Public meeting over Devon’s River Otter wild beavers

A wild beaver, photographed by Ben Lee

A wild beaver, photographed by Ben Lee - Credit: Archant

People are being asked their views about the future of Devon’s first wild beaver population for more than 300 years.

A public meeting is being held to discuss the beavers on Tuesday 19 August at The Institute in Ottery St Mary, close to where the beavers are believed to be living on the River Otter.

The hosts, Devon Wildlife Trust, are inviting people to make their views known from 3pm on the day with a formal public meeting scheduled for 7.30pm that evening.

It is not known where the beavers came from or how long they have been on the Otter, although anecdotal evidence suggests they may have been resident for several years. Nor is it clear how many animals are present. Recent film footage of the beavers’ broadcast on BBC1 shows adults and kits (baby beavers), suggesting that a breeding population has established itself.

In July, Defra announced its intention to catch and remove the beavers, citing the risk of disease and the animals’ potential impact on the landscape as reasons.

However, a growing number of voices have stated that the beavers should remain; saying that beavers were once a part of the English landscape and that they could be again. The beavers’ supporters cite the role the animals could potentially play in flood alleviation, water quality improvement and their positive impacts on other wildlife as reasons for them to stay.

Devon Wildlife Trust’s Steve Hussey urged people to attend the specially convened meeting: “The wild beavers on the River Otter have certainly attracted a lot of attention. We’ve had media interest from as far away as New Zealand and the USA wanting to know what their fate will be. This event is the opportunity for the local community to now make their views known. We need to hear from people whether they think the beavers should remain as part of their local landscape, or whether they think they should be removed.”

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The beaver consultation day will include presentations from beaver experts including Prof Bryony Coles of the University of Exeter. Evidence from beaver trials conducted in other parts of the country will also be on show.

Steve said: “We want the event to be a chance for people to ask questions and to tell us their views. As an independent charity working for the county’s wildlife, Devon Wildlife Trust thinks the beavers should remain but only after it’s been established if they are disease free, and only if the local community wants them there. This event will help us get an answer to the second of these two questions.”

The event is free to attend and there is no need to book in advance. Those unable to attend can still give their opinions using the dedicated email address or by letter to Devon Wildlife Trust, Cricklepit Mill, Exeter, Devon, EX2 4AB.

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