Beavers bring benefits for other wildlife (credit SNH)

Beaver numbers increase across Tayside

Beaver numbers across Tayside have increased in the past six years, according to a new survey commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and carried out by the University of Exeter.

The report estimates that around 430 beavers live in over 100 active beaver territories. A 2012 survey estimated beaver numbers across the region at about 150 beavers in 40 territories.

Nick Halfhide, SNH’s Director of Sustainable Growth, said, “By building dams, beavers improve local water quality and help nurture other wildlife, and it’s wonderful that people now have a chance to see these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.

“But in some parts of Scotland, beavers can cause problems, particularly in areas with prime agricultural land. So we are developing a mitigation scheme – with input from a range of interest groups such as NFU Scotland through the Scottish Beaver Forum – to develop and trial techniques to help deal with any problems they encounter.”

SNH provide farmers with free, expert advice, as well as practical, on-the-ground solutions. These include techniques used across Europe, such as deterrent fencing, tree guards, piped dams, culvert and flood bank protection, as well as trialling new methods.
The survey detected 72 beaver lodges, 339 burrows, and 86 dams or recently removed dams. Beavers create lodges by burrowing into banks where they dig several chambers and entrances.

Beavers range from as far north as Dunalastair Water, extend out to the River Dochart and River Lyon in the west, over to Forfar Loch in the east, and down to Loch Earn in the south. Beavers are also spreading beyond Tayside. There are a small number of 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.

Professor Richard Brazier, from the University of Exeter, said, “This survey provides a comprehensive understanding of the current extent of beaver activity across Tayside and neighbouring catchments and expansion in beaver territories since 2012. Our survey data and subsequent analysis provides a wealth of information into how free-living beaver populations expand across, and utilise resources within Scottish catchments. This information has wide ranging value for informing policy and management strategies surrounding beaver reintroduction across Scotland and beyond, maximising our ability to manage the conflicts and maximise the benefits associated with beavers.”

For the full report, see www.nature.scot/snh-research-report-1013-survey-tayside-area-beaver-population-2017-2018

Date: 12 October 2018

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