Lair of the Beasts: Wild Britain (

By:Nick Redfern
Date: Saturday, May 26, 2012

Although most of the things I investigate are sightings of animals that mainstream science and zoology fail to recognize as having any firm basis in reality – such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and the Chupacabra - I also spend a lot of time researching sightings of creatures seen in places – and even countries – where they simply should not exist. The following is a classic example.

The coypu is a very impressively sized rodent (some might say monster-sized!) that has its origins in South America, and which has since been introduced to North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, primarily by fur ranchers. 

As far as the British Isles are concerned, Coypu were introduced to East Anglia from Argentina, for their fur, in 1929. Many escaped a decade later, however - during one particularly stormy night - from the Carill-Worsley Farm in East Anglia; thus practically ensuring the inevitable establishment of a wild population of the creatures all across the region. 

Indeed, by 1961, none other than the prestigious Time magazine reported that Coypu had overrun a truly astonishing 40,000 acres in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex and was “munching its way inexorably northward.”

And, in 1965, even the British Government got involved in the controversy, as the following December 21 exchange of that year, extracted from the government’s Hansard publication, clearly demonstrates:

“Mr. Hazell asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about the coypu campaign which his Department has undertaken in East Anglia during the past three years.”

The reply was as follows: 

“The campaign, which opened in August 1962, will end on the 31st of this month. The coypu or nutria is a South American aquatic rodent which was introduced into Great Britain about 1930 for fur farming purposes. As a result of escapes from farms coypus established themselves in Norfolk and Suffolk and spread to neighboring counties. 

“It became clear that this animal was capable of causing serious damage to agricultural crops, especially sugar beet and other roots, as well as undermining the banks of rivers and dykes. It was therefore decided to launch a special campaign to bring the coypu under control.

“Coypus have been systematically cleared by working inwards through Norfolk and North Suffolk through the heart of the infestation in the Norfolk Broads. In the more inaccessible areas of the Broads themselves, total eradication is not possible, but even there the coypu population has been reduced to manageable limits. 

“As a result of this campaign, farmers and other occupiers should now be able to deal with the pest as is their responsibility. My Department will advise if individual occupiers need help and rabbit clearance societies will continue to receive grant for work against 425W the coypu. 

“The Joint Parliamentary Secretary will attend a meeting in Norwich on 6th January, 1966 to outline plans for ensuring that the pest does not reestablish itself, and he will convey my thanks to the many organizations which have contributed to the success of the campaign.”

As for the situation today, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has stated that the coypu was successfully, and finally, eradicated in the wild in the British Isles in 1989. Or was it...?

Personally speaking, I have investigated only one, solitary sighting of a wild coypu in the UK that post-dates 1989. Not in Norfolk or Suffolk, but in the county of Staffordshire, and near the village of Alrewas, in the summer of 1992, when a resident of the town of Brighton was visiting friends in the area and saw what she thought were “two fat guinea-pigs running up the road.”

They were not overweight guinea-pigs, however. Attempts by the witness to identify the creatures in question eventually satisfied her that what she had seen was most definitely a pair of mature, fully-grown coypu. 

Perhaps the animal, despite the very best efforts and the assurances of DEFRA, continues to maintain a foothold in Britain and right in the heart of Staffordshire - albeit, I have to strongly suspect a highly precarious foothold at that.

Nick Redfern’s new book, The Pyramids and the Pentagon, is available right now from New Page Books.