A COMMUNITY consultation has been launched in the Scottish Highlands which could see the first official relase of beavers in the north-west Highlands since the species was driven to extinction 400 years ago. 

Rewilding charity Trees for Life is carrying out the consultation on behalf of four private landowners as well as Forestry and Land Scotland, who all manage land which has a habitat capable of supporting a beaver population.

The charity has long campaigned for the return of beavers in Scotland, advocating for relocation to a suitable habitat over culling when beavers have a detrimental impact on agricultural land.

Trees for Life’s Alan McDonnell said: “Studies show that beavers can bring extensive environmental and economic benefits.

The National: Image Credit: Scotland The Big PictureImage Credit: Scotland The Big Picture

“At the same time, understanding the views of the local community – from other landowners to angling clubs – is a key step in deciding whether to go ahead with any proposed beaver release.

“Like us, the landowners making this proposal really want to hear what people think.”

The results of the six-week consultation, which started running on July 25, will be submitted to the Scottish Government agency NatureScot in September as part of the beaver licence application.

READ MORE: Wildlife charities urging for estuary to be protected

Should the licence be approved, up to three pairs of beavers could be relocated to Glen Affric from lower Tayside before the end of the year.

The releases would be spread out over two to three years, with the Beaver Trust carrying out the translocations, and would take place around Loch Affric and Loch Beinn a’Mheadhain.   

North region environment advisor at Forestry and Land Scotland Joan Cumming said: “Proposals such as this can excite a lot of opinion – supportive, opposed, or somewhere in-between – so it’s important that as broad a range of stakeholders as possible get in touch with Trees for Life to take part in the conversation and make their views known.”

The National: Glen Affric: Image Credit - Scotland The Big PictureGlen Affric: Image Credit - Scotland The Big Picture

Following changes made to its approach to beaver management last year, the Scottish Government now actively supports relocations across Scotland.

NatureScot now also operates a Beaver Mitigation Scheme, which provides advice and funding to landowners and farmers to manage beaver impacts.

Full details of the Affric beaver release proposal can be found on the Trees for Life website.