Are the beavers in Tayside a native species?
The Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) was native in Britain until its extinction around the 16th century. The North American beaver (Castor canadensis) is a separate species not native in Europe or Asia. It is very likely that the Tayside beavers are the Eurasian species. This is being confirmed through a Scottish Government approved trapping and health screening programme with samples being taken for genetic analysis.
Are the Tayside beavers connected with the Scottish Beaver Trial in Argyll?
There is no connection between the Scottish Beaver Trial (SBT) and the Tayside beavers. The SBT is an official reintroduction trial licensed by the Scottish Government and is located in Knapdale, Argyll. The project is run in partnership between the Scottish Wildlife Trust, The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, and hosts Forestry Commission Scotland. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) coordinate the independent scientific monitoring being carried out. The Tayside beavers are not part of any official reintroduction and no licence has been granted to permit beavers to be released into Tayside.
Are beavers legally protected?
Based on legal advice received by SNH, beavers are not currently considered protected in Scotland. It is illegal to possess a dead or live beaver without a licence issued by SNH.
Where did the Tayside beavers come from and how long have they been here?
It is believed that the Tayside beaver population originated as escapees or illegal releases from private collections. SNH and other Agencies have been aware of the free living beavers in Tayside since 2006.
How many beavers are there and where are they living?
A survey undertaken by SNH in 2012 located between 38 and 39 active territories. The numbers of individual beavers is very difficult to estimate as a territory could be a single animal or a family group ranging between 3-5 individuals on average if breeding, with a family consisting of a breeding adult pair, and offspring from the previous 2 years in general. Lodge productivity surveys are being carried out to gain a better understanding of the size of beaver colonies in Tayside. Beavers are known to be present on the Tay, Earn, Isla, Ericht, Dean Water, Baikie Burn and Lunan Burn.
Why have the beavers not been removed?
A decision was taken by Scottish Government in 2012 to monitor the Tayside beaver population until early 2015. The results of this monitoring will be provided to the Minister of Environment to aid the decision as to the future of beavers in Scotland.
What are the options for the future of beavers in Scotland?
Currently it is believed that the range of options that Scottish Government may take when deciding on the future of beavers in Scotland are:
- Removal of all beavers
- Allowing beavers to remain without further interference
- Allowing further reintroductions under strict licensing, to increase the genetic diversity of the population
Do beavers carry many diseases and parasites?
Beavers may carry native diseases similar to other mammals and rodents in the UK such as Leptospirosis. Beavers are very unlikely to cause any increased disease risk to humans, livestock or other wildlife. A trapping and health screening programme will include testing for a range of native and non-native diseases and parasites.
Do beavers carry bovine TB?
Theoretically beavers could carry bovine TB as most mammals can be infected by bTB, but due to their aquatic lifestyle and habitat preferences they are very unlikely to come into close contact with livestock. In addition there have been no reported or confirmed cases of bTB in Eurasian beavers across Europe. The trapping and health screening programme will include testing for bTB.
Are beavers dangerous to the public?
Beavers are wild animals and as with all wild animals, should not be closely approached or handling attempted as their behaviour may be unpredictable. Beavers are shy, nocturnal animals and very unlikely to be dangerous to the public if left undisturbed.
Do beavers impact fish species?
Beaver activities may have both positive and negative impacts on different fish species in Scotland. Beaver dams may act as barriers to migratory species such as salmon and trout and localised siltation upstream of dams may reduce spawning habitat. The SNH-led Beaver-Salmonid Working Group is in place to investigate these concerns. Positive impacts may include an increase in habitat for rearing and overwintering, increase in refuge areas during high and low flow periods and an increase in aquatic invertebrate prey species.
Do beavers eat fish?
No, they are completely herbivorous. Beavers eat woody plants and bark, aquatic plants, grasses and shrubs.
Do beavers impact conifers?
Generally beavers avoid conifers, but occasionally some trees may be felled for building and small branches may be taken for food. Flooded areas as a result of beaver activity may result in tree loss due to waterlogging.
Why do beavers build dams?
Beavers will build dams if they feel they need to raise the water level to suit their needs. This may be to ensure they have enough water around their lodge to safely access through underwater entrances or to increase water access to food resources. Eurasian beavers will only build dams in small water courses.
Why do some people want the beaver to be reintroduced?
Beavers are a native species and some people wish to see them back living in their former range. They have the potential to increase biodiversity in areas where they create new and expanded wetlands. Some of their activities may improve water quality and can in some circumstances minimise impacts from high and low water flows.
How often do beavers breed?
Beavers breed once a year and produce between 1-4 kits. Mating occurs between January and February and kits and born in the lodge between April and June. Kits emerge after approximately 6-8 weeks. Beavers tend to stay with the family group until around 2 years old, when beavers become sexually mature and leave to find their own territory.
What should a landowner do if they suspect beaver activity on their land?
Contact the Tayside Beaver Project Officer 01738 458592/07795608262 or
What should a land owner do if they suspect damage caused by a beaver?
Contact the Project Officer who will arrange a site visit if required, to document any beaver related damage.
Will land owners be compensated for damage caused by beavers?
Due to the Tayside beavers being an unlicensed population there is no compensation process currently in place but the Tayside Beaver Project Officer will be able to offer some advice on measures to deal with the problem.
© Tayside Beaver Study Group 2013, All Rights Reserved