16 March 2012

Tay Beaver Watch

Beavers living on the River Tay are to stay and be monitored for at least the next three years, Scotland's Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson announced today.

The Tay beavers will be monitored between now and the end of the Knapdale beaver trial in 2015, when a decision will be made about the future re-introduction of beavers to Scotland as a whole.

The Minister made the decision following a report from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) which outlined three main options:
  • To monitor the population and take a final decision in light of further information from that work and from the licensed trial in Knapdale; 
  • To immediately seek to remove the animals through lethal control; or 
  • To accept that beavers have been re-introduced to Scotland
In reaching his decision Mr Stevenson considered a number of ecological, health, land use, legal and environmental factors, as well as the welfare of the beavers themselves.

Mr Stevenson said:

"There is potential for an important and unwelcome precedent to be set so we must consider environmental and other impacts when we make decisions.

“After careful consideration of all the various factors, my view is that the best way forward is to allow the beavers to remain in place for the duration of the official trial beaver re-introduction in Knapdale in Argyll. We will take a decision on the future of beavers in Scotland – both those in Knapdale and on Tayside – at the end of the trial period in 2015.

“Today I can announce that I am setting up a group, to be chaired by SNH, which will gather information and monitor impacts on other wildlife and land use. This information will help inform the eventual decision-making and develop further our knowledge and understanding of managing beavers. The group will also provide advice and practical help in relation to managing beavers to landowners in the area.”

David Bale, SNH Tayside & Grampian unit manager, said:

"I'm pleased to be asked to chair this local group, which will bring together organisations with differing viewpoints and help resolve any conflicts, as well as gather information on the beavers in Tayside. The information about Tayside beavers, along with comprehensive research from the Scottish Beaver Trail at Knapdale and other sources, should give the Minister a full range of information to make his decision in 2015. We plan to have the group up and running as soon as possible."

Related information

In Tayside, a number of beavers have either escaped or been deliberately released into the wild, an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. SNH estimate there are about 100 beavers living in the wild in the Tay catchment. The repercussions of this offence has required SNH to find additional money to manage the situation.

Monitoring Group will involve key groups such as the Tay District Salmon Fishery Board, and local landowners as well as conservation groups including Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland among others.

There is a licensed and carefully managed beaver re-introduction trial underway at Knapdale in Argyll. This trial is being carried out by the Scottish Beaver Trial (SBT), a consortium of the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. SBT are working with a range of independent specialist organisations to monitor the beavers themselves and their effects, such as on the woodland, loch ecology and public health.

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