Exmoor baby beaver named after Marcus Rashford

A pair of beavers released into an enclosure at National Trust's Holnicote Estate have given birth to a kit.

Beaver kit caught on the night cam on the National Trust's Holnicote Estate in Somerset. © National Trust

In January 2020, the National Trust introduced a male and female Eurasian beaver into an enclosure at its Holnicote Estate in Somerset, and 18 months later, a static camera has captured a six-week-old kit swimming with the female.

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This is a historic moment as it is thought to be the first beaver to be born on Exmoor in 400 years, as well as the first one to be born on National Trust land.

Following a poll on social media, the National Trust has named the beaver kit ‘Rashford’, after the England football played Marcus Rashford.

“We first had an inkling that our pair of beavers had mated successfully when the male started being a lot more active building and dragging wood and vegetation around the site in late spring,” says Jack Siviter, a ranger at the Holnicote Estate.

“The female also changed her usual habits, and stayed out of sight, leaving the male to work alone. It was then several weeks until we spotted her again, and this is when our suspicions were confirmed that she had given birth, due to having very visible teats.”

“We are particularly pleased for our female, nicknamed Grylls due to her survival instincts, as she didn’t have the easiest start to life being orphaned at an early age. As a first time mum she seems to be thriving and it’s great to see her with her new kit. The family should now stay together for the next two years before the kit will naturally want to go off to create a new territory of its own.”

One of the introduced adult beavers nibbling nettle stems. © Nick Upton/National Trust
One of the introduced adult beavers nibbling nettle stems. © Nick Upton/National Trust

Eurasian beavers were hunted to extinction in UK during the sixteenth century, and were targeted for their fur, meat and castoreum secretions.

There have been both illegal and legal reintroductions of Eurasian beavers in recent years, and they can now be found in many parts of England, Scotland and, as of May 2021, Wales.

Beavers are described as ecosystem engineers due to their ability to change the landscape around them as they make the family lodge and nearby dams, which then creates ponds and channels. These filter and slow down the flow of water, and the felling of trees in the surrounding areas encourage ground flora such as marsh marigold to bloom.

Shallow streams flowing through damp, deciduous woodland within a large enclosure for Eurasian beavers prior to their release at Holnicote Estate, Somerset, January 2020. © Nick Upton/National Trust
Shallow streams flowing through damp, deciduous woodland within a large enclosure for Eurasian beavers prior to their release at Holnicote Estate, Somerset, January 2020. © Nick Upton/National Trust

“The transformation of the habitat has been remarkable,” says Ben Eardley, project manager for the National Trust at the Holnicote Estate. “To go from dry unmanaged woodland to a more open wetland complex in such a short time has not only boosted the variety of wildlife that we’re seeing on the estate, but also numbers.”

“This is really important because the beaver are doing a lot of what we want to see in terms of conservation and land management. They are letting the light and the water into the site, helping natural processes and providing opportunities for a host of other wildlife.”

Beaver dam built of cut tree branches and mud built by Eurasian beavers to retain an extensive beaver pond in damp deciduous woodland, within a large enclosure 18 months after beavers were introduced at Holnicote Estate, Somerset, July 2021. © Nick Upton/National Trust
Beaver dam built of cut tree branches and mud built by Eurasian beavers to retain an extensive beaver pond in damp deciduous woodland, within a large enclosure 18 months after beavers were introduced at Holnicote Estate, Somerset, July 2021. © Nick Upton/National Trust

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Main image: Beaver kit caught on the night cam on the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate in Somerset. © National Trust