Beaver story was not quite accurate

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- Credit: Archant

The recent nationwide media coverage on television, national and local newspapers and radio with headlines such as that in the Daily Mail stating ‘First wild beaver spotted in England for 800 years’ made a good story but unfortunately, in several respects, were factually incorrect.

BBC’s Spotlight Southwest on July 6, 2011 showed a film and an interview with Michael-John Kennaway (who has beavers in a secure area at Escot) and me about the beaver which visited, and I watched, on my large pond on at least two days – July 4 and July 5 – when it was filmed there by a friend. (I have a copy of this).

The story was also reported in The Sidmouth Herald in its July 15, 2011 edition and is currently on the Sidmouth Forum website , but unfortunately, does not mention the beaver having been filmed.There was also an article in the August/September Tipton Times.

At the time of ‘my’ beaver visit I was reliably informed that beavers had been seen in the Otter Valley since 2007 and on July 10, 2011, there was a sighting of a beaver at 6.30 am that morning on the River Otter, quarter of a mile down stream from Otterton Mill, sitting on the far bank chewing the cud whilst being watched by dog walkers, and another – 5.30 am, July 13, 2011 – near a bridge in Ottery St Mary. (These last two sightings were reported to Escot at the time.)

Apart from the more recent sightings near Budleigh there was the sad story of a beaver being seen in a distressed state in the River Otter at Ottery in May 2012. It was rescued, but died, its body was sent to the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Bristol and I have a copy of the post mortem which states that it died from acute pneumonia and it was an adult male, weighing 18.5 kg.

Which leaves me with the question, was the beaver that died the one which visited my pond, or was it the one that has been the subject of the recent publicity? If so, its current cautious behaviour is quite different from when it was seen here when it was completely unfazed by three of us standing about 15ft away, when we had superb views as it swam about and climbed partially out of the water on to the island facing us.

It had a scratch, preened it’s front and then smoothed its whiskers! It then climbed completely onto the island, ate some of the vegetation and enabled us to see its paddle-shaped tail confirming it was a beaver.

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I hope this contribution has helped clarify some aspects of (and added to) the beaver story!

Mrs Pounce

Metcombe

Ottery St Mary

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