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150 beavers found living in Scotland 'unofficially'

19/12/2012 17:37:23

Beavers have been released in Argyll, but are already present in much larger numbers in Tayside. Photo credit SNH.

Landowners encouraged to report beaver issues

December 2012. A study, run by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), has confirmed that approximately 146 beavers are presently living in the wild in rivers in Tayside. Surveys from May and July 2012, along with long-term observations, found that there are about 40 groups of beavers and seven dams in the Tay catchment. The beavers were found in the Tayside rivers and lochs stretching from Kinloch Rannoch, Kenmore and beyond Crieff in the west, to Forfar, Perth and Bridge of Earn in the East.

The researchers also spoke to farmers, fishermen and ghillies in the area. In response to their concerns about dam building, the report recommends measures such as installing devices to control water flow at problem beaver dams, protecting large and valuable trees next to rivers, and protecting lodges from being washed away to keep beaver construction activities to a minimum.

Official beaver study - Vast cost

The Scottish government issued a license to release a few beavers in Knapdale as part of a trial beaver introduction, at great expense. The cost has reached some £2 million, which seemed ridiculous at the time. Now that they have revealed that there is already a large, and thriving beaver population in Tayside, it makes the £2 million look even more wasteful.

Land use issues
The Tayside Beaver Study Group is encouraging landowners to contact them if they have any issues with beavers on their land.

David Bale, Chair of the Tayside Beaver Study Group, said: "This report is an important starting point for the Tayside Beaver Study Group. For the first time, we have a clear picture of how many beavers there are and how far they have spread. As the beavers are in an area with both farming and fishing, this is a good chance to see how beavers may affect land use.

"We encourage land managers to contact the Tayside Beaver Study Group if they have any issues with the beavers on their land. The group is keen to advise on non-lethal ways of managing problems arising from dams and burrowing in banks, as well as helping protect valuable trees."

Two year study
NFUS representative, Ian Mackintosh, added: "NFUS welcomes this initial report with its indications of the numbers and spread over Tayside. The next two years must be used to provide the study group with evidence as to the lifestyle and habits of the beavers and their relationship to other land uses in the area. It's also important to gather as much detail on the health status of the animals to ascertain if they are harbouring any diseases which might be difficult to control. We must be able to present the Minister with a report based on fact, assisting him in his decision to reintroduce or not. Farmers live in harmony with many species, but if it emerges there are conflicting issues, we must be able to mitigate timeously and without undue bureaucratic burdens."

The Tayside beavers are believed to be escaped pets or even deliberate releases. Photo courtesy Scottish Natural Heritage.

The Tayside beavers are believed to be escaped pets or even deliberate releases. Photo courtesy Scottish Natural Heritage.

Present in Tayside since 2006
The beavers in Tayside have been in the area since at least 2006, and originate either from escapes or deliberate releases from private collections. The Minister for the Environment decided in March this year to allow the Tayside beavers to remain in the wild until the Scottish Government decision on beaver reintroduction in 2015.

Until 2015, the Minister has asked the Tayside Beaver Study Group to monitor and study the Tayside population. The decision on whether to reintroduce beavers to Scotland will be taken by the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Paul Wheelhouse, based on the information gathered from the Knapdale trial, as well as on various studies undertaken by the Tayside Beaver Study Group.

Extinct for 400 years
Native beavers were hunted to extinction in Scotland about 400 years ago. In May 2008, the Scottish Government gave permission to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust for a scientifically monitored, trial reintroduction of European beavers to Knapdale Forest in mid-Argyll, which runs until 2015.

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