The Scottish Government has announced today (24 November) that the The Eurasian beaver is to be formally recognised as a native species in Scotland, 400 years after being hunted to extinction in the UK.
Measures to bring beavers back to Scotland began over five years ago with a reintroduction scheme, led by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Forestry Commission Scotland in Knapdale, Mid-Argyll.
Returning beavers to Scotland’s lochs and rivers is the first formal mammal reintroduction in UK history and the announcement is likely to be seen as a major success story for conservation.
The scheme involved breeding programmes, the creation of new wetlands to support a wide range of other species such as otters, water voles, fish and dragonflies and the creation of more diverse woodlands through naturally coppicing trees.
“This is a major milestone for Scotland’s wildlife and the wider conservation movement,” said Jonathan Hughes, Chief Executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust. “Beavers are one of the world’s best natural engineers. Their ability to create new wetlands and restore native woodland is remarkable and improves conditions for a wide range of species including dragonflies, otters and fish.”
The National Trust for Scotland also welcomed the announcement. The organisation’s nature conservation advisor, Lindsay Mackinlay commented: “This summer we saw the first evidence of beavers making themselves at home on Trust land and we think this is great news for Scotland’s biodiversity. The example of other European countries shows how beavers can successfully co-exist with a variety of land uses, including farming and forestry.”
He added: “We know that beavers do not always make the best neighbours, so it is important that there are mitigations in place to limit any adverse impacts.”
Scotland is one of the few countries in Europe which does not have a wild beaver population and many nations, including the Netherlands, have reintroduced them in recent years.
Image credit: Steve Gardner