Beavers in Sussex

Sussex Wildlife Trust recognises the important role that Beavers can play in restoring the natural life support systems that people and wildlife rely on - helping us with natural flood management, wildlife recovery, water resources, improving water quality, and much more. 

After an absence of hundreds of years, these natural ecosystem engineers which were hunted to extinction in the UK, have returned to Sussex. Beavers are returning to a cultural landscape which has forgotten how to co-exist with them, which brings both benefits and challenges in our lowland catchments. 

Sussex Wildlife Trust manage a Species Recovery Officer in their Wilder Landscapes Team to help navigate some of the complexities of species recovery.

The First Beavers to Return to Sussex

The National Trust released a pair of Beavers onto the River Wey at the edge of the South Downs National Park in early 2021. After a few setbacks the Beavers settled into their enclosure and have transformed the local landscape, providing an excellent resource for showcasing the benefits these animals can bring. 

In autumn 2020, a pair of Beavers were introduced into a 250 ha partially fenced enclosure on the Knepp Estate in West Sussex. Shortly afterwards, the two individuals made separate escapes onto the River Adur. Although the release did not go as planned, the public support generated by the stories of Billie and Bramber the Beavers was clear. Knepp have since made changes to their Beaver licence, and have released two Beavers into a 2.5 ha fully enclosed site. The Beavers have already made a huge difference to the landscape, with the site standing out as a beacon of green during the 2022 summer drought. In summer 2023 the first Beaver kits to be born in Sussex in some 500 years made their appearance on the trail cameras in the enclosure for the first time. 

A small number of additional landowners in Sussex have been granted a licence, or are applying for a licence to release Beavers.

We recently had incredible news that the first Beavers had been born in Sussex in centuries. Beavers are however very slow to breed, and it is unlikely that we will see widespread Beaver presence in the next decade. Sussex Wildlife Trust are working with local landowners and stakeholders to find appropriate sites for Beaver recovery in Sussex.  

Beavers as a Keystone Species

Beavers are recognised as a ‘keystone species’ – a species without which whole ecosystems collapse. Beavers are a great example of how some ecosystem engineer species create their own bespoke habitat niches such as Beaver meadows and Beaver pools. Beavers instinctively manage their natural environment – meaning that we don’t need to. The natural instincts of Beavers play an integral part in buffering our landscapes from flooding, pollution and drought, and in creating thriving wetland habitats for a whole range of other wildlife. Wetlands are some of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, and are fantastic buffers against the effects of climate change. 

Bringing Beavers back to Sussex will start to show us what healthy Sussex wetlands truly look like. 

The Return of Beavers at a Catchment Scale

Beavers are now formally recognised by Defra and the UK Government as a native species, and measures are being put in place to manage their return across England. Rather than single, fenced enclosures, national policy has now changed to encourage licenced releases of Beavers at a river catchment scale. Any releases at this scale will need to show comprehensive public and stakeholder engagement prior to a release. Sussex Wildlife Trust is supporting the proposals for catchment scale restoration of Beavers.

Beavers and people

It has been a long time since Beavers have been part of our local landscapes, so we need to re-introduce people back to living alongside Beavers too. If we want people and Beavers to co-exist, we need to work closely with local landowners and communities to help them understand Beavers and their management. Sussex Wildlife Trust hopes that local people and future generations can once again get to know this native Sussex species. We ask that people give these quiet, nocturnal animals some space whilst they adjust to their new surroundings, and that they keep their dogs on leads when near to Beavers. 

In this section

Sussex and SE Beaver Partnerships

The Sussex Beaver Partnership is led by Sussex Wildlife Trust in partnership with a large number of key stakeholders.

Frequently asked questions

Answering your questions about Beaver re-introduction

Beaver Protection and Licencing

In 2022, Beavers became a UK protected species under the conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.

Landowners and Beavers

Meet farmers and local residents living alongside Beavers

Wildlife Trust Beaver Projects

Links to other Wildlife Trust Beaver projects around the UK