NEARLY three-quarters of Scots back further reintroductions of beaver at sites across the country, according to a poll. 

Research conducted by Survation on behalf of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance found that 73% of respondents were in favour of public bodies identifying more sites on their land where beaver could be reintroduced.

After being driven to extinction in Scotland more than 400 years ago, the species was reintroduced via an official programme and illegal releases in the late 2000s.

They were officially reintroduced in 2016 before being granted protection by the Scottish Government in 2019, once again enshrining their place as a native species.

However, campaigners claim that promises to introduce beavers to new areas of Scotland have stalled resulting in two years of inaction.

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“This is overwhelming public support for bringing back beavers to suitable habitat,” said Kevin Cumming, deputy convener of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance.

“Government bodies that manage land on behalf of the public need to listen, and move ahead on reintroducing these key allies in tackling the nature and climate emergencies.”

The presence of beavers can bring enormous benefits to local ecosystems, creating wetlands that benefit other wildlife as well as soaking up carbon, purifying water and reducing flooding.

However, this behaviour can also have an impact on farmland.

As such, the Scottish Government allows for landowners to apply to shoot beavers with an average of 88 being killed annually.

The National: Beaver

In 2021, then biodiversity minister Lorna Slater said the government would support the safe trapping and moving of beavers from locations where they were causing issues for farmers to new habitats in Scotland.

However, just five beaver families have been relocated beyond their current range since early 2022 – all of them within the Cairngorms National Park.

“Cairngorms National Park Authority is showing what can be done, with beavers released at several sites, and plans for more over the next five years,” added Cumming.

“Our other public agencies need to play catch-up with the Cairngorms, and end their own go-slow approach to restoring this biodiversity-boosting, flood-reducing, habitat-creating species,”

The Scottish Government’s nature agency, NatureScot, has identified over 100,000 hectares of ‘beaver core woodland’ across Scotland, where beavers could establish long-term territories, while Scotland’s government bodies manage 10% of public land between them.

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However, the Scottish Rewilding Alliance has said one agency in particular – Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) – needed to step up its game.

Indeed, FLS has yet to back the reintroduction of a single beaver beyond their current range despite managing 640,000 hectares of Scottish land.

Tom Bowser, who reintroduced beavers to his family farm near Doune, said further reintroductions could even save the government money in the long run.

“The beavers have only brought us benefits,” he said.

“Their dams, in what was once a flood-prone part of our farm, have saved us real money in annual track repairs, because we just don’t see floods there anymore.”

The alliance says that lethal control of beavers should only be used as a last resort and also advocates for farmers being paid to have beavers on their land.