After numerous walks along the banks of the River Otter since our arrival in Budleigh in February this year we were delighted to finally see and photograph a Beaver going about his business on Tuesday 29th April. We have to thank Chris Townend, www.wisebirding.co.uk , a local birder and wildlife watching guide, for tipping us off that he'd seen a beaver the previous evening. We'd also like to thank 'Dave' from East Budleigh who was watching the said beaver when we arrived on the riverbank that evening. We were lucky that the conditions were perfect for photography, the beaver was beautifully illuminated by the evening sunshine.
The three beavers are European and they were filmed in February this year by Tom Buckley, an environmental scientist. The footage shows them grooming themselves, playing together and gnawing at the base of trees. There is also clear evidence of the presence of wild beavers on the river banks where trees can be seen to have been chewed and cut down. The footage of the beavers has been analysed by Beaver expert Derek Gow who suggested that one of the beavers is an offspring and could be at least two years old and appears to be "fat and healthy". This would be the first time in centuries that European beavers have bred in the wild in England. Beavers were once widespread in the UK but were hunted to extinction in England and Wales for their fur and meat.
It is a mystery where the beavers have come from. Devon Wildlife Trust has been running a Beaver Project since 2011. An adult and female were introduced in north west Devon but these beavers are secure in their compound and are not the source of the beaver family in the River Otter.
Alongside beaver prints otter tracks and spraint have been recorded indicating that they may have been interacting with the wild otters present in the river.
For us and many other interested locals the beavers are a welcome addition to the local environment. Beavers are known as "ecological engineers" creating habitats for a host of other species by building dams and digging burrows and ditches. Their dams slow rivers down, reducing scouring and erosion and improving water quality by holding back silt. Some naturalists have called for the reintroduction of beavers in certain areas to alleviate the problems caused by the recent wet weather and flooding....