Saturday, 19 July 2014

Battle to stop capture of England's first wild beavers in 500 years

Petition signed by 8,000 people against Defra scheme to trap and rehome creatures spotted near river Otter in Devon

The Guardian, Wednesday 16 July 2014 19.27 BST

Mike Flynn was fly-fishing for brown trout when an unexpected creature hove into view. "We often see otters here – they are lithe, playful things – but this was quite different," said Flynn. "It chugged down the middle of the river a couple of rod-lengths away from me like a tug boat. There was no doubt it was one of the beavers. It took no notice of me; it was an amazing sight."

If the government gets its way, the presence of these beavers in a corner of Devon – the first to be sighted in England for 500 years – will be a short-lived affair. This month, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it planned to trap the colony and transfer them to a zoo or wildlife park, arguing they are an invasive non-native species and could carry disease.

The move has caused consternation. Almost 8,000 people have signed a petition against Defra trapping the beavers and animal rights campaigners are patrolling the banks of the river Otter, ready to raise the alarm if the hunters move in. There are whispers that hunt saboteurs are preparing to disrupt any moves to trap the beavers.

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