Dam! Call to bring beavers back to the Broads is sunk

A beaver in Knapdale, Scotland. Photo: Steve Gardner/Scottish Wildlife Trust/PA Wire

A beaver in Knapdale, Scotland. Photo: Steve Gardner/Scottish Wildlife Trust/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The tooth is out there - but it is not coming to a broad or river near you. For calls to reintroduce a long-lost animal to our waterways have been unceremoniously sunk by officials.

A coypu. Picture: Archant Library

A coypu. Picture: Archant Library - Credit: Archant

The Broads Authority said today it had no plans to reintroduce beavers, which were once commonplace but were hunted ruthlessly for their pelts.

Studies from a project in Devon run by Prof Richard Brazier found that ponds created by beaver dams were effective pollution control measures - leading to calls for them to be reintroduced across the UK.

Broads Authority chief executive John Packman said European beavers were once widespread in the UK, including the Broads.

But he added: 'The Broads Authority has no intention of reintroducing beavers into the Broads at this time and are not aware of any proposals to do so.

The American mink. Picture: Norfolk Mink Project

The American mink. Picture: Norfolk Mink Project - Credit: Norfolk Mink Project

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'Whilst there are some documented ecological and economic benefits of reintroducing beavers including cleaning polluted waterways, increasing overall biodiversity and boosting tourism these can only be achieved by working closely with local landowners and others to monitor and manage any impacts the beavers may have on the local landscape, such as affecting land drainage and felling trees.'

He continued: 'Should any such ideas be considered in the future The Broads Authority would ensure that discussion with all potentially affected parties such as landowners and farmers would take place before any proposals are developed. In the meantime we are monitoring UK and European reintroductions to develop our knowledge of this species, its ecology and the management requirements.'

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The move to reintroduce beavers has met resistance from the National Farmers Union (NFU). NFU environment forum chairman Mark Pope said: 'Any species introduction, particularly if it has not been in this country for hundreds of years, can have a massive impact on the many benefits that the countryside delivers.

'In the case of beavers, the NFU has concerns about the damage to farmland and the landscape caused by their physical activities. Farmers and the public must have the tools to manage the impacts beavers will have to farmland, the countryside, flood defences and urban areas.'

A sea eagle in flight. Picture: RSPB

A sea eagle in flight. Picture: RSPB - Credit: PA

Other animals that have caused controversy include:

•The coypu: An orange-toothed South American beaver that ended up as East Anglian public enemy number one. Its fur was also popular, with its belly yielding a fine, soft undercoat known as 'nutria'.

•Mink: Alien mink have for years wreaked havoc on aquatic birdlife and water vole populations across Norfolk. Unlike the beaver, American mink is not native to the UK and was originally brought to the country for fur farming.

Signal crayfish. Picture: Archant Library

Signal crayfish. Picture: Archant Library - Credit: Archant

•Sea eagles: Plans to reintroduce sea eagles to Norfolk and Suffolk were scrapped after the move was greeted by an outcry from farmers who feared the birds would help themselves to free range lambs, piglets and poultry.

•Signal crayfish: A warning was issued for people not to try and catch the potentially dangerous form of crayfish found in a West Norfolk river. The signal crayfish is not native to the area and spreads crayfish plague.

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