Watch a Rare English Beaver Give Her Kit a Swimming Lesson

The River Otter was beaver-bereft for 400 years. Now there may be more than a dozen lodging on its banks.
Jun 27, 2015·
Emily J. Gertz is an associate editor for environment and wildlife at TakePart.

In 2014, a family of wild beavers took up residence in the English countryside for the first time since the 1700s.

Now they’ve had babies.

For proof, here’s a new video of a mother otter giving one of her babies, called kits, what may be its first swimming lesson.

It’s another sign that beavers are continuing to make an unexpected and amazing comeback on southwest England’s River Otter. The species disappeared from the river more than four centuries ago after being hunted to extinction for its fur and meat.

This video was made by local filmmaker Tom Buckley and was posted online by the Devon Wildlife Trust.

“The baby kits appear fit and healthy, and the adults seem as if they are taking their parenting responsibilities very seriously,” the trust’s Mark Elliott said in a statement. “If both mothers have given birth, that could mean that there are now up to 15 beavers on the River Otter.”

The trust is a conservation group that has government permission to monitor the beavers, and which has built public support for the colony. Beavers are natural landscape architects whose tree felling and dam building have environmental benefits, such as helping maintain groundwater supplies. But the flooding caused by beaver dams can also be problematic. So one of the trust’s goals, according to its online information, is to learn how to minimize the potential for human-beaver conflicts.

The adult beavers were initially sighted on the River Otter in the winter of 2014. Concerned that the animals might be disease carriers, wildlife officials gave the trust permission to capture them in February for testing. After the beavers proved disease-free, the group returned them to the river in March.

“The slowly expanding population of these wild animals will help us gain valuable insights into beavers and their environment, both in terms of animal behavior and any benefits and effects on the surrounding river system,” Elliott said.

It's not the first time the species has shown this sort of resilience. Thanks to environmental cleanup and restoration along the Bronx River, beavers returned in 2007 to the New York waterway for the first time in roughly 300 years.

So, Why Should You Care? The overall global situation for wildlife is grim, with hunting, population growth, and other human activities threatening thousands of species with extinction. From ecosystem benefits to the potential for new medicines, saving them is crucial to human health and welfare.

The newborn beaver kits were not the only good news about biodiversity to emerge this week: The International Union for Conservation of Nature announced that two other mammal species, the Iberian lynx and the Guadalupe fur seal, are making promising comebacks from near extinction.