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The beaver's reintroduction to the UK: what do you think?

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 12:06 UK time, Monday, 30 May 2011

Guest blogger: The Springwatch Adventure Team Producer Richard Taylor-Jones asks what you think about the reintroduction of beavers to the UK.

Beavers are once again living wild in the British Isles. It's an idea I've heard talked about pretty much ever since I've worked in wildlife television. But it's never come to pass, until now.

Beaver swimming through reeds reflected in water copyright Scottish Wildlife Trust

Beaver and reeds © Scottish Wildlife Trust

To be in Knapdale, filming them for Springwatch, is an incredibly exciting prospect. Yet in the back of my mind I know that this reintroduction of beavers onto four remote Scottish lochs by the Scottish Beaver Trial is only the beginning of a very long road if we are to see beavers back right across the British Isles.

Beaver and kit

Beaver and kit © Scottish Wildlife Trust

Their presence here may only be temporary. The trial could conclude that re-introducing these animals simply won't work. It's designed to look at a whole range of issues from whether beavers are capable of surviving here and creating a sustainable population to how they will impact on fish stocks and water tables.

There are some very loud and vociferous opponents to the trial, just as there are supporters. All will have their say over the five years the beavers are being studied. What we hope to do on Springwatch 2011 is reacquaint the British nation with this animal, one that has been absent from our ecosystem for 400 years.

We want to show viewers just what makes beavers tick along with what they will do to the landscape they've been put in. We will touch on the debates surrounding their re-introduction too. I hope by the end of our time here we will all have a better idea of what the trial is setting out to achieve and be able to form an opinion about whether beavers belong in modern Britain.

Beaver on the bank copyright Scottish Wildlife Trust

Beaver on the bank © Scottish Wildlife Trust

I'm fascinated to know what you, the viewers, think about this species' return to our shores and would love to hear your thoughts.

Watch Richard and Charlie Hamilton James's first report from Knapdale on BBC Two at 8pm, Monday 30 May

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    It is a subject which has had me pondering, very certainly from the first.
    If it took away land from an area lived in or owned with no compensation would the owners be quite put out, however, does the project have/has it had something in place to allow for this? Does it truly need to give more than it already has? With such beauty, could any previous owner really say they’ve missed out, or is the “loss of prior use, etc.” of an assumedly relatively small area of land (in relation to the whole of the United Kingdom) a travesty, causing unknown or untold misery to those concerned? Or is it categorically not all that bad/good, with the universal approval and gratifying satisfaction of those land owners aforementioned?
    Could it be a hot spot for trail and tourist or visitor wishing to see the newly created nature’s habitat with its creatures delights? Would it become a site of such specific interest as to render it a no-go area, keeping it as a human-free place as might be in the best interests of the project and moreover reintroduced beavers themselves? Could it become an area also dedicated to webcam if off limits to the public?
    “What damage to the surrounding woodlands would happen?” was something wondered until an article written by one team member clarified the benefit - best left to the programme to re-explain rather than this blogger’s bodged blogging attempt. And the waterway itself, how would it greatly enhance or impinge the nature within and around?
    Why did they become wiped out (or almost?) in Britain and do we need them (are they destructive?), or conversely what would we do without them (are they to nature’s and therefore mankind’s enrichment?). Does one love, does one loathe? Or is it most beneficial to reserve judgement?
    The project has five years to sort out the greatest possible scenario for everyone concerned. Here’s all the best.

  • Comment number 2.

    Fantastic project.Beavers are keystones in nature. Welcoming animals that become extinct because men persecution, it seems right.

  • Comment number 3.

    Do beavers recognise national boundaries?

  • Comment number 4.

    If you want some more information about the beaver trial go on their website http://www.scottishbeavers.org.uk/ It's extremely useful, I used it a lot for my work at uni. They try to answer all sorts of questions- they even have pie charts on where they get their funding from and how they're spending it. I think the trial has been planned well enough that whatever their decision is at the end, it will probably be the right one (although I am hoping it does work!)

  • Comment number 5.

    Its so funny that the BBC will show these Beavers and big them up. Yet they wont tell you that its cost over 3 million pounds to do this trial, with Beavers that have been proven to suffer from inbreeding. Plus they have had Beavers in Scotland now for over ten years, breeding Beavers that have produced young well before the trial was set up. And they all knew they were there, instead of using them for the trial, they have decided to to catch all these Beavers up and destroy them. They have only caught one so far, that was housed at Edinburgh Zoo. This was a young Scottish Beaver born in the wilds of Scotland that has since died while being looked after by the Zoo. Died because it was taken from its parents at a young age.
    They say they wont to see the effects on the fish, then why have a trial on Lochs that are stocked every year by the local fishing club? What data are they looking for that is not all ready been done.
    Then we come to the managing of the trial? who is in charge of the trial? Where is the young lady who showed Gorden around when you lot last came up? In fact why don't we get that sorted out before we even show the Beavers on the TV. Because from what I am hearing from Knapdale is shocking treatment of a Young lady who had found her dream job. So why not ask them were she is.....

  • Comment number 6.

    I am fully in favour of a complete re-introduction of the Beaver. They are such an important component of any ecosystem, which would naturally have them, because they have such an effect on the landscape and drainage patterns. Our river systems cannot be said to be natural without them.

    However, I fully understand why there is such vociferous opposition to their re-introduction, even if I totally disagree with it. The way Beavers modify the landscape and river systems, is not at all to the liking of people that exploit and manage landscapes for their own ends, because Beavers march to a very different tune than they do. Habitats with Beavers tend to have much more of a habitat mosaic and they tend to more biodiverse. But this annoys people who manage landscapes for their own ends, as they have put a lot of effort into getting rid of annoying habitat diversity, pesky bits of the biodiversity they don't like, and making it how they want it to be.

    We accept some things like the weather as inevitable. Yet we constantly interfere with other parts of the environment, to make it how we want. We are not really very good at this, and most of our ideas and interference is subsequently found to have unwanted side effects, which we had never thought about or envisaged. Unfortunately, we tend to bury our heads in the sand, and rather be in denail about the incompetence of our land management skills. What we need is to rethink how we interact and relate to the environment, and to start putting more emphasis on working with it, as opposed to endlessly trying to control it, and making rather a hash of the job. Beavers are much better land managers than we will ever be.

  • Comment number 7.

    There are two big question about beaver reintroduction in the UK.
    1- Why has it taken so long?
    2. Why are the doubters so opposed to being proved wrong by the trials?

    Bringing beavers back to the British landscape is a huge step forward for the biodiversity of the British isles and will no doubt prove to be a huge success. Ten years from now we will be wondering what all the fuss was about.

  • Comment number 8.

    What did the beaver say when his home fell down????

    DAM IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ...

  • Comment number 9.

    Why re-introduce a species to the likely detriment of the existing fauna/flora and landscape. Fish habitat is precious and many programmes are in place to improve habitat and access to spawning areas, removing weirs, adding fish passes etc. Beavers may ruin such work, and for what reason? See the Tweed Foundation reports by Dr Ronald Campbell on http://news.rivertweed.org.uk/blog/_archives/2009/2/5/4082175.html
    JT

  • Comment number 10.

    I think the main point that a lot of people are missing is the word 'Re-introduction'. It isn't as if we are putting in something that doesn't belong.

  • Comment number 11.

    I agree with Gordon Buchanan who said in this week's Radio Times of beavers and wolves: 'We need these animals back to help restore the natural balance. Then we can get our wild landscape back to being truly wild and managing itself.' This is exactly my view!

  • Comment number 12.

    I use to live in a village called Invergowrie near Dundee for 11years and have recently moved to Bournemouth.
    In the village runs a small stream through it and around a year and a half ago while doing early morning papers and passing this stream i saw to my amazement a Lone Beaver i do have a hazy photo of it and other people have seen it.
    Its def living there as i saw it on four ocassions and other people in the village have seen it.
    What are the teams views?,i think its great one is living there.
    David Leckie

  • Comment number 13.

    I agree with the introduction as it will enrich our wilder landscape. However it will pose many questions for those who manage the landscape.

  • Comment number 14.

    Many people are arguing that as this is a "Re-introduction" the beavers will have no adverse effect, however they have been extinct here for 400 years. If you need that putting into perspective for you, that means there have been no beavers here since the Tudors. In that time, the eco-system will have altered to accomodate this change, and re-introducing the beavers can only have an adverse effect.
    Plus I have seen the damage they do first hand. They have completely flooded a footpath and the surrounding area so that it is completely unusable, and I doubt that many farmers fancy that happening to their fields. Contrary to rumour and heresay that I have heard recently it is not just sapplings that they gnaw through. I have seen tree trunks at least a foot thick gnawed through.

  • Comment number 15.

    I think it is an excellent idea to re-introduce the Beavers. They will bring in a lot more wildlife and plants to the area, and make these areas a lot more natural than man can. They save a lot of man hours with the work they do. As they do not kill the trees they chop, down but encourage regrowth again they are saving a lot of work for us.
    I truly hope the trail is a great success and can continue without any further problems. The results will be very interesting.
    I do think there should be some caution as to how many Beavers are allowed to be released. I'm not sure if they have any natural predators. Although it is lovely to see Beavers we do need to remember that there will always be competition for land and if too many are introduced this could cause a lot of problems with other land owners.

  • Comment number 16.

    Re-introduction surely has to be all or nothing. No use re-introducing a large herbivore if you don't also bring back the animals who prey on it / them. You can't pick & choose which components of the ecosystem suit you.

  • Comment number 17.

    I worry about the affect we have on our natural surroundings. I am aware that we have been managing nature on this island for over three thousand years, one way or another. But apart from the big changes to our land at the end of the neolithic period caused by deforestation, until the industrial revolution we hardly altered anything on an epic scale. We seem now to think that we can mend what wrongs we have done by reintroducing old species that now don't really have a place anymore. The ecosystem has altered and nature is out of balance. Apart from what we already manage, I feel we should work as conservationists in a very passive way and try to help nature heal itself by not meddling too much. We don't know everything, and we should tread cautiously. A trial is a good idea on a very small scale over a long period, a very long period, and I don't think the will is there to carry that cost over generations. People in government and people who run large nature organisations don't have the political stamina or will to carry the cost of experiments for a long enough period to truly assess what a reintroduction will mean.

  • Comment number 18.

    I think re-introducing the beaver is a fantastic and exciting step towards us reinstating the wilderness to our beautiful country; a heritage which is rightfully ours and which we should be proud to fight for. The beavers have as much right to be here as we do, as do wolves and sea eagles. Just because it's not as convenient to us as it might have been 400 years ago doesn't make it wrong. You can't talk about the possible damage a species that belongs here could possibly do to the environment and yet overlook the amount of damage we ourselves have done to create these problems in the first place. If people want to start deciding a species fate (a native species) based on their impact then maybe they should start looking a little closer to home before pointing the finger...besides we aren't just throwing them out there and leaving them to it. They're being monitored, the situation is being looked at very carefully. And I say well done and thank you to all the people who are working so hard on such a wonderful project...and good luck to frank and his fellow beavers...hurrah! :)

  • Comment number 19.

    I don't doubt that the beaver has a right to be here. I just worry that the environment has altered too much to support them any more on this island. We can't risk a large trial and a small scale trial would have to be run for years and years to truly see the long term effects. Whose going to pay for that? I admire the work that is being carried out now by the people at Knapdale and the study can only provide valuable data - but will it be enough to prove anything beyond doubt? Can we really "roll out" the beavers on the basis of one relatively short experiment?

  • Comment number 20.

    It's worth pointing out the disclaimer from the Tweed foundations website regarding their rather misleading 'facts' on Beavers. This is taken directly from their website -

    Whilst this paper has been prepared by The Tweed Foundation on the basis of information that it believes is accurate, any party seeking to implement or otherwise act on any part or parts of this paper is recommended to obtain specialist advice. The Tweed Foundation does not accept responsibility under any circumstances for the actions or omissions of other parties occasioned by their reading of this paper. -

    You will find this in a tiny font at the foot of the pop up window if you press the 'more' option. Lets you know just how confident they are about what they claim.

  • Comment number 21.

    Beavers have been reintroduced to almost all European countries, including Bavaria, Denmark and the Netherlands - places where human landuse is intensive. They have been in Bavaria since the 1960s and are now present there in large numbers, in places such as agricultural ditches at the edges of large arable fields. Their presence calls for a certain amount of management but it is all perfectly do-able. The idea that Scotland would somehow be unable to accommodate the return of the beaver is very surprising. Why ever not? There is already a lot of suitable habitat. Beavers do not reduce woodland as their cutting causes abundant coppice regrowth. (They sometimes even "plant" willow in their dams and lodges!) And indeed, the 100 or so beavers that live and breed in the Tay catchment have not so far caused any insuperable problems. They too will need some management as numbers grow but it can all be done. The benefits they bring by way of water purification, flood and drought management and increased biodiversity including salmonids are well researched and papers on these topics litter the internet. (Ronald Campbell's view is out of line with almost all fisheries biologists and is based on an assumption that beaver dams block rivers like concrete dams). The benefits beavers bring can be worth millions of pounds. In USA beavers have been reintroduced to many river systems to solve problems - flooding, fish stocks etc etc. The trial at Knapdale is designed to alleviate the worries of stakeholders and is being very thoroughly monitored. It would be great if the research could extend to the catchment of the Tay so that more concerns can be laid to rest.

  • Comment number 22.

    At last we are making positive steps to rebuild our biodiversity in Britain. After centuries of hideous destruction of our natural capital we are witnessing what I hope will be a major effort to restore natural processes and ecosytem health. As a key-stone species the beaver and its activities have a positive effect on the abundance and survival of other wildlife. Their dams filter water and provide breeding areas for fish and insects, they coppice trees and create a wonderful mosiac of habitat, and they create wetlands which are in short supply. They are a missing part of our ecosytems and well done to those who have brought them back!
    As for their impact on salmon - surely atlantic salmon and beavers have co-existed quite happily for millions of years in Norway? The few oponents of this pioneering project should take a balanced view of the matter and embrace the retsoration of ecosytem health.

  • Comment number 23.

    Loved watching the first reports ...think it is a wonderful idea to reintroduce the beaver ...surely, by doing it in this way, closely monitoring their health, behaviour and impact on the environment is the right approach? I think that too many landowners are purely business and money orientated ...not enough of them actually value the countryside/habitats and what it can offer those of us less financial endowed ...our emotional health and wellbeing can only be enhanced by a glimpse of these hard working creatures ...as it is by all the wonders we take pleasure from whilst out in the countryside...I only hope that I manage to see them in the wild one day

  • Comment number 24.

    I think that the beaver Trial is a good thing, it is good to try and reintroduce native species into Britain. I think the Scottish Zooalogical Society and the Scottish Wildlife Trust are going about things the rightway, introducing Beavers under government licence so it is regulated. Everyone can have their say and a consensus can be formed. Hopefully the reintroduction will be a success.
    I have seen a post about the Tay catchment reintroduction, I would call this way unacceptable. Where have these Beavers come from, presumably taken illeagily from the wild in a foriegn country. How are they being monitored to see the affects on the Beavers themselves and the wider environment, they are not.
    With the Tay project we are in danger of repeating past mistakes that have introduced alein species like the Mink, japanese notweed, and himalayan balsam.
    I think the people that have carried this unauthorised release around the Tay should be prosecuted.

  • Comment number 25.

    its about time we thought about giving other spices a chance and not bow to the shooting fraternity.

  • Comment number 26.

    reintroduction of the beaver is a good thing loveley to watch lets hope it all goes well surely wev,e got enough countryside to go round

  • Comment number 27.

    Why set up a trial and then maybe re-introduce a species when that species already got re-introduced over a decade ago? It shows that the free beavers have gone unnoticed for a long time to most people, and all "official" organisations.
    Knapdale is just too little too late, and there are better sites available in Scotland where the beavers are actively being studied.
    http://scottishwildbeavers.org/

  • Comment number 28.

    I am neither for nor against Beaver reintroduction and am keeping an open mind. However, in the same way that I would not promote an untested product to the public at large, I feel this trial should be left to the local community and the scientists to decide whether it has worked. By showcasing the trial on Springwatch I feel it is too emotive as children watch Springwatch and should the Beavers have to be culled(?) at the end of the trial it is going to upset a lot of viewers.

  • Comment number 29.

    I hope the reintroduction of the beavers does not cause the problems they have in southern Patagonia. The devastation they have caused makes the former woodland areas look like something from a sci fi movie with all the white dead trees. Because the beavers have no predators they have grown to enormous sizes too.

  • Comment number 30.

    Did you know that the first reintroduction of beavers into Wales is going to be happening just down the road from Ynys-hir where Springwatch is being filmed?

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2011/03/22/beavers-to-be-reintroduced-to-wales-after-an-absence-of-900-years-91466-28379094/

  • Comment number 31.

    Reintroduction is fine but rather better to protect what we already have We are loosing species at a rapid rate here in the uk through commercial farming practices brought about by our governments in the last few decades so here,s a good idea how about reintroducing the old farming practices reducing field sizes replace hedges leave old barns standing and whilst we are about it stop paving our drives regrow our boundry hedges and build our new houses with spaces for nests and roosts As a gardener i actively do my bit by encouraging my clients to grow and plan their gardens to support wildlife not exclude it

  • Comment number 32.

    i think that the beavers are there they might take out all the trees and move on from the point were they are?

    i have seen beavers swim at a speed of 20 mph and run as fast as 10 mph

    they are big animals and can hurt some one if they get to close

  • Comment number 33.

    Isn't there a problem with water levels in the Tay? Haven't we messed that river up enough in the past? Don't we need to put right what we have done there before introducing another massive change to it's flow characteristics? Can we compare the environmental impact of beavers in the U.S.A and Europe, both massive continents, with our little island? Is it just simply a matter of scale comparison, or does the environment work very differently from that ideal? I watched tonights episode regarding knapdale and found it very interesting, beavers are remarkable animals. I don't think beavers will destroy what we have or even cause massive problems to the farming world etc. I just think we have to be very cautious about reintroduction after such a long period of absence - maybe the natural balance has moved on too much, or maybe we need beavers on our island more now than ever before.

  • Comment number 34.

    Should we not be concerned that feral(?) beavers and their offsprings in the Tay were presumably illegally released or escaped, are not neecessarily the "right" species of beaver, were not health screened prior to release, and could set back the cause for any future reintroductions? What unlicensed reintroductions might follow?

  • Comment number 35.

    @Andrew Sherwood. The population of beavers in the Tay catchment began with an accidental escape from a wildlife park ten years ago. These beavers were originally brought legally from Europe and went through quarantine. If there were any further escapes they will have also been from a legal and quarantined source. Their breeding success has been a surprise to all observers. Those of us who would do not want them to be trapped and put in zoos, or culled, would be very happy for the beavers and their impacts to be monitored in future.

  • Comment number 36.

    I can see the argument for both sides but I think that beavers were extinct for too long in this country to re-introduce them and could and I think probably will, cause an imbalance in the current flora and fauna. Its about time we recognised to leave well alone. We interfere far too readily and then wonder why things go wrong. You'd think we'd learn from our previous mistakes - think mink for example (just one of many). We then try to rectify them and cause even more problems.

    There isn't enough wilderness left in Britain for beavers - which are large animals and cause major changes to their landscape - without affecting other habitats and therefore other wildlife.

  • Comment number 37.

    Thanks Louise, OK I am reassured about the provenance of where the Tay beavers were sourced, so they must have been brought into this country under a licence.
    If they escaped from a wildlife park, that park should be prosecuted. As a principle we should not allow wild animals that have been extinct, or are totally alien to our country and landscape to be released or to escape, because they can cause untold damage. One big example of this is the Grey Squirrel, which has caused the Red Squirrel to become endangered, and damaged to our native woodlands.
    Instead we should follow the example of the knapdale project or other projects, like the White Tailed Eagle.
    Personally I think the Tay beavers should be culled, because there has been no due process or consultation for their release, and this should definitely happen if a decision is made from the Knapdale study not to proceed with the re-introduction.

  • Comment number 38.

    beavers should be introduced in all area's they are lovely and should have the right to be free!!!! smeg87

  • Comment number 39.

    Andrew, I agree about alien species. I know that mink and grey squirrel cause problems as do many plants such as japanese balsam and ponticum. I am all for any attempt to put these problems right. I don't think that in general people should be free to illegally introduce animals and zoos and wildlife parks should of course take care to keep animals in. However, the beavers accidental arrival in Tayside is a unique occurrence. They are native animals! The very ones who have been brought into Argyll because their presence is rightly considered so important by conservationists - a keystone species indeed - as SWT explain on their website. Their arrival here predates the official trial and their successful breeding has been a surprise to all and a delight to many. People who knew of their presence generally kept it a secret, perhaps because they feared that they would be culled if news got out .Incidentally , I believe the grey squirrels in Scotland escaped from the Edinburgh zoo. Do you think they should be prosecuted for a mistake many years ago? I don't.

  • Comment number 40.

    the reintroduction of beavers is a good thing for the natural history of the uk

  • Comment number 41.

    im all for it beavers were originally part of our ecosystem they are native and have their place here

  • Comment number 42.

    Always been a supporter or reintroduction of all native animals that were exterminated by less enlightened generations in the past. There's plenty room for beavers in Scotland ... just think how much tourism will be generated off the back of the beavers coverage in Springwatch too :)

  • Comment number 43.

    beavers are native to this country they have a place in the ecosystem if they get too numerous a slight cull might be answer but lets not lose them completely again

  • Comment number 44.

    I could sympathise with the farmer who did not want to see beavers released near his land at any time. But surely , in Scotland at least, there are enough areas where beavers could be released and monitored.

  • Comment number 45.

    well i think bevers are cute and great animals but what i dont like about them is how they cut down a lot of trees and do a lot of damage to them most people dont like it when us humans cut trees down so why should they get away withe it. But i do like bevers.

  • Comment number 46.

    just watched spring watch answer to the question look back in history salmon and trout have always migrated with and without beaver!

  • Comment number 47.

    Hi
    Re the Beaver debate, i think the over riding criteria will be about what benefits man, never mind the creatures involved,fish birds,mammals,they really have no chance when man and his money step in!!!
    what a sad society we are creating.

  • Comment number 48.

    Well it's about time they started reintroducing British mammals again, so when do we get to see wolves and bears? And as for the poor farmers, they have an impact on the land as well, sheep grazing does terrible things to grassland. But hey they make money and beavers don't have to pay tax. The argument against beavers is all down to money let's be honest here.

  • Comment number 49.

    I agree with LilySG, Beavers are no longer in this country due to man hunting and persecuting them. I personally welcome them back.

  • Comment number 50.

    Basically the same old debate. Wilderness vs. Management. Do we have a love of and faith in the natural world around us or do we see only something to be owned and managed for our own profit (or worse, for our own pleasure).
    Another question, how do other countries manage to co-habit with Lions, Tigers, Alligators, etc?

  • Comment number 51.

    I was greatly interested in the debate around re-introducing Beavers. It has been very useful of Springwatch to consider the pros and cons and initiate the intense debate on this site. I understand the concern of farmers and people interested in affects on fish, I would just hope that the farmers are benefitting the land that they are temporary guardians of and its non human inhabitants, and those interested in fish, are not merely interested becuase it will decrease their own catch! I could go on about farmers intensively rearing cattle etc and soya products that feed these cattle quite possibly coming from cleared rainforest....I do hope its not a case of "not in my back yard" but it doesn't matter if eco systems are devastated on the other side of the globe...It's a small world really, things are connected, if man was responsible for the Beaver's extinction here I am thankful that the tide is turning and we are considering that we should tread more lightly on the earth. I am in terested in the top predator argument - will man fill that role in the place of wolves or should we re-introduce them also?

  • Comment number 52.

    when are we going to trial the wolves?

  • Comment number 53.

    I enjoyed the programme tonight. I visited Tierra del Fuego a few years ago and beavers had been introduced here and were now out of control. It was a green thing to do to eat beaver steaks in local restaurants which helps to control their numbers. They have caused extensive damage to woodlands with tens of thousands of trees killed when they were flooded

  • Comment number 54.

    I have lived in the US for 13 years and been used to beavers in many of the ponds and rivers and found them to be fascinating animals which contribute to the environment and are wonderful to watch. It is fantastic to see them back in the UK and can only add to the richness of the environment. There are issues to resolve and the experience of other countries can surely add to our knowledge base along with our own direct experiences.

  • Comment number 55.

    I believe it would be a great idea to reintroduce beavers back into our country.
    After the various extinctions of many different species of wildlife in this country and around the world, mostly because of man's greed or stupidity, is it not time we tried to understand and live with the beavers and other wildlife. There may well be disadvantages but there will be advantages too, we can't have it all our own way.

  • Comment number 56.

    Biodiversity is key to creating a healthy wildlife habitat, a balance in nature where no one species reigns can be self perpetuating, therefore needing less management from well meaning humans. The beavers in mainland europe have not destroyed all farming areas nor have they over run areas. Saying all this if you had worked your land hard like the farmer in Charlies' film (which must have been backbreaking). I am sure we would all feel gutted at seeing this work being undone. And yet again sometimes what might seem look like a disasterous fate can be a pleasant surprise, surely there is more money in farming tourist then a few cows that tolerate boggy ground. Come on you canny Scots, think of the money this could generate. Hope these beavers take a liking to Nottinghamshire!

  • Comment number 57.

    As much as it would be wonderful to see a beaver in the wild, the thought of it being a re-introduced species to this country gives me cause for concern. It is a long time since the beaver has been a native species in the UK and surely it could upset the natural balance that we now have. I totally agree with comment no. 16 from 'Me', in that surely we can't re-introduce this particular species without a larger natural predator to keep the numbers 'in check'?

  • Comment number 58.

    As it's been raised twice on this board can it be said quite clearly that beavers were introduced to Patagonia. This is a totally different scenarion to the RE-INTRODUCTION of a native species that was exterminated through past human persecution.

  • Comment number 59.

    It is a pity Simon Jones didn't point out in response to the concerned fisheries specialist that beavers have such a positive impact on salmon numbers and size that they have been reintroduced to several rivers in America to improve salmon fishing. There is a paper by Michael Pollock and others about Coho salmon.(for example). You can find it by googling. Beavers have also been reintroduced to the South Umquha river to restore salmon lost by logging. Don't worry fishermen. Beavers are good news for salmon as well as trout. Their dams are very leaky and easily passed except in times of drought. They braid the streams and create redds. Their pools are full of invertebrates and when they cut down trees and drop them in the river the crowns made habitat for invertebrates and salmon parr. The trees then usually coppice as they are cut in winter when the goodness is in the roots.

  • Comment number 60.

    Brilliant idea! About time we realised how much tyhe re-intoduction of Beavers can vastly improve our wild life and environment! I wish thios project bevery success and look forward to nthe spread of these magnificent animals throughout the country.

  • Comment number 61.

    I visited Tierra del Fuego a few years ago and beavers had been introduced there and were now out of control. It was a green thing to do to eat beaver steaks in local restaurants which helps to control their numbers. The vast numbers of beavers have caused extensive damage to woodlands with tens of thousands of trees killed when they were flooded by the beaver dams

  • Comment number 62.

    Oh and Linda R - beavers have been re-introduced to lots of European countries with very similar ecology to ours - with no unmanageable problems. We still have pretty much the same species of plants in our riparian woodlands and ponds as we had 400 years ago. Its true we don't have wolves any more, but France doesn't have many either and their beavers are doing fine.

  • Comment number 63.

    The truth is that beavers flood land and fell trees, thats going to damage the environment, and loads of peoples livlihoods.

  • Comment number 64.

    Sorry - me again - but just to say that beavers are not native to South America. I have heard that the problem there is that the trees didn't evolve with beavers so don't coppice. On the other hand flooding trees is a different matter. That can happen in very flat land. Small areas of drowned trees in a forest can add to wildlife habitat - owls and woodpeckers etc - but tens of thousands is another matter. Luckily it isn't likely to be a problem in Scotland.

  • Comment number 65.

    We need to be quite clear three about things:
    1. Beavers are native to Scotland and are not to Patagonia - therefore no comparison can or should be made. Beavers have been absent from Scotland for a tiny proprotion of the total time since they first inhabitated our islands. Everything is relative!
    2. It is a complete nonsense to suggest that beavers will significantly impact on salmon numbers - the threats to salmon such as disease, fish farms, climate change, coastal nets, pollution etc are the things that really have an impact. Beavers and salmon have co-existed happily for millions of years.
    3. The need to restore ecosystem coherence and protect ecosystem services are vital to the future of our planet - the beaver has a role to play in this.

  • Comment number 66.

    I am rather puzzled by the concern over the effect of beaver dams on migratory fish (salmon and sea trout). Is there any suggestion that these fish only started to breed successfully in Scotland after people had exterminated the beavers that used to live here? Surely there is strong evidence from places like Norway, Canada and the United States that beavers and salmon can coexist very successfully (even though the American Beaver seems to be a more enthusiastic tree feller and dammer than the European species). Furthermore, the "wetland management" activities of the beavers may well provide improved spawning areas for these fish.

  • Comment number 67.

    Louise - Thanks, I am a SWT member and want the study to be a success, and for the re-introduction to take place. I just want this done right.
    The Grey Squirrel release was over 100 years ago so would be impractical to prosecute anyone now but if it had happened more recently yes they should be prosecuted. The grey squirrel just proves that we need to know about the long term affects of our decisions.
    The American Crayfish in England is another example of an escapee. An Ad-hoc introduction, which our native species and environment are paying for now.
    Yes, the Beaver was a native species 100s years ago but we are a very different country now. It is very dangerous to play with nature, so if a re-introduction takes place it should be controlled, studied, and then democratic decisions can be made.

  • Comment number 68.

    1. I approve of biodiversity.
    2. I love unsprung.
    3. Wolves on the British mainland is a bonkers idea. Sometimes we think it is dangerous for youngsters to roam free in our cities. It should never be dangerous to roam free in our countryside. That is why we sensibly killed off the wolves a long time ago.
    4. Beavers: I thought this was a trial, not 4 trials. They should have started on a closed situation like an island. The destruction of the bluebell wood is not a good idea. How long does it take for a flooded coppiced wood to regenerate? If the ground is flooded those trees will drown permanently. If the trial is proven to be a bad idea, what are the criteria? The criteria for success / failure should be quantified now. If judged to be a bad idea, then all of the animals should be culled, and eaten. The trialists should be costing in this possibility now. Some of the trees in Scotland have very old lineages, especially on remote islands. They will each need protection. The Welsh trial should be stopped until the Scottish ones have been evaluated after say 20 years.

    At present I think a beaver experiment should be in a controlled space, accessible to the public, and I am sure it would be a tourist moneyspinner. Like a large wildlife park, with boundaries.

    If the total net environmental costs of these existing trials at the end of the day are negative, they should be halted. Don't forget to cost the travel by visitors to see them, and before anyone starts, I know that we could argue how to measure all of this for 50 years.

    On a separate note, can Beavers catch TB? and pass it on to cattle.

    5.Any zoo/ system should pay the costs of fixing the problem of escapes. They have insurance. If they paid for the costs, they would be more careful. Since apparently Edinburgh zoo let the squirrel pests out , they should be paying now for their total destruction in the "area" around Edinburgh, however large that is. I would also put them on future notice that tree damage by grey squirrels will also be chargeable if there any left in say 5 years time. Free traps and a bounty of 10p a head should solve the problem in 12 months, the kids will love it.

    6. GM crops. On the same basis, the escape of Monsanto modified genes into the wild should be charged back for cleaning them all up.

    7. A news story today explains how the current wild ecosystem of Britain is worth many billions, but has been ignored and taken for granted by economists and capitalist business systems. They should cost in the problems of repair and renewal to our heritage before being let loose.

    Thats enough for today.
    G1

  • Comment number 69.

    Beavers are fine where they do no damage but how are we going to control them when they move to areas where they do unacceptable damage.

    Maybe they are not native to Patagonia but 12 beavers introduced to Latvia have turned into 100,000 and they are killing off large areas of the native forest by flooding and blocking water intakes, undermining river banks etc everywhere.

    They are allowed to shoot them (in daylight only - EU rules) but can only kill 6000 a year and need to kill 20,000 a year just to stand still in population terms and they have Lynx, wolves and even a few bears as well but these natural predators do little to control the number of beavers.

    They died out a long time agao and we need to have be sure that we can control them before we let them out again and they become a major problem like all the other introduced plants and animals.

  • Comment number 70.

    i say let the beavers stay because there are so many other species in britain that are just as damaging. mice chew wires and rabbits dig up gardens.

    also we as a species are also at fault because we have changed our environment to suit us and in the process we have destroyed so many species.

    so beavers should stay not for the fact that they used to be here but the fact that we owe it to them. what with all the fur trapping and persecution that the've been through.

  • Comment number 71.

    Well, it never ceases to amaze me that we who live in these beautiful, diverse, rich islands polarise so easily over something like reintroductions.
    One simple question.
    Who was it that made beavers, wolves, bears, wild boar and hundreds of other species large and small extinct?
    We all know the answer to that, and we all know that we have a duty to share our home with these creatures and if they do cause a little bit of damage or upset sensibilities then for goodness sake can't we accept that and use some of the huge amounts of public money squandered on "set aside" and other such schemes to compensate the few who will be affected!
    The furore in Oxfordshire yesterday about Red Kites "stealing" childrens ice creams was fascinating and exasperating for those of us who love these majestic birds, now to be seen in so many places.
    It's a small price to pay, surely?

  • Comment number 72.

    I personally think that we should re-introduce the Beaver, considering it was a native animal to Britain and wiped out by humans. Lets make amends for the damage we've done to our wildlife.

  • Comment number 73.

    Yes, beavers have been absent for 2.2 of their time in the UK (since they recolonised after that last ice age.) They are definitely native. In evolutionary time 400 years is nothing. So bringing them back is just not all that radical. And they were hunted out because they were too useful, not because they were a nuisance. Of course they should be here - and luckily - they are!

  • Comment number 74.

    I read a lot of people's opinions, but there is a large repository of facts that do not seem to have been drawn upon and I do not think Spring Watch lived up to the minimum requirements of reporting when quoting unsupported opinions as though they had factual merit.
    It is well established that beavers increase biodiversity.
    It is proven that fish stocks, especially salmonids, benefit enormously from beaver activity, specifically from cleaner water, resting ponds, over winter food supplies and bank shelter.
    It demonstrated that beavers have a limited range from water when applied to felling trees and that they are unlikely to fell large trees and more likely to feed on their own, previously coppiced willows and aspens than head for your garden center piece.
    For the fishermen it is a compromise, the banks will become more heavily wooded, and more difficult to negotiate, but there will be more fish in cleaner water.
    For the farmer the banks will be less accessible throughout their length, but they will be more stable and less subject to erosion.
    For the deer management, there will be more food of greater diversity, and although there is a direct conflict for food resources between deer and beaver. Luckily the beaver actually improve the diversity and numbers of food sources, rather than just over grazing like the deer.
    Songbirds species, especially the insectivorous, thrive with the increased insect population and diversity.
    Despite the demonstrated ineptitude of the SNH, trapping nuisance beavers is fairly easily accomplished and if populations reach saturation point, culling is not difficult.
    There is no proven disease transference form beavers to livestock.
    As fro the argument that SNH should have the control of decision making process in regards to the reintroduction of beavers, I would not put a lot of faith in their policies based on previous experience, especially where their attitudes towards "preservation" have actually resulted in native species degradation.

  • Comment number 75.

    Re the reintroduction of Beavers I would ask if the powers that be have looked at maps of forestry 300 -400years ago.When all the fuss was being made of selling forests it was made very apparant of how little forest was left compared with the past.It would seem to me that we are creating great problems for future generations with the introduction of wild boar compounding the problem.
    Mike Harrison.

  • Comment number 76.

    A very interesting and (mostly) informed debate. I’m currently open-minded to the reintroduction of beavers back into Scotland, and the wider UK.

    One thing that is certain however, there aren’t that many places where a viable beaver population could thrive in the UK. I don’t think our tiny, over-populated island lends itself well to the re-introduction of ‘larger’ species. If the Knapdale trial proves that beavers can be of benefit to some ecosystems, then the go ahead may be given for their re-introduction to other parts of the UK. This would mean that beavers would have to be sourced from elsewhere, with regular inputs of new genetics to avoid inevitable inbreeding. The population would therefore have to be monitored and managed continually and never be really ‘left to get on with it’.

    There isn’t a corner of the UK that isn’t managed by man in some way. While beavers could be introduced to what we consider suitable areas in the first instance who’s to say that they won’t move to other areas to set up home, particularly once they start breeding and seeking new territories? This could result in conflict with man, whether that is with forestry, agriculture, aquaculture or even with people’s homes and gardens.

    It’s easy for most of us from the over-populated South to call for the reintroduction of a species to what we perceive to be the wilds of Scotland, but we must respect the rights and land of those who would be affected.

    The consequences of reintroduction need to be fully understood and I have no doubt that it’ll be a number of years yet before any large-scale beaver reintroduction is considered.

  • Comment number 77.

    Building dams and canals is what humans have done for years, why spend so much money building a dam when Mr. Beaver will do it for free!

  • Comment number 78.

    I have some relations in canada,when i told them about the beaver project,they recon we are opening a big can of worms.first, they breed like wild fife,so need a very careful check to be kept on them.also, they will.eventually,escape,so they ,again need managing very carefully.they,i am told,were released into an area of argentina,an they have completely devastated it.

  • Comment number 79.

    i have some relations in canada,and they recon we are asking for a whole lot of trouble by re-intoducing beavers.

  • Comment number 80.

    I think the Knapdale trial is great. However, I do think it's a bit limited in the information it will provide as this is not a salmonid habitat. A study done over a decade ago highlighted the Tay as the best location for a beaver introduction - and funnily enough the beavers think so too, as they're breeding freely (in both senses of the word!) on the Tay and its tributaries. So they provide the obvious solution to the gap in Knapdale's research.
    I was interested to see the item on tourism on the programme last night; the Tourist Information office in Blairgowrie, one of the centres of beaver activity, are already experiencing visitors from the UK and overseas asking where they can see the beavers. This is a fantastic opportunity that I think rural areas should be grasping with both hands.
    As for flooding, there is evidence that beavers actually help prevent spring flooding by holding back water. They also purify it - in one area of Belgium where beavers been successfully introduced they're now making beer out of the water - and we know how fussy the Belgians are about their beer!
    I do, however, see that beaver numbers may increase to the level where they may cause problems - although I can't see this happening for many years. Rather than saying 'no' I think we should be putting mechanisms into place whereby any future damage can be limited and controlled in a way that gives landowners confidence that their concerns aren't being sidelined.
    All in all, Springwatch is a great way to highlight a wonderful native species.
    Viva la beaver!

  • Comment number 81.

    @ THATCH -
    Eurasian and North American beavers are different species. Beavers in Scotland (or anywhere in Europe) don't have the room to even attempt what their distant relations do over the water!

  • Comment number 82.

    I think beaver's should be re-introduced as, after all, this was their land originally. Humans just came along and stole the land from them, as they have done and are still doing to many other species. Too much land is being taken up for the selfish need of us humans. We need to step aside more, and give back what we have taken from nature.

  • Comment number 83.

    i think the beaver in scotland is fantastic and i do hope the programme works keeping my fingers crossed !! and maybe one day me and other spring watch viewers can go there and see them for ourselves thankyou spring watch

  • Comment number 84.

    Beavers would still be in the UK if they hadn't been persecuted and hunted for their fur .... as long as they are (originally) a native species to the UK then they have a right to be here.. and should be.

  • Comment number 85.

    The reintroduction of Beavers is fantastic. It is a positive step. They are native and were hunted to extinction. This is the least man can do to pay back the mass destruction we cause! Let's hope they stay for good!

  • Comment number 86.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 87.

    There have been beavers living wild in Scotland for decades now, the ones that SNH tried to trap. They only got one which was sent to Edinburgh Zoo and is now dead, probably as a result of stress, so I hope they are going to leave the rest of the free beavers alone now!!

  • Comment number 88.

    It is right that all sides have a say. My position is for this reintroduction, as Beavers were resident in Britain untill Man wiped them out. There are many places where Beaver could be settled without any problems and make a positive contribution. In places where they might not be best placed, then Man has to handle them like any other mammel already in the wild here, ie; Fox and Badger. To say that Beaver does not or cannot have a place, I believe that to be wrong. Lets hope that Governent, both Scottish and Westminster, give this reintroduction the green light. Also look towards the reintroduction of further species.

  • Comment number 89.

    On the whole I am in favour, however they will need to find a balance with what is here already, including everything that has arrived since they died out. The government should also looking at compensating those for damage caused to viable land.

  • Comment number 90.

    There is a wonderful book, quite old, called 'Three Against the Wilderness' still available on Amazon, about re-establishing beavers in Canada. It's a must for anyone interested in beavers and maybe a compelling read to change the mind of those inclined to be anti. Do mention it if possible!

  • Comment number 91.

    Interesting to read all the comments so far. I have a degree in ecology and wildlife management and am totally pro-beaver. The fears of farmers and fishermen are groundless; the accusations of the 'damage' beavers will do are unfounded. There is ample evidence that this is so, from European experience.
    Interesting thought - if beavers could have swum here they would have just got on with colonisation. Many bird species have flown here and did not need licences or trials. The collared dove is perhaps one of the most interesting and certainly highly successful of them but we have avocets and egrets and a number of others, too.
    And of course, every year hundreds of thousands of alien red-legged partridges and pheasants are released into the wild, without, as far as I know, licences or trials.....!
    Viva la beaver!

  • Comment number 92.

    Andrew - I understand your desire to see the trial succeed, and I share it. But i don't believe that culling the Tay beavers is going to help that to happen. On the contrary, I think it will damage the trial in the eyes of the public, if the organisations associated with it continue to support culling (or trapping).Over 1000 people on Facebook (and many others off it) are supporting the beavers. A period of study of the impact of these beavers in an important salmon river would be much more positive. From reading the literature I am confident that there is nothing to worry about as beavers have caused no problems to salmon fishing in similar habitat in Norway, but since people seem to need a lot of reassurance, then studying them in the Tay catchment seems an excellent idea to me. With such strong evidence for successful reintroductions of this species all over Europe I don't think you can compare it with American grey squirrels or signal crayfish. There might be more cause for concern if the Tay beavers were North American ones. AS to prosecutions, I think this is something of a separate matter from the treatment of the animals. I think new legislation is on its way to tighten these things up, but I am not sure I agree with retrospective action. There has been a gradual raising of awareness of the harm alien species can sometimes do and in future I certainly think more attention should be paid to the danger that people might allow pets to escape etc. London is full of parakeets for example. There are so many examples of this kind of thing. Should we really spent police time tracking down the perpetrators? How far back should we go? Is it possible to prove where they came from and would it be possible to be consistent across the board? Or if you were to concentrate on the worst cases, would you include a ten year old mistake with a native species to be one of them?

  • Comment number 93.

    Sorry - last sentence was a bit confused. It is late. Hope you know what I meant.

  • Comment number 94.

    Im all for reintroductions,like sea eagles red kites etc but i think releasing a Giant rodentthat has no natral preditorin uk isnt not such a good idia.
    the country sprent tens of thousands in getting rid of the coypu from south america,same size rodent no natral preditor,except it was an excape.will people like when the time comes that humans have to shoot them to keep their numbers down?Its ashame they were killed out 400 yrs ago,But may be let sleeping giant rodents stay asleep!

  • Comment number 95.

    Powerful vested interests (landowners, the farming industry, blood sports enthusiasts - including anglers), have held sway over the rest of us and our land for centuries. Collectively they have transformed the landscape and the wildlife of these islands. I support any effort to rollback the effects of human kind's more selfish exploitation of our planet and I want the whining, whinging and obstructions of those listed above to be given credence only when supported by solid evidence that shows a negative impact on our biodversity or wider human society (not their own limited interests).

    Whether we're dealing with foxes, badgers (TB), hedgehogs or reintroduced beavers, the farming, hunting and landowning community are totally untrustworthy when it comes to their analysis of fact.

    I support the reintroduction of beavers and hope to see that of wolves and lynx before I become extinct!

  • Comment number 96.

    Brilliant,next bring in some top predators,Wolves etc and cap human population growth ! No gasps please we cant go on breeding like this for ever.

  • Comment number 97.

    I like Markibennett's idea of reintroducing wolves to control the human population! After all, it 's the sort of thing we do to manage other animals. Somehow I can't see it happening, though.

  • Comment number 98.

    I hope the beaver trial goes well, and results in the beavers staying, but I think we should be concentrating on protecting what's already here, rather than reintroductions.
    We need some effective control for grey squirrels, so that the reds survive. I heard that research is being done to produce a contraceptive. Any news on that? I'd be happy to buy peanuts laced with the stuff!
    And we need to stop poisoning everything. When I was a kid (50 years ago), if you drove anywhere in the summer, the windscreen got covered with squashed insects. It just doesn't happen any more. Such a huge decline in insects must have a huge knock-on effect on everything else. And hay meadows had wild flowers in, not like the horrible monocultures we have now for silage.

  • Comment number 99.

    I am constantly amazed at the attitude of some people who consider the current environment to be "natural" when it is manifestly man-managed. I am equally flabbergasted by those who raise concerns about "no natural predators", when it should be abundantly clear from the beavers own recent history that man is the greatest predator on the planet and is quite capable of removing any species from the planet as it proves almost every year, generally in ignorance or by accident.
    Should a democratic decision be made to remove beaver then it could undoubtedly be completed in a few years, we have done it before.
    The concept that we require extended trials is designed to avoid having to make decisions and to placate the bigoted ignorant who constantly bleat misinformation without having fully investigated and studied the matter. I commend the Salmon and Trout Association for their objective attitude, available on their website.
    I am in favour of the preservation of a natural population of beavers that have a documented existence in the wild in the UK for more than a decade. I would also not object, in due course when numbers permit it, to ordering my Beaverburger at McDonalds

  • Comment number 100.

    I am constantly amazed at the attitude of some people who consider the current environment to be "natural" when it is manifestly man-managed. I am equally flabbergasted by those who raise concerns about "no natural predators", when it should be abundantly clear from the beavers own recent history that man is the greatest predator on the planet and is quite capable of removing any species from the planet as it proves almost every year, generally in ignorance or by accident.
    Should a democratic decision be made to remove beaver from the then it could undoubtedly be completed in a few years, we have done it before.
    The concept that we require extended trials is designed to avoid having to make decisions and to placate the bigoted ignorant who constantly bleat misinformation without having fully investigated and studied the matter. I commend the Salmon and Trout Association for their objective attitude, available on their website.
    I am in favour of the preservation of a natural population of beavers that have a documented existence in the wild in the UK for more than a decade. I would also not object, in due course when numbers permit it, to ordering my Beaverburger at McDonalds

 

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