Thursday, 12 March 2015

Beavers on verge of living wild in England after being confirmed free of disease

First beaver colony to live free in England for centuries should be able to stay on Devon’s River Otter after being tested as clear of Echinococcus multilocularis

Wednesday 11 March 2015 13.02 GMTLast modified on Thursday 12 March 201500.06 GMT

The future is looking bright for a colony of beavers that have been living free on an English river after they were trapped, tested and found to be free of a disease not currently found in the UK.

Five beavers – two adult pairs and one youngster, a kit – have been captured at the behest of the government and found to be fit and healthy.

The beavers, the first to live free in England in centuries after they were hunted to extinction, have been handed over to the Devon Wildlife Trust, which plans to return them soon to the River Otter. It is awaiting results of tests for a range of other other diseases before re-releasing them.

Devon’s beavers threatened to become another wildlife embarrassment for the coalition, which has come under heavy fire over the hugely controversial badger cull.

Initially the department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra), said the beavers would have to be trapped and kept in captivity because they could be infected with the disease Echinococcus multilocularis (EM), which can be harmful to humans. An outcry followed with many environmentalists and local people calling for the creatures to be left in peace.

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