Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Escaped beaver fells river trees

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The beaver is one of three that broke out of the farm

A beaver that has been felling trees after escaping from a farm is being hunted by conservationists.

The beaver is one of three that broke out of the farm in Lifton, Devon, in October, owner Derek Gow said. The other two have since been re-captured.

The last six-stone (38kg) animal is believed to be felling trees up to 20 miles (32km) away on the banks of the River Tamar near Gunnislake, Cornwall.

Mr Gow said he was to use "honey traps" to find the missing animal.

Hunted to extinction

Mr Gow keeps 24 of the animals under licence from government agency Natural England as part of a wildlife photography business.

He said the escaped animal was one of three that got out of Upcott Grange Farm.

It is suspected the electric fence around the beaver pen failed after flooding in the area, Mr Gow added.

He said: "We've checked the fence, we can't find any holes at all.

"We can't think of any other way they might have got out."

The other two, both females, were soon recovered after from a nearby lake, but not before they had felled a number of trees on the River Thrushel.

Upcott Grange Farm beaver. Pic: PA
Derek Gow keeps 24 beavers at Upcott Grange Farm

It is believed the male has travelled further in a bid to find a mate.

Mr Gow said: "I know where he is, but he's occupying a territory of probably a kilometre in length."

Mr Gow said he planned to catch the escapee by using a number of "honey traps", boxes that have the scent of a female beaver.

He said: "We've got traps being made up at the moment.

"Using the scent from one of the female beavers, we'll be able to catch the male beaver fairly quickly."

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

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

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