New footage released of first beaver born on Exmoor for 400 years to mark first birthday

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Rashford's first birthday. Photo credit: National Trust

The first baby beaver, also known as a kit, to be born on Exmoor for 400 years has just turned one.

The young beaver, known as a Rashford, has been regularly spotted with its parents on the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate in Somerset since it was born last May.   

To mark the occasion the conservation charity has released new footage from a static camera capturing one year old Rashford hard at work dam building and moving mud with dad, Yogi. 

The kit’s parents, Grylls and Yogi, were paired in 2020 after the conservation charity received its first license to release the Eurasian beavers into a specially constructed 2.7 hectare enclosure at Holnicote.  After successfully mating, Rashford was born last spring.

Following the announcement of the birth, thousands of social media users voted to name the kit Rashford inspired by the successful campaign by the England team in UEFA’s European Football Championships last summer. Since then, the young kit has been playing an active part in helping its parents transform unmanaged woodland to a more open wetland that attracts more wildlife. 

Ben Eardley, Project Manager for the National Trust at Holnicote, said:

“The multiple dam complexes created by Rashford, Grylls and Yogi over the last two years have helped slow the flow of water through the catchment, creating ponds and new channels to hold more water in the landscape. 

“The resulting water habitat is creating opportunities for a wide range of wildlife to flourish including fish, amphibians, reptiles such as grass snakes, bats, insects and birds like sparrow hawk, grey wagtail, moorhens and kingfisher. Otters are regular visitors to the site as the wetland offers ideal habitat for them to hunt.  

“As well as holding water back the beavers are also helping us manage the woodland naturally by stripping bark from non-native conifers to create deadwood habitats and encourage natural woodland succession. This process opens up the canopy; promoting regrowth and creating better quality habitat for a wide variety of species.”

Analysis of the site has indicated that the area was wetter before historic drainage changed the landscape.  By giving water space, beavers can reinstate this lost habitat and play a role in reducing the impact of floods and droughts, both of which are expected to become more frequent with climate change.

Ben continues:

“It’s been such a pleasure seeing Rashford’s continued development over this last year. Learning so many skills from Grylls and Yogi will serve the kit well when it reaches maturity in a year’s time and sets off to find its own territory.” 

“We are hopeful that Rashford will be the first of many kits to be born at Holnicote and early signs indicate that more kits may be on their way later this spring.”

The beavers are one important part of the Trust’s habitat restoration work at Holnicote.  Other work includes the first application in the UK of the innovative ‘Stage 0’ approach to river restoration, where a tributary of the River Aller has now been allowed to find its own course, creating a wetland habitat which has again attracted wildlife including peregrine falcons, grasshoppers, dragonflies, bees and wagtails. 

“Due to historic drainage, water is the missing component in many of this country’s landscapes, and the aim of the ‘Stage 0’ work is to give water space so it is part of the wider habitat, delivering benefits for people and nature,” concluded Ben.

Holnicote is one of the Trust’s Riverlands projects and is co-funded by the Interreg 2 Seas Co-Adapt programme and the Somerset Rivers Authority.  For more information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/holnicote-beavers

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