Volunteering at Woodland Valley Farm in Preperation for the Arrivals.
Beavers were once widespread in the UK, but the large native mammal soon disappeared from the shores after being hunted to extinction in the 16th century. The use of its fur, meat and scent glands for medicinal purposes were the cause of it's demise.
“Beaver” by Erin Kohlenberg is licensed under CC BY 2.0
But Beavers are being reintroduced! A trial introduction began in 2009 in Scotland and in 2015 a wild population of beavers were found on the River Otter in Devon, kickstarting their reintroduction to the countryside. Cornwall though doesn't yet have it's own beavers, until May that is. The Cornwall Wildlife Trust is introducing 2 adult beavers to an enclosure just upstream from the small town of Ladock. Today myself and a number of other students from Exeter and Falmouth University travelled to Woodland Valley Farm to help prepare for their arrival.
The work for the day was mainly scrub clearing and the removal of tree branches. A three meter gap had to be cleared around the site in order for machinery to help dig a trench for fencing, hopefully preventing any beaver jailbreaks.
With a small army of bow saws and loppers no plant was safe. The guidance of Chris (the owner of the site) and his coffee and pasties accelerated work and the perimeter of the three hectare enclosure was tidied up by the afternoon. The fence will also be placed over any water courses, allowing fish, frogs and other animals though while keeping the beavers in.
After lunch the work focussed on the removal of the remnants of old fencing around the site. All of the old wire was soon collected and piled up to be taken away, making way for a new electric fence to be installed.
With the remains of a small bonfire in the foreground you can see the soon to be beavers new home. The wet woodland and pond with small flowing river will after some more habitat maintenance provide an ideal set up for the rodents.
The aim of the project is to provide information by monitoring the activities of the animals. A number of researchers from the University of Exeter Penryn Campus are involved with the project, measuring data on a number of things including the impact on fish and the change in hydrology of the area. The project will subsequently provide new information as the area is roughly between the sizes of the two Devon projects.
More information can be found at: http://www.cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/beaverproject