Wednesday, 10 September 2014

On the River Otter: Defra and the beavers: Ottery Council vote to lobby MP

Matters for the beavers in East Devon are coming to a head:
Futures Forum: On the River Otter: Defra and the beavers: "the laying of the traps is imminent…"

From today's View from Sidmouth/Ottery:

OTTERY: MP urged to act on beavers

10th September 2014 by Jack Dixon jack@pemedia.co.uk

EAST Devon MP Hugo Swire has been urged to take immediate action to ensure a family of rare beavers, recently discovered on the banks of the River Otter, is returned safely to the area.

Ottery councillors voted unanimously in favour of writing to their MP to ask that he questions the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) about its plans to remove the animals.

DEFRA says it needs to remove the beavers - thought to be the only ones of their kind in the country - so they can be tested for a parasitic disease potentially fatal to humans.

But local campaigners are concerned about what will happen to the animals after testing, and the Devon Wildlife Trust is calling for them to be returned immediately to Ottery. The trust, which attracted national media coverage at its consultation event in the town last month, wants to obtain a licence from Natural England to study the animals in the wild over the next five years – once they have confirmed the beavers do not carry the disease.

Experts say that with responsible management the animals can live safely in Ottery.

And following the public meeting, during which residents expressed their overwhelming support for the campaign, MP Hugo Swire has been urged to weigh into the debate.

Councillor Roger Giles put the proposal to councillors at their meeting last week, claiming that the beavers presented a great opportunity to boost the tourist trade in Ottery.

Councillor Giles said: “This is a unique situation. Already there are people coming here to Ottery to see them. People are spending money in the shops and it is boosting the local economy. That is something the town council has been trying to do for years.”

Councillor Claire Wright, Devon County Councillor for Ottery, who was invited to speak at the meeting, said DEFRA had been acting in a “bizarre” manner and the fact that they could not guarantee the beavers would be returned indicated “sinister” intentions.

She said: “DEFRA is behaving in a most bizarre manner. The beavers are living here harmlessly and are not causing any damage. In fact they have the potential to bring improvements to the area. I have asked Hugo Swire and DEFRA, but no one can give me any guarantee they will be returned - and I think that is sinister.”

View From Online - News from West Dorset, East Devon & South Somerset

A different perspective from yesterday's Western Morning News:

In my opinion: Don't allow beavers to upset our freshwater ecosystem

By Western Morning News | Posted: September 09, 2014

Comments (5)

I have been involved in many working parties upgrading riverine habitats both in the Westcountry and in Buckinghamshire through my interest in fishing and bird-watching. I have also taken part in surveys for the West Country River Trust, British Trust for Ornithology and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. And I worked for Thames Water as a technician/water sampler – enough about myself.

There seems to be a movement in this country to re-introduce species that have long been extinct, of which the beaver is one of many. These people will support their argument by declaring the beaver has only been extinct for 200-300 years. Not so. It became extinct in this country in the 12th century. As Derek Gow says they are great engineers building dams and constructing homes in rivers and streams from trees they have felled. Derek says they create wetlands. I do not think so. The likely outcome is more floods. Surely we have had enough floods in the last two years without additional problems caused by beavers.

At the moment the Environment Agency is paying out millions on flood defences on the Somerset levels. I do not think there will be any more additional money available for “man made” floods caused by beavers in the South Devon rivers.

Let me quote from The Ecology of Running Water by H B N Hynes concerning beavers in North America. “The beaver entirely changes the nature of streams by the building of dams. The enormous influence of these animals is particularly apparent in North America where their numbers are now increasing rapidly after having been reduced by trapping. They are reoccupying areas from which they have been absent for long periods and they are flooding places which have been dry for so long that forests have taken over. Such places are very conspicuous and they demonstrate force-ably how great is the influence of this species on the ecosystem”.

This is in America with its huge spaces and low human habitation. Can you imagine this in little old England?

Do not upset the status quo – the freshwater habitat in this country is a fragile ecosystem. Much damage can be done by reintroducing an alien species which the beaver is.

We as humans do not have to feel guilty just because we were instrumental in the destruction of the beaver all those years ago. The world has moved on, so has our country and our rivers.

Once a breeding colony has become established on the River Otter, they will colonise other river systems in the Westcountry. We are just not talking about the River Otter in isolation but many other rivers of pristine habitat and of great ecological importance.

The beaver should be considered an alien in this country just like the grey squirrel, coypus, mink and Japanese knotweed. The damage they can do is too great to take the chance.

Those who put these animals in the River Otter should help the Environment Agency trap them – act now before it is too late.

In my opinion: Don't allow beavers to upset our freshwater ecosystem | Western Morning News

Here are some recent photos taken of the beavers on the River Otter - courtesy of the Otter Valley Association:

Photo  Photo

Beavers on Otter by David White
Welcome | Otter Valley Association

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