A SURVEY has shown that people in Wales are keen to see the return of beavers to the wild.

Beavers lived in Britan until they were hunted to extinction approximately 500 years ago. They have recently been reintroduced to Scotland and England and the Welsh Beaver Project, led by North Wales Wildlife Trust, is seeking to re-establish beavers in Wales.

The Welsh Beaver Project has been investigating the feasibility of reintroducing beavers to Wales since 2005, and this also involves finding out what people think about beavers in Wales. Lots of public engagement work has been undertaken, but this is the first time that an all-Wales online survey has been conducted.

The opinion survey was commissioned by North Wales Wildlife Trust but independently led by a team of experts from the University of Exeter. The team from Exeter were also involved with a peer-reviewed survey in 2017 that investigated the attitudes and perception towards beaver reintroductions across Great Britain.

Over 4,000 responses were received in this latest survey, of which over 3,000 responses were from residents in Wales.

North Wales Wildlife Trust believe the results were positive with 88.7% of participants in Wales supporting beavers living in Wales.

Benefits to biodiversity and wetland habitats, waterway management and recognising beavers as a native species were the main reasons given for supporting beavers in Wales.

A majority of participants (over 83%) were also in favour of legal protection for beavers in Wales with enabling time for beavers to establish and helping to ensure populations survive as the main reasons for legal protection. Just under 7% of participants in Wales were opposed to beavers living in Wales with the most common reason being concerns of negative impacts on river systems.

The Welsh Beaver Project is also establishing a Beaver Management Network to ensure there is management support in Wales as well and the project has entered a new phase, through their new Living With Beavers In The Dyfi Catchment Project.

The project will continue with their discussions about beavers and will be meeting with landholders and communities to re-assure and advise them about the activities of beavers, as well as raise awareness about the importance of beavers and how we can live side-by-side with them.

The survey can be found here.

Alicia Leow-Dyke, Welsh Beaver Project Officer said: “We are pleased with the number of responses to this survey and the positive reaction towards beavers.

“We will also review any concerns raised within survey.

“This survey gives us an insight into the feelings towards beavers from the participants and how this compares with similar surveys that have been conducted across Britain.”