Scot­tish beavers un­der pres­sure

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Wild News - Kenny Tay­lor

S cot­tish con­ser­va­tion groups are call­ing for ur­gent le­gal pro­tec­tion to be given to the coun­try’s rapidly ex­pand­ing beaver pop­u­la­tion. This fol­lows in­creased re­ports of un­reg­u­lated culling, and the dis­ap­pear­ance of beavers from some ar­eas where they lived sev­eral years ago.

In au­tumn 2018, Scot­tish Nat­u­ral Her­itage pub­lished its most re­cently com­mis­sioned sur­vey of beavers in the catch­ment of the River Tay. Beaver num­bers have roughly tre­bled there since 2012, with more than 400 beavers us­ing 144 ter­ri­to­ries. Some of these are close to the ma­jor ur­ban ar­eas of Stir­ling and Perth, with a few beavers now also in the catch­ment of the River Forth.

Along­side these find­ings, farm­ers’ rep­re­sen­ta­tives have been re­port­ing in­creased im­pacts from beavers, such as flood­ing of fields. “What may be seen as a con­ser­va­tion suc­cess story has to be set against real and sig­nif­i­cant agri­cul­tural dam­age,” says Jon­nie Hall, direc­tor of pol­icy for NFU Scot­land.

But the ben­e­fits of bring­ing beavers back “far out­weigh the dis­ben­e­fits,” says Su­san Davies, direc­tor of con­ser­va­tion for the Scot­tish Wildlife Trust.

“The small pop­u­la­tion re­mains un­der threat from un­reg­u­lated killing. We hope that the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment will now be swift in tak­ing the fi­nal steps through Par­lia­ment to se­cure this much-needed pro­tected sta­tus.”

FIND OUT MORE

Tay­side beaver sur­vey: na­ture.scot/snh-re­search-re­port1013-sur­vey-tay­side-area-beaver­pop­u­la­tion-2017-2018

Beavers died out in Scot­land in the 16th cen­tury. Now rein­tro­duced, the species has started to ex­pand its range.

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