NatureScot (formerly Scottish Natural Heritage) together with the University of Exeter will start a new survey of beavers in Scotland on October 1st. The survey will map the distribution of active territories and assess the health of the population. The survey will cover the River Tay and adjoining catchments such as the Forth and rivers entering Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. The general public are being asked to help and can record sightings and field signs of beavers on the smart phone Mammal Mapper app from the Mammal Society (also see The Scotsman).
A recent paper published in Ecological Applications by Emily Fairfax and Andrew Whittle provides evidence that wetlands and diverse riparian corridors created by beavers can resist fire and protect wildlife. Ben Goldfard has reported on this work in an article for National Geographic. This is another example of the benefits of the activities of beavers and is particular relevant with respect to the wildfires ravaging USA at the moment.
Must read book “Bringing Back the Beaver: The Story of One Man’s Quest to Rewild Britain’s Waterways” by Derek Gow – now published
About this book, NHBS says, “Bringing Back the Beaver is farmer-turned-ecologist Derek Gow’s inspirational and often riotously funny firsthand account of how the movement to rewild the British landscape with beavers has become the single most dramatic and subversive nature conservation act of the modern era. Since the early 1990s – in the face of outright opposition from government, landowning elites and even some conservation professionals – Gow has imported, quarantined and assisted the reestablishment of beavers in waterways across England and Scotland. In addition to detailing the ups and downs of rewilding beavers, Bringing Back the Beaver makes a passionate case as to why the return of one of nature’s great problem solvers will be critical as part of a sustainable fix for flooding and future drought, whilst ensuring the creation of essential lifescapes that enable the broadest possible spectrum of Britain’s wildlife to thrive.” (https://www.nhbs.com/bringing-back-the-beaver-book, accessed 16th Sptember 2020)
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has said that an application by Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust to release the beavers into an enclosure built by the side of the River Dyfi owned by the Trust should provisionally be approved. The plan is to release up to six beavers into an enclosure at Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve, near Machynlleth. This has gone out for public consultation, due to close on 11th October, before a final decision is made (Powys County Times).
After consulting with 39 organisations ranging from farming and forestry represntatives to conservation groups, The Beaver Trust has written to Government ministers proposing a national beaver strategy for England. The strategy involves a national framework for licenses, releases, protection and management. Not all organisations support the proposals, but all agree to be involved in future discussions. (Independent, Belfast Telegraph, Kentonline, BBC)
A landmark decision by the Government announced today is that the colony of wild beavers living on the River Otter in Devon, SW England will be allowed to stay. This is the culmination of a 5 years reintroduction study on the River Otter run by Devon Wildlife Trust with the help of many scientists and other organisations. The trial has been described as a great success, and today’s announcement has been widely publicised in the press (BBC, The Guardian, Huffington Post, The Times, The Independent, Evening Standard, Mail Online, The Telegraph).
There is general concern about a high level of culling of beavers on the River Tay with numbers of around 100 being mentioned in the press (e.g. The Ferret). Official numbers killed under licence in 2019 are to be published by Scottish Natural Heritage soon. As a rule, licences for lethal control would only be granted as a last resort and other forms of management should be applied first, including translocation of problem beavers to other areas (also BBC News, The Courier).
The Cornwall Beaver Project at Woodland Valley Farm, managed by farm owner Chris Jones and Cornwall Wildlife Trust, is currently featured on BBC Springwatch. The first of several vists to the project, hosted by Gillian Burke, took place in the programme aired on 26th May 2020, with others to follow. All details can be found on the programme’s website.
It has been reported that large numbers of beavers (maybe up to 100) were legally killed by landowners and farmers in Tayside, Scotland last year (The Ferret, BirdGuides), most between August and December. Beavers were given legal protection in Scotland on May 1st 2019, and now a licence must be obtained to control them. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is due to publish 2019 figures in the near future. Landowners and farmers blame beavers for crop damage and flooding. Culling beavers should always be a last report.
Both the Beaver Trust has written to the Government asking that they make a timely decision on restoring beavers to the English countryside. The letter has been countersigned by more than 60 organisations, estates, experts and campaigners. The Wildlife Trusts have also written to the Government calling for a Beaver Strategy for England. A decision was originally due in March at the completion of the 5 year River Otter Beaver Trial (ROBT); the Trial was extended until August with the decision to be made at that time. However, as a result of the current coronavirus pandemic, there is a possibility that George Eustace, the Environment Minister, and others in the Government will defer making a pronouncement until next year. The letter from The Beaver Trust asks the Government two questions:
- “Will you commit to making policy decisions this year on producing a pragmatic and ambitious strategy for beaver reintroduction in England?”
- “Will you ensure there is no moratorium on the current, effective system of beaver licensing and to expedite applications if they are reasonable and competent?”
Together with beaver licencing, there appears an urgent need to put into place a national management framework along the lines of the River Otter – Beaver Management Strategy, which was drawn up using information from ROBT’s detailed 5 year Science and Evidence Report. (Also see ITV News, Yorkshire Post.)