A PAIR of beavers released into the Dorset countryside last month have built the county’s first natural dam in 400 years.

Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Beaver Project got fully under way on February 8 when two Eurasian beavers were introduced to an enclosed site in West Dorset.

The project is part of a scientific study looking at the impact beavers have on their environment.

Having got to work quickly, the two beavers produced their first dam within four days.

Steve Oliver, rivers conservation officer at Dorset Wildlife Trust, said: “We are pleased to report that both beavers, an adult male and female, are settling in nicely to their new surroundings having been introduced to site following relocation from Scotland, under license from NatureScot.

“The adult male and female have been monitored closely since their arrival in Dorset and their behaviour is a sure sign that they are settling into their new home having built a dam within four days of being on site.

“The beavers have been harvesting nearby willow branches, fallen twigs, herbaceous plants and sediment to make up this leaky construction.”

Beavers build dams to slow water flow and create deep ponds where they feel safe.

As a keystone species, they are often described as being ‘ecosystem engineers’, with their dams creating a mosaic of wetland habitat that can benefit many other species of wildlife.

With the help of project partners University of Exeter and Wessex Water, baseline data was collected prior to the introduction of the beavers, enabling any future changes to biodiversity, water quality and water retention to be studied.

Beaver dams also have the potential to bring benefits to humans as well as promoting biodiversity.

Steve added: “The leaky structures can help to filter and clean water flowing through our rivers and streams and can slow the flow rate of water during storm events, reducing the likelihood of flooding downstream.

“Beaver wetlands allow the land to store water, releasing it slowly which can also be of benefit during drought conditions.

“The project site has no public access, but with a programme of engagement in the future Dorset Wildlife Trust hopes to raise awareness and increase understanding of the potential impacts beavers can have on their environment at a local level, whilst contributing to the growing scientific data being collected nationally.”