a generation. Beavers are nature’s engineers and have the unrivalled ability to breathe new life into our rivers and wetlands. Their benefits will be felt throughout our countryside, by wildlife and people. At Devon Wildlife Trust, we’ve worked hard with our partners and local communities along the River Otter for the past five years to see what impact the beavers have had. In that time, their population has grown steadily so that they have colonised nearly all of the river’s catchment. As their numbers have grown, so has local people’s awareness and appreciation of them. We’re delighted that these beavers have now been given leave to stay permanently.

Beavers became extinct in the UK over 400 years ago after being hunted for their meat, fur and secretions which has been used in medicines and perfumes. In 2013, a family of beavers were found to be living on the River Otter, though where they came from was unclear. Initially they were threatened with removal, but following a campaign from the Devon Wildlife Trust, the local community and other Devon based organisations, they were allowed to remain so they could be studied.

The announcement now means that the beavers can remain on the River Otter. Have you spotted any of the region’s beavers? We’d love to see your photos, make sure to tag us on Instagram, @visitsidmouth