Beavers at Heligan
The Lost Gardens of Heligan are excited to be one of the teams exploring how to protect biodiversity across the gardens and estate. Recognised as an important keystone species, it is hoped that beavers recently introduced to the purpose-built enclosure on the estate will increase biodiversity in this area. The animals’ impact on flood mitigation and the relationship between beavers and grazing livestock will also be monitored.
The beavers’ enclosure includes a section of the headland stream, and it is hoped that by creating dams the flood risk for towns such as Mevagissey will be reduced.
Beaver impact on ancient woodland
There are many important and ancient tree specimens within The Lost Gardens of Heligan estate and gardens and the team have chosen a small section of pasture and woodland for the beaver enclosure.
Beavers tend not to fell big trees, as they require materials that they can move about either for damming processes or for food, and a 200 year old oak, for example, is too big for a beaver to do this.
In addition, our Heligan Estate Team conduct daily checks and are monitoring any large trees within the enclosure. If necessary, these specimens can be protected by painting with sand and glue or creating additional barriers if required.
We will keep our visitors and followers updated on the beavers’ progress and activity in due course.
Beavers have recently been making a comeback after over 400 years of extinction in the UK, due to reintroduction projects like ours.
Because beavers are natural engineers, shaping their landscape by felling trees and changing the course of rivers, their release is currently controlled by the granting of a ‘Beaver Licence’ by Natural England.
In October 2022, legislation was introduced to protect free-living beavers in England, which could pave the way for the reintroduction of beavers into the wild in the future.
Beavers at Heligan FAQ
- The fence measures around 1.5km
- The fences were built by a local contractor called ‘Take a fence’
- Beavers are ‘crepuscular’ which means they are most active at dawn and dusk.
- For now, we are letting the beavers settle in to their enclosure and (hopefully) get to know each other.
- In the future we hope to run dusk talks and tours for visitors to see inside the enclosure and find out more about beavers
- We are also forging partnerships with several local schools to enable them to visit and learn more about nature on their doorsteps.
- Male- Coombeshead Estate, Devon, via Nottingham Wildlife Trust
- Female- Cornish Seal sanctuary at Gweek
- Originally, beaver reintroductions in England were from the Tay catchment in Scotland, where relocation is part of the plan to help prevent clashes between local farmers and beaver populations (farmers can obtain a licence to cull). However, these two may have been born at other reintroduction projects
- Beavers can both climb and dig, so a fence has to be sturdy if it is going to contain them.
- There is an (approx. 3 ft) skirt to the fencing that is buried underground
- The wire mesh fence also hangs over into the enclosure to stop them climbing over.
- We’ll be monitoring other wildlife that uses the area carefully, and there are measures we can take to make sure they can get over (deer) or through (otters & other mammals)
- Beavers are vegetarian and do not eat fish (a common misconception)
- They eat trees mainly- bark, leaves and shoots, but also grasses, rushes and other crops
- Aspen is their favourite, but Willow is their 2nd favourite and makes up most of their diet
- Our female is currently 2 years old, which is a little early to start breeding, but we hope next year
- The beaver mating season is between December & February
- A beaver family group is usually made up of the adult breeding pair, plus 2 litters of offspring (kits),one from the current and one from the previous year.
- Heligan is one of the first reintroduction projects in England that has deliberately incorporated farmland. There is very little data yet on how farmland may be impacted (and consequently, how outraged traditional farmers will be).
- We will collect information on how the beavers graze on the pasture and interact with the landscape.
- This information could help inform decisions as to whether unlicenced, free release of beavers becomes legal in the future.