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Rewilding fears for farmers and land managers after beaver release

Farmers and land managers with concerns about the effects of rewilding will take little comfort from the publication of a Scottish Government consultation on the reintroduction of beavers to the east of Scotland.

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Rewilding fears for farmers and land managers after beaver release

Of the 533 respondents, most of them individuals, 83 per cent approved of the policy of re-introduction and the mitigation measures proposed.

 

The preamble to the report said analysts were aware of a response template being circulated by the organisation Save the Free Beavers of Tayside but nevertheless the results appeared to show public enthusiasm for rewilding.

 

The beaver population in the Tay catchment, now numbers at least 430 according to Scottish Natural Heritage’s (SNH) latest figures although farmers and land managers consider this to be an underestimate.

 

Although there was already a small officially sanctioned trial at Knapdale in Argyll the Tayside beavers originate from illegal releases a decade ago.

 

SNH has a policy of capturing illegally released species but this was either not pursued or not successful.

 

The release of species without licence remains an offence punishable by up to two years imprisonment and unlimited fine.

 

Faced with a rapidly increasing beaver population from about 2012 onwards the Scottish Government and SNH changed direction completely and in 2017 decided to allow the beavers to remain and increase their range naturally.


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Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: "The reintroduction of the beaver to Scotland is testament to the Scottish Government’s commitment to Scotland’s biodiversity, and it is very encouraging to see the vast majority of respondents to the consultation agree with that decision.

 

“However, we are very aware that the reintroduction has potential impacts, in particular in areas of prime agricultural land, which some groups are understandably concerned about.”

 

The last point will ring true with farmers who have had to deal with collapsed drainage systems and felled trees as a result of beaver activity.

 

The recurring cost of removing dams from blocked watercourses has proved to be considerable.

Tayside beavers

Source: SNH report following a survey by University of Exeter

 

About 430 beavers live in more than 100 active beaver territories.

 

In 2012 numbers were estimated at about 150 beavers in 40 territories.

 

The 2018 survey detected 72 beaver lodges, 339 burrows, and 86 dams or recently removed dams.

Released beavers were first identified in 2008 near Glamis in Angus.

 

They now range from Dunalastair Water in the north to the River Dochart and River Lyon in the west, to Forfar Loch in the east, and down to Loch Earn in the south.

 

There are also now beaver territories within the Forth catchment from Loch Achray in the Trossachs, parts of River Teith and Devon, to the main stem of Forth River near Stirling.

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