The Tayside Beaver Study Group was established in 2012 by the Scottish Government to gather data on and monitor the impacts of Tayside beavers, to identify a variety of means to resolve any conflicts between beavers and land uses in the area and to help inform Ministers’ decisions on the future of beavers in Scotland in 2015.
Advice still available
Although the work of the TBSG has officially concluded, SNH has contracted the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland to provide advice to land owners and managers and private householders on managing beavers and their impacts. Full contact details are available on the contact page.
April 2015 Update, TBSG Final report published
More than 150 beavers living in the River Tay and Earn catchments have been found to be well adapted to living in Scotland; are Eurasian beavers once native to Britain and are free of diseases of concern to humans, domestic animals and other wildlife, according to three reports published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) on behalf of the Tayside Beaver Study Group. Impacts on various land use interests are also documented together with the results of trials of various techniques for managing the effect of beavers, and a series of conclusions on the likely implications if beavers remain in Scotland.
The beavers have been in Tayside since at least 2006, and are thought to originate either from escapes or illegal releases from private collections. They have been found in rivers and lochs stretching from Kinloch Rannoch, Kenmore and Crieff in the west to Forfar, Perth and Bridge of Earn in the east.
In March 2012, Scotland’s Minister for Environment, Stewart Stevenson, opted to allow the Tayside beavers to remain in the wild for the duration of the official trial reintroduction of beavers in Knapdale, Argyll. At his request the Tayside Beaver Study Group was set up to gather information and monitor their impacts on land uses and find out more about how to manage them. The findings, along with those from the Knapdale trial and other research, will help Scottish Ministers decide later this year whether or not to permanently reintroduce beavers to Scotland.
The final report on the work of the Tayside Beaver Study Group shows the beavers are well adapted to living in Scotland. They are successfully producing young and still spreading through the Tayside catchment. The group made an early decision not to repeat ecological studies carried out in Knapdale, but to focus resources on documenting the interactions between the beavers and the wider range of land management interests in Tayside. They found fewer concerns about beavers in less intensively managed areas. The most significant impacts were in areas important for agricultural production, especially in the intensively cultivated arable ground on the flood plain of the lower River Isla where it meets the River Tay. Any beaver dams left in place here could cause the extensive network of drainage ditches to fail, causing flooding and interfering with cultivation of productive land. Beaver burrows in earth flood banks also increased the risk of a breach and flooding of the farm land behind.
A number of methods to protect trees from being gnawed and felled and to reduce water levels behind dams were trialled successfully. The impacts of burrowing in flood banks and regular damming of drainage networks were more challenging to manage. Mitigation of these issues was not possible during the study, but would need to be addressed effectively if beavers were to remain. Of those people experiencing negative impacts, 70% stated a financial cost as a consequence.
A second report on tests on 21 beavers from across the catchment, found they were all healthy and free from any parasites or diseases of concern to humans, domestic animals and other wildlife. This can be found at www.snh.gov.uk by searching for Commissioned Report 681.
Genetic tests on a further sample of 25 beavers, documented in the third report, show them to be Eurasian rather than North American beavers, and of German (most likely Bavarian) origin. They were from three family lines, providing adequate genetic diversity for the short-term. There could, however, be a need for genetic monitoring and management in the future if beavers were fully reintroduced to Scotland. This can be found at www.snh.gov.uk by searching for Commissioned Report 682.
David Bale, Chair of the Tayside Beaver Study Group and SNH’s Area Manager for Tayside & Grampian, said: “These are very useful findings. They show there is no evident risk of diseases being transmitted from the Tayside beavers to other animals, or indeed to humans. The genetic tests tell us that they would be suitable for permanent reintroduction to Scotland, because they are Eurasian rather than North American beavers. They are also varied enough genetically to make a reasonable first step towards a full reintroduction if that was the decision of the Scottish Government.
“Our work documenting the impacts of beavers on land management interests has shown that in many situations, beavers are likely to cause few concerns. But if they were to be permanently reintroduced, efficient, effective and affordable ways of managing and reducing potentially significant impacts on intensively farmed land and other interests would have to be found.
“I am grateful to the members of the Tayside Beaver Study Group for working so well together to produce these reports. They will go to the Scottish Government along with other beaver studies in late May, so the decision on the future of beavers in Scotland is based on the best information available.”
July 2014 update
The health and genetic screening programme is now concluded with a total of 22 beavers having been sampled from sites distributed across Tayside. All trapped animals were successfully re-released back into their territories bar one animal that died on recovery from anaesthetic
Genetic results indicate all beavers sampled are Eurasian (Castor fiber). All were classed as being in good body condition with no abnormalities or signs of disease. Laboratory testing is on-going and full results will be published at the end of the project. Separate documents reporting the health screening and the genetic screening are in progress.
March saw over 30 local Scottish Land and Estates member attend a Beaver Information Session held on a Perthshire Estate. Representatives from Scottish Government, Scottish Natural heritage and Tayside Beaver Study Group were in attendance to answer queries and discuss landowner experiences resulting from beaver activity. It was an opportunity to stress the importance of anyone with beaver activity on their land to document their experiences by completing the TBSG Landowner/manager questionnaire.
It is hoped a similar event with be organised for later in the year to enable NFU Scotland members a similar opportunity to meet and discuss beaver issues with SG, SNH and TBSG representatives.
TBSG will be receiving completed questionnaires up until the end of August 2014. It is vital that we hear from as many Landowners and Managers with beaver activity as possible, this will enable a clear picture of the experiences on the ground in Tayside be that positive or negative. Copies can be requested from the Project Officer.
To gain better information regarding the size of Tayside beaver colonies, lodge productivity surveys have begun on a number lodges and beaver burrows across Tayside. This involves evening watches undertaken by project staff and assistants, of an active beaver lodge or burrow to assess the family composition and number of offspring produced. Any landowners aware of beaver lodges or burrows on their land are encouraged to get in touch with the Project Officer.
Sites of beaver activity, particularly dams, in the vicinity of areas of key importance for salmonids are required to assist the research of the Beaver Salmonid Working Group and an upcoming PhD Project investigating the impacts of beaver activity on migratory fish. Anyone with knowledge of such sites is encouraged to contact the Project officer.
Project Officer: Helen Dickinson 01738 458592 07795608262 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
LAND OWNER/MANAGER QUESTIONNAIRE
Tayside Beaver Study Group is in the process of documenting the experiences of land owners and managers with beaver activity on their land, both positive and negative. We ask that anyone with beaver activity on their land completes a land owner/manager questionnaire. The information collected will be used to inform the Scottish Government of the situations facing land owners and managers resulting from beaver activity.
Please contact the project Officer to obtain a copy of the questionnaire.
Helen Dickinson tel: 01738 458592 mob: 07795608262 email: email@example.com
January 2014 Update
A total of 19 beavers have been sampled as part of the health and genetic screening programme. All trapped animals have been successfully re-released to their territories bar one animal that died on recovery from anaesthetic
Preliminary genetic results indicate all beavers sampled are Eurasian (Castor fiber). All were classed as being in good body condition with no abnormalities or signs of disease. Laboratory testing is on-going and full results will be published at the end of the project.
Beaver trapping and re-release as part of the health and genetic screening programme will continue for a period early this year. Any land owners with beaver activity who would be willing to offer a site to allow trapping and re-release are asked to contact the Project Officer.
TBSG will be collecting land owner/manager questionnaires up to the end of August. TBSG are still extremely keen to hear from more landowners with experience of beaver activity, to enable us to develop a full picture of the situations people are experiencing on the ground. Please contact the Project Officer to obtain a copy of the questionnaire.
Current mitigation trials include tree protection and flow control devices. Tree protection has been effective using chicken wire and stock fencing, with beavers targeting trees with no protection and avoiding all protected trees. Two flow control devices were installed to minimise flooding resulting from beaver dams. One functioned to reduce water levels to avoid flooding of a track, this is no longer required as beavers have moved to an alternative area and are not maintaining the dam. The second device used to lower the water levels of a large pond has been successful and is still draining water but the inlet has become partially blocked with debris. Maintenance will be undertaken and following debris removal water levels are likely to fall.
A Tayside specific study has begun to assess the socio-economic impacts of the Tayside beaver population. This is being undertaken by SRUC and will include detailed surveys with relevant landowners.
Helen Dickinson tel: 01738 458592 mob: 07795608262 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Progress Report October 2013
To date a total of 18 beavers have been sampled as part of the health and genetic screening programme. Ten traps are currently in position. All trapped animals have been successfully re-released to their territories bar one animal that died on recovery from anaesthetic and could not be revived. Detailed independent post mortem results were inconclusive and did not identify a cause of death. A detailed review was also carried out by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland veterinary department which again did not reveal cause of death. No signs were identified as being associated with the capture or health screening procedure.
All beavers sampled have been identified as Eurasian using physical characteristics, however this will be confirmed with genetic analysis. All were classed as being in good body condition with no abnormalities or signs of disease. Laboratory testing is on-going and full results will be published at the end of the project.
Lodge productivity surveys were carried out during the summer period. Of the lodges surveyed where kits were observed, two kits per family group were identified. It is hoped to expand the survey in summer 2014 to include a greater number of lodges and gather further data on the productivity of the Tayside population.
Land owner/manager questionnaires are now in circulation, aimed at documenting the experiences of individuals with beaver activity on their land. Responses have identified key areas for concern as being burrowing into flood defence banks and damming in drainage channels leading to potential flooding of arable land. Response numbers have been low to date and further effort will be directed to increasing uptake.
Current mitigation trials include tree protection and flow control devices. Progress of these methods will be evaluated later this year when a full assessment can be made. Focus on key project areas of mitigation and land owner/manager liaison will be significantly increased on reduction of trapping programme effort.
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