Wild beaver in the River Otter

PUBLISHED: 14:58 19 July 2013




A Budleigh woman has caught on camera a beaver living on the River Otter.

Lorna Douglas, a 35-year-old carer from Jocelyn Road, was walking her two cocker spaniels early on Tuesday morning when she spotted the animal, extinct in Britain for 400 years.

She said: “At first I though it was an otter. I have never seen an otter along the river before.

“Then I saw the big bushy tail; there was no mistaking it.

“I was very excited; it was about the size of a badger.”

Lorna, an animal lover, has walked the route every day for 25 years and always stops at the same place, near a willow tree, halfway between Budleigh and Otterton, planted as a memorial to her father.

“It’s a very special place for me,” she said. “It was near there that I saw him for the first time last Friday, and I have seen him three or four times since. At one point he came out of his hole, took a chunk out of a tree and was nibbling on it.

“He was just rooting around amongst the undergrowth and tree roots. He seemed quite happy and well established.

“I suppose he must have escaped from somewhere.”

Hunted for their fur, the animals are known for their natural trait of building dams on rivers and streams.

They were wiped out in Britain, although they were recently re-introduced in Scotland.

Lorna added: “One of my spaniels went into the water and the beaver swam up to her.

“I called her back because I didn’t know what the beaver was going to do.

“She just sat on the bank and watched it.

“He doesn’t seem perturbed by dogs at all and seems very friendly.

“I just sat that there and watched him for an hour.”

Dan Smith of the Devon Wildlife Trust said: “It’s obviously escaped from somewhere.

“Beavers were a native English mammal species.

“In general they were a native species so they can have a very beneficial impact, but Devon Wildlife Trust would say it’s not a good idea to just be releasing a beaver into the wild – that’s the reason for our beaver project in North Devon, to monitor their impact.

“The impact beavers can have can be fantastic, which is why we’re running the research project. It’s certainly not going to do any damage to any other creatures, and it’s not competition to fishermen as they don’t eat fish.”

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