A FAMILY of beavers are set to be reintroduced into Loch Lomond, signalling the species return to the iconic loch after hundreds of years of absence.

NatureScot announced that an application by RSPB Scotland to translocate a family of beavers from Tayside to the Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve has been successful.

Last year, Biodiversity Minister Lorna Slater announced that the translocation of beavers would now be permitted after the government faced criticism over how many licences it issued to farmers permitting them to shoot the animals when their dams caused flooding.

A 23-year strategy published by NatureScot in September earmarked more than a quarter of a million acres across Scotland that would be suitable habitat for beavers, suggesting that such relocations will become more common.

However, licences for lethal control are still issued to landowners as a “last resort”.

Preparations are now underway to move the small family group. The beavers will be captured at their current location in Tayside before undergoing a series of health checks.

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They will then be transported to the RSPB Scotland nature reserve for release.

The animals will be closely monitored by staff on the reserve Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management at RSPB Scotland said: “We are incredibly excited to be able to offer a home to these amazing animals.

“The Loch Lomond NNR is an ideal home for beavers with fen, open water and wet woodland habitat for them to explore. Beavers are nature’s wetland creators capable of creating and managing habitats in a way that we could never hope to achieve.

“We are looking forward to seeing the benefits that beavers bring to the wider biodiversity including amphibians, fish and wetland birds as well as our visitors who will hopefully see some of their engineering work over the coming years.”

Under current rules all proposals to move beavers within Scotland require a licence from NatureScot.

Ahead of proposing the move, RSPB Scotland undertook extensive consultation with the local community and held various events informing people about the plans and of the beneficial impacts of beaver on Scotland’s ecology.

Beavers became extinct in Scotland in the 16th century, largely due to overhunting and a loss of wetland habitat.

However, around 20 years ago a small number were released illegally into the River Tay.

Their numbers grew rapidly and after an official reintroduction project in the Knapdale Forest in Argyll was deemed a success, the animals were permitted to stay.

While their presence can have an impact on agricultural land, which can become flooded as a result of their dam-building, they also create wet woodland habitats that benefit a whole range of species, including dragonflies and fish.

Their activity can also reduce the speed of water flow, reducing the risks of flash flooding, and improve water quality, by trapping sediments.