Friday 27 May 2016

Beavers released into Devon river in bid to boost gene pool

Male and female set free as part of five-year trial to monitor the impact of England’s only wild population of the mammals

Press Association
Thursday 26 May 201606.01 BST

A new pair of beavers has been released into a river in Devon to boost the genetic diversity of England’s only wild population of the mammals.

The male and female were set free on the river Otter as part of a five-year trial monitoring the impact of Eurasian beavers, a species hunted to extinction hundreds of years ago in the UK, on the surrounding landscape, wildlife and economy.

Beavers have been living wild on the river Otter for up to a decade but faced being re-homed in captivity after evidence emerged that they were successfully breeding.

Plans for a monitoring trial were put forward by Devon Wildlife Trust, with the backing of local people, and were given the green light by government agency Natural England, subject to the adults being temporarily captured for disease testing.

Genetic screening of the captured adults - which were re-released last year – revealed they were all closely related, and a decision was taken to introduce a new pair to increase the gene pool and boost the number of breeding animals.

Devon Wildlife Trust’s Peter Burgess said the results had shown it was likely there was one mother potentially breeding with her offspring.

There were also concerns that with just two breeding pairs, if one or more of the females died, there would be a declining population.

For the release the new beavers, both around two years old, were carried in separate crates through a boggy field down to the riverbank, where the team of wildlife experts had constructed two lodges for them in a quiet spot under willow trees.

The crates were pushed up against the entrance to the lodges and the beavers were moved in with a bit of encouragement, before the team sealed up the manmade homes and retreated to watch what was going on inside via infrared cameras.

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