Beavers given 'native species' legal protection

Beavers are set to make a comeback to rivers across England under Government plans.

They will be given legal protection as a 'native species' with licences granted to allow their release into the wild.

Supporters of 'rewilding' beavers, following a successful reintroduction on the River Otter in Devon, say 'nature's engineers' can help in the fight against flooding.

But farmers warn there is a risk that beavers could threaten their livelihoods by destroying crops.

The creatures had been extinct in the UK for around 400 years before being reintroduced in small areas in 2009.

Environment Secretary George Eustice has launched a 12-week consultation over the plans and said the Government would take a 'cautious approach' to ensure all potential impacts were considered. 

Under the plans, applications for licences to release beavers into the wild would need to meet certain criteria such as making sure support for landowners and river users is put in place.

Conservationists argue that beavers would boost eco-tourism and create important wetlands.

The animals could even cut the flow of water from flooding by up to 60 per cent via the dams they create, according to one study. 

The first urban beavers are set to be introduced in Shrewsbury next year.