Re­turn of the wild

Country Walking Magazine (UK) - - Discover -

Al­most 400 years since Bri­tain’s last beaver was shot in Scot­land, this iron-toothed ro­dent was rein­tro­duced to Ar­gyll’s Knap­dale For­est in 2009. Hunted for fur, ca­s­toreum, and food – the Catholic church de­creed it a fish so it was fair play for Fri­day meals – it was also vil­i­fied for the de­struc­tion it looked to be wreak­ing on the land­scape. Walk at its new home, at the neigh­bour­ing wa­ters of Dubh Loch and Loch Coille-Bharr, and you’ll see its work in the gnawedthrough trunks, stripped branches, saw­dust along the shore, and dams and lodges, but it’s pos­i­tive. Their wood-gath­er­ing cop­pices the trees to en­cour­age new growth and the dams cre­ate wet­land habi­tats that other species like ot­ters and wa­ter voles en­joy. Shy by na­ture, and able to sub­merge for up to 15 min­utes, you’ll need luck and pa­tience to spot one of these Eurasian beavers, but the for­est-fringed lochs are mighty scenic any­way. Your best chance is at dusk or dawn; lis­ten out for a splash or tell­tale gnaw­ing. Other suc­cess­ful wildlife re­turns to Scot­land in­clude the white-tailed ea­gles on Mull, where Bri­tain’s largest bird spreads its eight-foot wings to wheel over the is­land, and there’s talk too of bring­ing lynx and wolves back to the High­lands, as the role these top preda­tors play in the ecosys­tem be­comes ap­par­ent. WALK HERE: Trail leaflet at www.scot­tish­beavers.org.uk

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