Bring back beavers to boost biodiversity

Wednesday 18 June 2014

European beaver Castor fiber, adult foraging in grass, Blairgowrie, Perthshire

RSPB Scotland has expressed its support for further managed reintroductions of beavers following the conclusion of the Scottish Beaver Trial, run by Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, in Knapdale Forest

The wildlife conservation charity is urging the Scottish government to pave the way for further releases to see the species established in suitable areas of the Scottish countryside. 

Ministers are due to determine the fate of beavers in Scotland, at which point they will decide whether to allow further licensed reintroductions, allow the present beavers to remain but allow no further reintroductions, or remove all beavers from Scotland.

A recent YouGov poll commissioned by Scottish Beaver Trial partners suggests the public would like to see beavers back in the countryside with 60 per cent of respondents backing the reintroductions.

Once widespread throughout Britain, beavers became extinct in the 16th century, primarily due to hunting for their pelts, meat and perceived medicinal properties.

Considered a ‘keystone’ species in forest, river and loch-side environments, beavers can have a significant and positive impact on ecosystem health and function. As strict herbivores, they consume a diet of aquatic plants, grasses and shrubs during the summer months and woody plants over winter.

In woodland environments, beavers help to stimulate new growth by coppicing trees and opening up the forest structure. This can help boost the biodiversity of an area and benefit other species including otters, water shrews, water voles, birds, invertebrates including dragonflies and breeding fish.

In addition to improving the range of plants and animals found in a local area, the reintroduction of the beaver may also benefit rural economies with increased wildlife interest for ecotourism as has happened on the Isle of Mull following reintroductions of white-tailed sea eagles.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management at RSPB Scotland, said: Beavers are incredible mammals which have an important role to play in our countryside.  Thanks to the excellent work of the Scottish Beaver Trial we now have a comprehensive understanding of how beavers can thrive in Scottish ecosystems and there is no reason why this cannot be repeated in other areas of Scotland.

RSPB Scotland would like to play a role in bringing beavers back across Scotland, including on our reserves, and we are keen to work with other stakeholders to explore where and how this can be done. We urge the Scottish Government to make way for further projects to bring this remarkable species back to our countryside.”

Last Updated: Monday 3 July 2017

Tagged with: Country: Scotland Topic: Conservation Topic: The RSPB's positions Topic: Wildlife