Following increasing reports of beavers on the Avon catchment, little is known about the distribution, population size and origins of the of the population. Natural England commissioned a survey of beaver activity in the River Avon catchment inform it’s advice to government on the reintroduction of beavers in England.
Surveys were conducted during January-March 2022 on canoe and foot, covering approximately 280km of channel length. Beaver activity (field sign types) was recorded at a 10m resolution. The areas covered included the Avon upstream of Bath, including the Kennet and Avon Canal, the Somerset Frome, By Brook, Semington Brook, Biss Brook (all part of the Avon catchment) and upper reaches of the River Brue.
A total of 771 beaver activity signs were recorded. From the distribution of beaver signs, 13 established territories are estimated, with an additional six temporary resident individuals, which may go on to form territories. Based on the number of territories, a population of around 50 beavers, excluding kits, is estimated (49 ± 13 within the established territories and potentially six other individuals). These beaver territories occupy a total of 4-11% of the available bankside in the watercourses with a typical bankside length of 7.8km (nearly 6.4 km watercourse length) per territory.
Few management issues were noted, probably because the population is in the early establishment phase. The findings will be used to promote co-existence with beavers throughout the Avon and Frome catchments, understanding their impacts, development of a management strategy and for further research on the genetic origins of the beaver population.