Wild Beavers Spotted in Devon, UK

The European Beaver

The European Beaver

Images via – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasian_beaver

For the first time since the 16th century, a family of wild beavers has been seen in the England countryside – captured on film as a group of three European beavers, Castor Fiber – which are thought to be adults, dwelling along the banks of the River Otter in east Devon.

The trio were clearly seen playing together, then gnawing at the base of trees and even grooming themselves, footage seen as highly significant, suggesting as it does that indeed there is a small breeding population of beavers existing outside of captivity in the British isles, where European beavers were once widespread, but by the end of the 1500’s hunted to extinction.

Though it is a fact that Scottish forest lochs, in Argyll, near the Sound of Jura, are now home to three beaver families released there in 2009, and plans for such a release in Wales are well advanced, no such action has been taken anywhere in England, meaning that this Devon sighting represents a first for European beavers breeding in the wild here.


This fabulous footage was taken after local Tom Buckley, a retired environmental scientist, had become aware of some trees being felled in the area in late 2013. Believing this worth investigating, in partnership with landowner David Lawrence, three motion sensor cameras were put up along a half kilometer stretch of river bank, and indeed they heard from a lady that had spotted a beaver on the river.

They took the footage along to Beaver expert Derek Gow, who excitedly confirmed that one of the filmed creatures was a juvenile, meaning that the family could have been there for several years. The three of them were truly amazed, on watching the footage right through, to see three large and obviously contented Beavers being so active in the area.  It is in fact true to say that the Devon Wildlife Trust do indeed have a two-year old Beaver Project up and running, but those animals are still in their enclosure, so where the River Otter Beavers came from remains a mystery.

Devon Wildlife Trust spokesperson Steve Hussey remarked that these beavers should be left alone, so that they could be rigorously monitored and observed, because the little group provides a unique opportunity to learn lessons about Beaver behaviour and impact on the local landscape. This species are a keystone, in that they provide important service to the ecosystem.

It has even been suggested that beaver engineering can slow down rivers, create habitats for many other species, as well as improving water quality by the fact of their dams holding back silt. Indications are that they have been interacting with wild otters too, in this place, so it is hoped that DEFRA – Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – will allow this small population to remain undisturbed.

 mother and kit

mother and kit

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  1. Tony H Leather

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