From October 2022, beavers will be protected in England and it will be illegal to kill or harm them. Although they used to be native to the British Islands and were hunted to extinction 400 years ago, they have gradually been reintroduced in the last few years. It is believed there are hundreds of beavers already living wild along England’s waterways. Some of these reintroductions were illegal, while the government had been licensing beaver releases inside enclosures. But now they all will be formally recognised as native wildlife. It will be an offence to deliberately capture, kill, disturb, or injure beavers, or damage their breeding sites or resting places, without an appropriate licence.
Derek Gow, a beaver rewilding expert, said to The Guardian, “The news today that beavers will be afforded legal protection in England is both appropriate and welcome. We have been very slow to recognise the critical role that this species delivers in the creation of complex wetland landscapes, which can afford resilience against the twin extremes of flood and drought. All they need from us to guarantee this goal is understanding, tolerance and space.” Craig Bennett, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts, said, “Clarity around legal protections for beavers are crucial if populations are to recover and thrive long term… We need to see the widespread return of wild beavers to create vital wetland habitats and restore rivers, many of which have been damaged by centuries of dredging and being cut off from floodplains. As England grapples with a nature and climate emergency, we need our beavers back.” Many species of native mammals became extinct in the British Islands by the spread of an alien species: Homo sapiens. Wave after wave of this African primate (the Belgae, the Celts, the Romans, the Saxons, the Normans, etc.) ended up killing all the wolves, wolverines, bears, lynxes, beavers, and many others. At least one of these can now return home to begin rewilding the landscape, and laws are being put into place so they don’t end up like their ancestors.