Page last updated at 15:48 GMT, Saturday, 21 February 2009

Government agency in beaver hunt

Beaver (generic)
Beavers are to be legally introduced in the spring

The hunt for a beaver thought to have escaped or been released illegally has been taken up by a government body.

The Scottish Agricultural Science Agency is trying to find the mammal along with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the beaver had been reported as being on the loose in Fife.

She said a programme to legally introduce the animals in Argyll would involve strict controls and quarantine.

Owner unknown

The rogue beaver came to the attention of the authorities last April when gnawed trees were discovered.

The government spokeswoman said: "The beaver is presumed to have been released or escaped from a private collection in which case the animal is really the responsibility of whoever owns it.

"The Scottish Government has become involved simply because the owner is unknown and it would be poor conservation and animal welfare practice to leave it to its own devices."

Last year, the then environment minister, Mike Russell, announced that the European beaver was to be reintroduced to the wild in Scotland.

He gave the go-ahead for up to four beaver families to be released in Knapdale, Argyll, on a trial basis in spring 2009.

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