A BEAVER that was part of the first wild breeding group in England for 500 years was found chewing through trees on a stately Somerset estate three miles away - after it fled looking for love.

The romeo rodent, nicknamed Mr Beaver, escaped from the River Otter 'Beaver Trial' catchment area five months ago in the hunt for a partner.

Its quest for companionship saw the runaway beaver travel three miles overland from its Devon sanctuary into neighbouring Somerset.

The owners of impressive Widcombe Grange, in the Blackdown Hills, knew something was up after a large willow tree was felled on the 22-acre estate.

Its trunk had been completely knawed through and, suspecting it was a beaver, the owners called in Devon Wildlife Trust.

Staff tracked Mr Beaver down to a large pond on the estate and he was captured and returned to the River Otter catchment area.

Mr Beaver is part of the groundbreaking five year River Otter trial that is due to end next month.

The successful programme has established seven breeding family groups on the River Otter.

Mr Beaver has now been paired with a single female and experts are confident that is enough to stop it straying again.

Stephen Hussey, of Devon Wildlife Trust, said: "This is the first time in the five year trial we have had one escape.

"It had moved from the River Otter for about three miles overland into Somerset.

"Because it was part of the the River Otter trial it meant we needed to collect it and return it.

"We were informed by the landowner whose land it set up home on. It was in a pond so we put out a humane trap and baited it with apples. "Very quickly the beaver was caught and we very carefully removed it and took it back to the River Otter.

"We have now put it into another pond alongside a single female and that is where it stayed. They have now been paired together."

Mr Hussey said because of his new female companion they did expect the beaver to go missing again.

He added: "Beavers are highly territorial. It may have moved into areas that were already established and did not want to hang around or it may have been looking for a partner.

"Checks since show both beavers are now happy with each other."

Mr Hussey said they now have at least seven family groups, consisting of breeding pairs, and around 13 territories up and down the River Otter.

The five year trial is due to end next month before the evidence is gathered together and presented.

The government will then make a decision on the future of the beavers.

MFL - Talk with the owners of Widcombe Grange.