The reintroduction of the beaver into Scotland could benefit a host of other wildlife, including many of our waterbirds
FOLLOWING THE TRIAL at Knapdale, near Lochgilphead, Argyll, Scotland, where 11 Beavers were released from May 2009 onwards and monitored until May 2014, the Scottish Government is due to make a decision on whether to add the Beaver to the list of species to be introduced into Scotland, following White-tailed Eagle and also Red Kite. Both those birds have brought a considerable amount of revenue via wildlife tourism, an industry worth £64 million to the Scottish economy. In Mull alone, up to £5 million was brought in by tourists’ intent on seeing its White-tailed Eagles, and Dumfries and Galloway’s ‘Red Kite Trail’ generated £21 million over a 10-year period. Visiting the Knapdale project, what was amazing in the areas of beaver activity was that in most cases, you wouldn’t know they were there, unless you spotted the ‘lodge’. The main tree species preferred as food are Birch, willow, Rowan and Aspen, with coppicing notable in one area showing good regeneration. Thinning was evident along public paths as well as, in one incidence, the creation of a ‘viewpoint’, adding to the visual aspect of the loch. Alder were widespread around many of the lochs with no real evidence of removal helping to make sure the lochs edges were intact and not eroding. Other food consisted of aquatic plants, with water lilies, angelica and iris favourites but, again, there seemed plenty still growing around the areas. Some might think it a shame the beavers do not like felling Sitka Spruce as a food, but that shows that ‘commercial’ trees like these and others are not in the firing line and that the Beavers would not damage a landowner’s commercial woodlands. Out of the three pairs of Beavers present in 2016, two were in natural lochs, with the other having moved to a small lochan, that had once been a larger area of water but was drained by the Forestry Commission in the 1930s for planting trees. The Beavers dammed the area and reproduced the old loch, creating a stand of dead Birch and willow trees, important for many boring beetles. The dam itself, which uses mud, sticks and a large area of rock, has raised the water by two metres above the normal level. They are true ‘eco-system engineers’, with their work helping to store water in years of drought and preventing too much water in times of floods. This also helps to catch sediments, fertilisers and chemicals, protecting breeding areas of Salmon, Brown Trout and other fish, too. When a dam is built, the new stretches of water benefit many other creatures, too. Surveys done as part of the trial have shown many new water beetles entering the areas created, along with many dragonflies and damselflies, not to mention the benefit to waterbirds. The Teal, for example, is a rare breeding duck in many parts of Britain, but evidence shows they like to breed behind new Beaver dams, along with other species such as grebes, Coot and geese; and waders use the new muddy edges that are created. The first young Beavers (kits) were born as early as 2010, showing the location for the trial was well picked, and Knapdale is a now on the tourist trail thanks to the trial, with 80% of local folk wanting the animals to stay as a tourist initiative, and an incredible estimated 2.9 million people having gained from the experience via the web, TV, social media and by visiting the area. All that remains is for the Scottish Government to decide to bring the Beaver back for good – as we enter 2017, we await the decision nervously.
Surveys have shown many new water beetles entering the areas created, along with many dragonflies and damselflies, not to mention the benefit to waterbirds
BENEFITS Reintroducing beavers will provide a boost to all wildlife, including many birds