Beaver history

Beaver history in
Britain and Europe

Throughout history, beavers have been hunted to extinction from most of their for their meat, fur, and castoreum.

In the beginning

Beavers lived across most of Europe and northern Asia. They inhabited semi arid areas in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, from which they have now been extirpated: fossil evidence has been found in Italy, Spain, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

10,000 years ago

Holocene Epoch

Almost extinct across Europe

By the twelfth century their range had been substantially reduced and by the sixteenth century they were almost extinct.

12th century


Last beaver record in Wales

Gerald of Wales recorded the last evidence of beavers in Wales.



Last beaver record in England

Radio-carbon dating of a beaver-gnawed stick demonstrates that they remained in the river Tyne in Northumberland until the 1300s.



Last beaver record in Scotland

One of the last Scottish records tells of them around Loch Ness in the 1500s.



However, intriguing evidence suggests that beavers may have lingered in small, isolated populations until much later. In Wales a 14th century Welsh poem and in England a sixteenth century English bounty specifically listed beavers, while as late as 1789 payments were still being made for their heads in Yorkshire. It is suggested that this record in Yorkshire may have been the last record of beavers in Britain.

Almost extinct across Europe

By the early 20th century they remained in only 8 relict populations totalling just 1200 individuals. These populations were located in the Dnieper river system in Belarus and Ukraine; the lower Rhone river in France; the Elbe river in Germany; the Urungu river in Mongolia and China; the Telemark region of Norway; and three regions of Russia.

20th century



Reintroduction of the species began in the early 20th century with Sweden reintroducing about 80 beavers to 19 different sites in the 1920's. Other European countries began to follow suit. The USSR started reintroducing them in the 1930's, Germany and Norway in the 1960's, Austria in 1970's. 24 countries are thought to have reintroduced the Eurasian beaver before England, Scotland or Wales did.

20th century


Scottish Beaver Trial

After early demonstration projects in the East and North of Scotland in 2009 The Scottish Government launched the Scottish Beaver Trial in Knapdale on the West Coast of Scotland. A 5 year trial to monitor the effects of beavers and 15 beavers were released into the area.



River Otter Beaver Trial

A population of beavers, of unknown origin, had been present on the River Otter since around 2008. However, when video evidence emerged proving that the beavers had given birth to kits (young) in 2014, the UK Government initially planned to have them removed from the river. A number of organisations opposed their removal and after consulting with the local community, landowners and public bodies, an alternative was presented: to turn the situation into a five-year trial to monitor the beavers’ effects on the landscape.



Beavers to remain in Scotland

Following the publication of the 'Beavers in Scotland' report in 2015 after the completion of the Scottish Beaver Trial The Scottish Government announced that the wild-living populations in Knapdale and Tayside would be allowed to remain, work was underway to recognise beavers as a European Protected Species in Scotland but the population would only be allowed to expand naturally.

24 November 2016


Scotland's beaver given protected status

Scotland's beavers are added to the European Protected Species List and a management framework is introduced for land owners or managers to follow to obtain a licence to resolve conflicts with beavers.

1 May 2019


New measures for Scotland's beavers

The Scottish Government announces it will actively support the expansion of the beaver population by promoting translocation to move beavers into new suitable areas.

24 November 2021


Argaty Beaver Project

Beaver Trust facilitates the first translocation of beavers to Argaty Red Kites. The first translocation within Scotland not to the Scottish Beaver Trial.

30 November 2021


England's beavers given protected status

England's beavers are added to the European Protected Species List and a management framework is introduced for land owners or managers to follow to obtain a licence to resolve conflicts with beavers.

01 October 2022


Beavers once roamed across our countryside, shaping the landscape and waterways


Beavers are often called “ecosystem engineers”

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