‘Leave the beavers alone!’ Defra told

17:00 07 July 2014

Two of the beavers playing in the Otter. The picture was captured by Tom Buckley in February.

Two of the beavers playing in the Otter. The picture was captured by Tom Buckley in February.

Archant

Ottery residents have joined environmental groups in issuing a ‘hands off’ warning to officials who this week revealed plans to ‘recapture and rehome’ a family of beavers living near the town.

The announcement from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs came last Monday, with the government agency saying the animals could be carrying a disease not currently present in the UK.

The group of at least three creatures are believed to be the country’s only example of beavers living in the wild.

Ottery residents have this week strongly criticised Defra’s plan to trap and move the animals to a zoo.

“Leave our beavers alone,” said Juliet Lovell. “Let them be and study them in a natural habitat.”

Verity Owen-Nickels added: “Go away Defra! Leave the beavers alone!”

An online petition urging the Government not to interfere with the animals had attracted more than 2,000 signatures as the Herald went to press.

The announcement has also come under fire from environmental scientist Tom Buckley, who first captured the group on camera in February.

Ottery resident Tom said he was ‘absolutely horrified’ at Defra’s plan, adding that the justification that the animals could be carrying a disease was a ‘red herring’.

He said: “They are going to take us back over 500 years to exterminate beavers again from their natural wild habitat, taking away all the immense enjoyment that these beavers bring to so many people, now and into the future.

“Why not give these beavers the chance to continue and demonstrate how they can exist in harmony with us?”

David Lawrence, the owner of Knightstone Farm where the animals were first spotted, said they had not had any negative impact on his land or his farming business.

“They aren’t making a blind bit of difference to me on that front,” he said. “[Defra] are welcome to come down and test them [for disease], and if they are clean I’m more than happy for them to stay.”

The government agency has said that all decisions will be taken with the welfare of the beavers in mind.

“We intend to recapture, and rehome these beavers and are currently working out plans for the best way to do so,” said a spokesperson. “Depending on the source of the animals, they could be carrying a disease not currently present in the UK.

“In addition, beavers have not been an established part of our wildlife for the last 500 years. Our landscape and habitats have changed since then and we need to assess the impact they could have.”

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