The European Beaver’s (Castor fiber) historic range once included Britain. Currently, there is widespread interest in reintroducing beavers back into the English landscape. At the time of writing, wild releases are not permitted in England, however, the release of beavers into naturalistic, secured enclosures is permitted under a licence from Natural England.
The key aims of this research were to provide evidence on the objectives, opinions, and experiences of licensees and to understand human and beaver activities occurring in the enclosures. Mixed methods were used to assess the aims of this project through online surveys and interviews.
Two consultants and 18 licensees participated in this research, representing 67% of licensed enclosures in England at the time of writing. Using qualitative and quantitative data, this research found licensees’ objectives for releasing beavers varied, with seven main objectives being identified. Importantly, licensees’ perceptions over whether beavers in enclosures are considered ‘wild’ or not differed.
A wide range of field techniques (such as camera traps) were used for monitoring several aspects of the enclosure, including beaver welfare and behaviour, wildlife, vegetation, and hydrology. Recorded beaver activities were diverse, with most activities being recorded as positive. Motivations for the future of enclosures also varied, some licensees’ wish to release beavers into the wild, while others wished to retain the enclosures.
This study contributes to the growing understanding of stakeholders’ perceptions of beaver reintroductions and provides an overview of the current ongoing activities occurring in the enclosures.