Family of wild beavers seen in England for first time in centuries

Three European beavers were filmed together on the River Otter in east Devon in a “highly significant” sighting

A A A

A family of wild beavers has been seen in England for the first time in up to 400 years, in what experts have described as a "highly significant" sighting.

Three European beavers, believed to be adults, were filmed together on the River Otter in east Devon.

Experts said their presence strongly suggested a small breeding population of beavers now existed outside captivity. This would be the first time for centuries that European beavers have been breeding in the wild in England.

In footage captured by night vision cameras with motion sensors, the beavers can be seen gnawing at trees, grooming themselves and playing together.

Retired scientist Tom Buckley and landowner David Lawrence installed three cameras last year when they noticed tree-cutting action in the area.

He said his cameras filmed one beaver on his dairy farm in January. "For me, there was a combination of amazement and a little bit of disbelief," Mr Buckley said.

"When we saw three, that's a totally different situation altogether," he added.

"Three indicates a family and looking at the footage, all three are quite sizeable and active, which indicates to me that they are not young. I would expect them to be at least two years old.

"That indicates they may have been around for at least two years or more. During that time, they may have been fitting in very nicely in terms of the environment.

"I'm told this could be the first time for 300 to 400 years that beavers have been sighted like this."

European beavers were hunted to extinction in England and Wales during the 12th century, because of their highly valued fur, medicinal value and meat. They disappeared from the rest of the UK 400 years later.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it is investigating the sighting but would not comment on if the beavers could be removed from the site or destroyed.

"It is unlawful to release beavers in England - we are looking into this case and will consider what action to take," a Defra spokeswoman said.

A spokesman for the Devon Wildlife Trust said it supported the reintroduction of beavers to England but that it had to be "properly planned".

"However, now that a small European beaver population has established itself in east Devon we believe that they should be left alone and observed using a rigorous monitoring programme," he said.

"This group of beavers provides us with a unique opportunity to learn lessons about their behaviour and their impact on the local landscape.

He said they would like to see the animals reintroduced to England, but recognised “a great deal of work” needs to be done before this can be achieved.

Additional reporting by Press Association

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future