Beavers have returned to Dorset after a 400 year absence.

On Monday, February 8 a male and a female beaver were released into an enclosed site in west Dorset.

This landmark project led by Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) is the first of its kind for the county and welcomes beavers back to Dorset for the first time in more than 400 years.

The beavers have been relocated from Scotland to Dorset.

Their new home, a suitably large site of freshwater habitat, is not accessible to the public.

However, monitoring of the enclosure will provide rare, close-up video and photo footage of the charismatic creatures as they explore, make themselves at home and start to influence the landscape.

DWT rivers conservation officer, Steve Oliver, said: "It’s fantastic to be welcoming beavers back to Dorset. Beavers are magnificent creatures in their own right, but they are extra special because their engineering activities have the potential to bring even more life to a landscape and enable other species to flourish.”

The beavers have been introduced as part of a scientific study and a key focus of the project is monitoring and recording the impact the beavers have on water quality, flooding and other wildlife.

Beavers are known as ‘nature’s engineers’ and their activities, including wetland creation through the building of dams, have the potential to increase biodiversity, filter and clean water, and even reduce flooding by slowing the rate of water passing through rivers and streams during storm events.

The project has been developed in partnership with University of Exeter and Wessex Water.

University of Exeter’s Professor Richard Brazier said: “This will contribute to a growing body of knowledge and understanding across Great Britain of the impact beavers have on landscapes. It’s a really unique study for us, to do this in the headwaters of a chalk stream."

“Beavers have been present on the planet for 40 million years or so, so they’re a highly adapted species and know how to manage water resources. We could really learn a lot from them.”

Ruth Barden, Wessex Water’s director of catchment and environmental strategy, said: “We’re keen to better understand the water quality improvements which this project may provide and recognise the huge natural river engineering potential offered by beaver reintroductions, while being mindful of some concerns from farming and fishing sectors."