'First' sighting of wild beavers in England for centuries

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Media captionA group of beavers have been seen in the English countryside in what is thought to be the first sighting of its kind in hundreds of years

A family of wild beavers has been seen in the English countryside in what is thought to be the first sighting of its kind in centuries.

Three beavers have been filmed together on the River Otter in Devon.

Landowner David Lawrence is mystified about where the animals have come from.

A spokesman for the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs said it was unlawful to release beavers in England and they were looking into what action to take.

Farmer 'quite happy'

A lone beaver was spotted on Mr Lawrence's farm in January and last July a woman claimed she saw a beaver on the River Otter.

But this is the first time anyone has reported a group of the animals on the river.

Environmentalist Tom Buckley filmed the beavers gnawing trees, grooming themselves and playing on the riverbank.

Steve Hussey from the Devon Wildlife Trust, said there was evidence that otters and beavers were sharing a waterway, for the first time in two or three hundred years.

"But this is not necessarily the way to go about having beavers reintroduced into the English countryside," he said.

"It would be better if it was done in a planned way, but now they are here we need to take a close look at the impact they have."

Mr Lawrence thinks the beavers could help reduce flooding on his land and improve water quality.

"We are quite happy for them to be here," he said.

"At some point we might have to go in and clear up some of the wood because it could wash on down to Tipton and cause a flooding problem down there."

Beavers were hunted to extinction in England and Wales during the 12th Century and disappeared from the rest of the UK 400 years later.

They were trapped for their fur and throat glands, which were believed to have medicinal properties.

Elsewhere in the county, two beavers have been kept in a secure and secret location in west Devon as part of a three-year experiment by the Devon Wildlife Trust to see if the animals can help restore wetland areas.

The pair are believed to have been to have been breeding after one kit was filmed last August.

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