Escaped beaver found in slurry pit
At the time it ranked as one of the great escapes of the animal kingdom. In the dead of night three beavers managed to break out of a farm at Lifton, Devon, and begin a new life on the rampageTwo of the animals were quickly recaptured, but the third was sufficiently wily to outmanoeuvre those pursuing him.
But now, three-and-a-half years later, his life of freedom appears to have ended.
The Linton Beaver, or at least an animal that bears a remarkable likeness to him, has been found in a slurry pit on a farm at Roborough, close to Dartmoor.
In the end it appears to have been less a case of recapturing a fugitive and more one of rescuing an animal in extremis.
It was all a far cry from October, 2008, when the beaver, originally from Bavaria in southern Germany, broke free from the farm where was being kept under licence from Natural England.
He managed to escape because the electric fence keeping him in check had been rendered useless by flooding.
His pursuers initially followed a trail of tooth marks and fallen saplings on the banks of the River Tamar.
Later, they realised he had established a territory about a mile-and-a-half long outside the village of Gunnislake, making him one of the few wild beavers to be at large in England since the 16th century.
Realising he would be keen to find a mate with whom to share his domain, conservationists tried to set a “honey trap” for him by laying six large metal traps laced with the scent of a female beaver.
The ruse failed, with the animal perhaps sensing that his chances of finding another beaver were as remote as the terrain in which he was living.
But still he remained a free, if distinctly solo beaver.
How he found his way to a slurry pit almost 20 miles from the site of his escape remains to be seen.
His rescuers found him dishevelled and rather unhappy with life. Having captured him, they took him to Dartmoor Zoo where staff have painstakingly cleaned him up.
George Hyde, a spokesman for the zoo, said: “He’s about the size of a medium dog and he has been growling at us.
“It is possible it could be one of three beavers that escaped from a farm at Lifton on the Devon-Cornwall border in 2008."
Mr Hyde added: “He’s got a fairly substantial set of teeth he could do some damage with.”
Beavers were hunted to extinction in England and Wales during the 12th century and disappeared from the rest of the UK 400 years later.