Beavers build their first water barrier in Exmoor for 400 years

Beavers have built their first dam in Exmoor in more than 400 years, after river restoration by the National Trust.

The animals, which constructed it at the Holnicote Estate near Minehead, are the first to be released into the wild by the trust in its 125-year history.

Footage shows the beavers gnawing nearby trees and collecting vegetation.

Rangers described the rodents as 'ecosystem engineers', as nine months after they were introduced to slow the flow of water and improve river quality, they have created an 'instant wetland'.

Their construction allows for deep pools of water which offer animals shelter from predators and a place to store food, and turns the surrounding land into a mosaic of nature-rich habitats.

Beaver dams, ponds and channels help human communities too - by preventing flooding through slowing, storing and filtering water as it flows downstream.

Ben Eardley, project manager at the National Trust, said: 'It might look modest, but this beaver dam is incredibly special - it's the first to appear on Exmoor for almost half a millennium and marks a step change in how we manage the landscape.

'What's amazing is that it's only been here a few weeks but has created an instant wetland.

'We've already spotted kingfishers at the site, and over time, as the beavers extend their network of dams and pools, we should see increased opportunities for other wildlife, including amphibians, insects, bats and birds.'

Beavers became extinct in the 16th century after they were hunted for their meat, fur and scent glands, but since the early 2000s, they have been reintroduced at a handful of sites in Britain.