River Otter beavers 'native to UK', tests find

Beavers in the River Otter Image copyright Dave Land
Image caption Beavers have been living on the River Otter, but where they came from is still a mystery

Wild beavers found living on the River Otter in Devon are a species which was once native to the UK, tests have confirmed.

A breeding family was first spotted last year, although it is not known how they came to be there.

DNA results have shown the beavers are Eurasian rather than North American.

Devon Wildlife Trust said the confirmation moved them a step closer to releasing the animals, currently being kept in an artificial lodge.

Natural England has given the green light to a five-year trial to monitor and manage the impact of beavers on the river.

Earlier in March, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed the beavers were free of tapeworm.

Image caption The beavers were found clear of the parasitic disease echinococcus multilocularis

The government initially decided that the animals represented a possible threat to health and the countryside and should be taken in to captivity.

But a licence for them to stay was granted in January, dependent on the adult beavers being found clear of the parasitic disease echinococcus multilocularis.

Beavers were hunted to extinction about 500 years ago for their highly valuable fur and oil, but have survived in captivity.

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