Saturday, 25 January 2014

On the River Otter: First ever video of a wild beaver in England

A big story to hit the news is the sighting of a beaver in the wild - on the River Otter near Ottery St Mary - together with actual film footage:

Video: First ever video of a wild beaver in England - Telegraph
BBC News - Beaver filmed in the wild on Devon farm

Plus some photos:

The beaver was snapped chomping on this tree by Tom Buckley with a hidden infra-red trail camera
The mystery of the River Otter beaver | Exeter Express and Echo

This is a mystery, in that this particular otter does not appear to be part of a carefully-controlled project, as reported by the Natural History Museum:

Found: one beaver

24 January 2014

A mystery beaver sighted in Devon could be the first case of the wild animal in England for 800 years.
A rogue beaver has been spotted living on a farm near the River Otter in Devon, centuries after they went extinct in the UK.
Beavers used to be an important part of wetland ecosystems across Europe, but were heavily hunted for their fur and their throat glands, thought to be medicinal, disappearing from England and Wales in the twelfth century.
Countries across Europe have been reintroducing the beaver since the 1920s. Britain is one of the last regions to begin reintroduction, but there are now several controlled trial projects around Britain, including in Devon, Kent and Gloucestershire.
It’s a mystery, however, where the beaver caught on amateur video appeared from. The Devon Wildlife Trust is nearing the end of its three-year project to introduce a pair of beavers into an enclosed wetland area. The pair had a baby, known as a kit, in August 2013, but none of the three is reported missing.
Museum mammal curator Richard Sabin says beavers are remarkably good at escaping and surviving in the right environment, and that they can ‘gnaw out of pretty much anything’.
The importance of beavers
‘The beaver in Britain was, and still is, considered to be an important part of the ecosystem, and was certainly responsible for significant modifications to local and wider environments, through the damming of rivers since the end of the last ice age,’ said Sabin.
The Museum hosts the best collection of complete examples of the extinct indigenous British beaver. ‘Our specimens date back several hundred to several thousand years and were found as well-preserved skeletons in peat from fenlands in the east of England,’ said Sabin.
Bringing the beaver to Britain
A beaver reintroduction trial is currently running in Scotland, where a total of 16 beavers have been released in the highlands since 2009. The Museum’s collection contributed data to the selection of candidates for the trial from living populations of Eurasian beavers.
The five-year project will come to an end this spring, after which a scientific report will be filed and the Scottish government will decide whether to continue the trial, remove the beavers entirely, or allow them to remain free on the land.
Water fight
The Devon Wildlife Trust’s beaver trial is monitoring the impact the beavers have on the hydrology, biology and water chemistry of the wetland site. At the end of the trial, the beavers will be removed from the land until the results are interpreted.

Found: one beaver | Natural History Museum

Although there was a sighting two-and-a-half years ago:
Beaver on loose in Tipton St John - News - Sidmouth Herald

The Escot estate has had a programme of reintroduction since 2007:


beavers image
Escot's beaver programme is part of an important UK wide project. A two acre enclosure has been created within Escot Park encircling ponds, woodland and a section of stream to home a pair of unrelated wild caught Bavarian beavers, born in the Spring of 2006. 
They have set up home in the bank of one of the ponds & we know they have a maternity lodge so hopefully young beavers will eventually emerge and a family colony will develop over the next few years. Recently they have built what is probably the first beaver dam in the south west for 800 years!
Individuals & small groups are invited to evening beaver-watch sessions at which these largely nocturnal animals provide exciting encounters of what was once a common sight throughout Europe. Beaver watches take place an hour before dark, between mid May & the end of August.  Minimum group size 5, maximum group size 12.  cost - £5 per person.  Please wear suitable, non rustling outdoor clothing – no bright or fluorescent colours please. Binoculars can be useful if you have them, but are not essential. Children are welcome but they must be able to sit still and remain quiet so as not to disturb the beavers.
If you would like to book a visit, or sponsor the beavers & follow their progress, please contact Escot on 01404 822188 or email  info@escot-devon.co.uk 
beavers - Escot - The natural place for a great day out in Devon

The last comment goes to Geoffrey Lean of the Telegraph:

Been away? Back and busier than ever after 800 years
Are worries at the inadequacy of Britain’s flood defences, and the cuts at the Environment Agency, gnawing away at you? Cheer up, help may be at hand. A beaver has been sighted in the wild in England for the first time in more than 800 years.
It was captured on camera, beavering away at felling trees across the happily named River Otter in Devon. This has revived calls that the rodent – driven to extinction in England and Wales in the 12th century – be reintroduced to much of continental Europe, just as in Belgium and Germany.
With these leaky structures, the eager engineers slow the rush of water down a river, making it less likely to burst its banks. Indeed, the Environment Agency has already constructed artificial “beaver dams” in Northumberland as part of a flood defence scheme, but it’s an expensive business – the animals, of course, build and construct them for free. Beavers kept in enclosures in the Tay watershed near Bamff have already produced about 30, holding back thousands of tons of water.
So, Owen Paterson, bring them back to our rivers – or risk giving the impression that you don’t give a dam.

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