Wednesday, January 29, 2014
‘Beaver fever’ descended on Ottery St Mary last week prompting fears that the national interest in Britain’s only wild example could lead to it being scared away.
Rare footage of the animal gnawing a tree on the banks of the River Otter attracted nationwide media coverage, with the story appearing across national newspapers, television news and radio programmes.
And although the man responsible for the find described it as ‘unbelievable’, he expressed concern the animal could move on if the area is suddenly overwhelmed with people hoping to see it.
The images were captured by environmental scientist and Ottery resident Tom Buckley, who became curious after he saw damaged trees by the river in autumn last year.
Tom used a motion activated camera to set about identifying the source of damage.
- They can stay underwater for up to 15 minutes.
- They are herbivores, and feed on trees and tree bark with particular favourites being birch, cherry and maple.
- Their sharp teeth continue to grow throughout their lifetime.
- Female beavers are larger than male beavers of the same age.
“I got dozens of pictures and video of branches blowing in front of the camera, birds flying past and deer moving about,” said the retired Environment Agency scientist. “I nearly fell off my chair when I saw the beaver – I couldn’t believe it to start with.”
He added: “I hope that this is just the first chapter. The beaver has chosen this spot for a reason, so he may like what it offers environmentally – but it is definitely not his home at the moment.”
Tom said that the Ottery beaver could be the same animal that was spotted near Budleigh last summer, although it was impossible to say for sure at this stage.
“If this is the one that was spotted last summer, then something has happened to make him change his behaviour - because he was last photographed swimming along in broad daylight. This (the Ottery beaver) one is very cautious, and in the footage he gets startled very easily – so it is important that he isn’t scared away.”
Farmer David Lawrence, who owns the land where the beaver was spotted, said the sighting could provide an unexpected boost for his camp site business.
“It’s definitely a novelty,” he added. “The Otter is very busy with wildlife, it’s already a beautiful place to come and this is just another great thing for visitors.”
But he politely requested that would-be beaver spotters refrain from searching the area in case they disturb the animal.
“The last thing we want to do is upset him and for him to move on,” he said. “We’re not sure how he’d react to seeing people, and having seen what his teeth have done to the trees it may be best to avoid him!”