Fears of cull threat to Ottery beavers

PUBLISHED: 10:00 26 May 2014

Image from footage of the River Otter beavers taken in February this year. Credit: Tom Buckley.

Image from footage of the River Otter beavers taken in February this year. Credit: Tom Buckley.

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A family of beavers caught on camera on the River Otter could be under threat if environmentalists' fears of a cull are realised.

Image from footage of the River Otter beavers taken in February this year. Credit: Tom Buckley.Image from footage of the River Otter beavers taken in February this year. Credit: Tom Buckley.

Believed to be the first wild dam-builders in hundreds of years, sightings of the trio delighted residents – but campaigners say Defra is looking at drastic options to prevent the spread of a deadly parasite.

The Government body has denied it is planning a cull, although district councillor Claire Wright has sought reassurances that the creatures will be protected.

Environmental scientist Tom Buckley, who has photographed the beavers in Ottery, said: “I’m horrified that Defra is even considering trapping and culling our beavers, making them once again extinct in England.

“It’s a unique opportunity to monitor beavers in the wild in an English river and provides information to help inform future decisions concerning beavers in our rivers.”

Writing to MP Hugo Swire, Councillor Wright said the animals had been a source of delight for residents and appealed for him to make representations to Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.

David Lawrence, who owns the land where they were sighted, said he was unaware of the plans.

“The last I heard was that Natural England said to leave them be and that they were being used as a case study,” he added. “I don’t want to see them destroyed on my land.”

He said the parasite poses little risk of being transferred to humans or even between beavers, and would not be found if they are not the original imported animals.

The Independent reported on Tuesday that Defra and Natural England had discussed ‘health screening work’, with one option being a trap and cull policy.

A Natural England spokesman said: “We have no idea where this has come from. There are no plans for a cull but ultimately it is Defra’s decision.”

A Defra spokesperson, said: “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.

“There are no plans whatsoever to cull beavers.

“We are currently working out plans for the best way forward and any decision will be made with the welfare of the beavers in mind.”

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