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Beaver reintroduction: Tell us what you think

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Holly Spearing Holly Spearing | 10:59 UK time, Friday, 23 December 2011

Back on Springwatch, our Adventure Team Producer Richard Taylor-Jones blogged about the reintroduction of beavers to the UK, some of which I've quoted below. In the Christmas Special we look back at this story and update it. We’d love to know what you think about this species' return to our shores so please post a comment below.

Beaver swimming through reeds reflected in water copyright Scottish Wildlife Trust

A Knapdale beaver (Image: Scottish Wildlife Trust)

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.

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.

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.

Watch the Springwatch Christmas Special 2011 at 7pm Boxing Day on BBC Two.


  • Comment number 1.

    One of the best ideas to reintroduce beavers to the UK it will save thousands if not millions on welands management as they manage these places much better than man could ever do.
    The only issue that could be foreseen is subsequent governments being lobbied to cull them should they start to impact on landowners profits.
    I believe that many 'UK Extinct' animals should be reintroduced such as the wolf to manage Red Deer populations more effectively than man, beaver to manage wetlands, Wild Boar to manage woodlands although the latter is probably going to take place from escapees and released animals.
    Just my two pennith worth!

  • Comment number 2.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 3.

    We visited Knapdale last year, didn't see any beavers, but admired their dam. It did strike us as ironic that their building efforts had actually flooded the path meant for visitors, which did show what sort of impact they can have on the environment.

    However, provided adjacent property owners can be compensated/helped with landscaping to protect their interests, I can only see positives in their re-introduction. It will bring tourists into the area with benefits to all local B & B's, hotels, shops, self-catering properties, cafes, restaurants etc. - you only have to look at the impact the introduction of sea-eagles has had on the Isle of Mull and the surrounding area.

    Beavers are fascinating animals, they were indigenous to our country,and should be given another chance.

  • Comment number 4.

    Whilst its amazing to see such fine creatures, it would seem, living in harmony with our natural wetlands, I fear any introduction may lead too un seen future issues.

    The current Otter introductions, seem, from an anglers point of veiw, to be unrealistic, un-supervised and unwanted.

    Will Beavers be freely introduced as are Otters, to roam free and decimate established, balanced enviroments which now are devoid of fresh water fish, to the point now, that Otters are turning on birds and other water bourne animals.

    Obviously, Beavers diets are less of a threat, but will there population spread, and the water fording engineering skills have an impact far beyond what is noted from this 5 year study.

    Will the damming of mid/lower stretches of smaller rivers, go some way to finally see the demise of our, already dwindling stocks, of the fresh water eel and other migratory fish ?

    Perhaps theres a good reason why these larger water bourne animals were, naturally, low to non existant ?

  • Comment number 5.

    As an angler and fishing a lot of rivers in scotland i know off at least 4 places that have beavers roaming free i have pictures of the trees they have felled also they have been found dead as far down as bridge of earn after a big flood.One farmer who knows of there presence on his ground has asked us NOT to tell anyone so they are not disturbed.I also dont want them chased away from any place i fish,last year when fishing on the middle tay while wading down a run a beaver was cutting down saplings that were drooping into the river there are posts on game angling websites giving more reports off sightings,one off the silver birches they chewed thru was a good 18 inches round.The furtherest up I have seen them on the Tay is above Aberfeldey i have NO problem with the beavers on the rivers.

  • Comment number 6.

    Beavers are vegetarian so how on earth are they damaging to fish stocks? Bring on the beavers!

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm all for the re-introduction of beavers and my wife and I visited the beaver project last Bank Holiday August weekend

    The weather was very stormy for the time of year but undeterred we spent the day at the beaver project with the hope of catching a glimpse of one

    We did we see one !

    Unfortunately it was the large wooden carving located in the Visitor centre

    Better luck next time

  • Comment number 8.

    The reintroduction of beavers has been debated for years and has until recently been resisted by powerful landowner and fishing interests. The government sponsored Knapdale trial is, on balance, a good thing but it is expensive and very unlikely to settle the matter either way. What is really odd is that other unofficial trials have been running on private land for years and much could have been and still could be learned from them if this were not perceived by the authorities as such a political hot potato. More significant still is the unofficial population of about 100 beavers that have been spreading in the wild on Tayside for the past 10 years and is the subject of a vigorous Facebook campaign in its support. Springwatch seems to be in denial about the wild Beavers of the Tay which will, hopefully, assure the future of Scotland's wild beavers irrespective of the outcome of the official Knapdale Trial.

  • Comment number 9.

    mammoth1972 yes they are veggies if you read my post i have NO problem with BUT some anglers do, as they think they will block spawning burns as they are few and far between at the moment that is why we are keeping exact places secret to STOP anyone bothering them.

  • Comment number 10.

    juve i did read your post. However many people are of the opinion that beavers are fish eaters so believe they pose a problem.

  • Comment number 11.

    The Scottish Wild Beaver Group is a registered charity. Its members are also members of the open Facebook Group "Save the Free Beavers of the Tay". We have been watching the Tay population for years and the Group have respected naturalists, journalists members who continue to monitor and study the Tay beavers . I think there are about 130 beavers in the Tay catchment. I find it strange that Springwatch have been fiming a small managed population in Knapdale when a large free population is freely available. The beaver is already re-introduced in Scotland

  • Comment number 12.

    Never met an angler who believes beavers are fish eaters we know thats mink which are present outside my house but are being driven out by the otters which are spreading all over the central belt off scotland i stay within glasgow boundary,i have goosanders, cormorants directly outside my window i have buzzards nesting every year within 150 yards of my front window, moorhen kingfishers mallards and bewicks are all right outside, bewicks and wigeon are winter visitors this is just a small amount of wildlife that are present near me dont have a problem with any wildlife.

  • Comment number 13.

    bill oddie just said squirrels live in drays
    can you explain more about were squirrels live

  • Comment number 14.

    Beavers have been in Britain far longer than humans. We have pushed them into extinction in this country and they have been gone so long that people have made up some rediculous claims about them. Many like that they eat fish, this fact is actually the contary. They help increase trout and salmon numbers. They also help the waterways so shouldnt this help irrigation for aggriculture? Why should we decide whether they should be here or not? They have been here long before us, so why do we play god? Let them stay and dominate us!

  • Comment number 15.

    10juveboy is correct 100% correct. The Association of Salmon Fishery Boards has reservations but I am yet to meet a single fisherman who has a problem with the beavers. One Tayside angling club has been quoted in the local press as being rather fond of them. There are some who were fearful of a negative effect on the migratory spawning species but beaver dams in Perthshire have already provided safe passage for these species and have pools behind them that were jumping with par this year. This has gone a long way towards swaying more minds towards the conclusions reached by the majority of research on the subject, beavers are the fishermans friend. The beavers have taken down their fair share of riverbank willows but the wind has taken down many more. The trees that have been taken down are on the whole showing very healthy regrowth, which in turn provides a habitat boost for many other species as well as providing a sustainable food source for the beavers themselves. The vegetation along the river banks makes up a large percentage of their diet in the warmer months so the trees are largely left alone until winter. Vacant beaver burrows are know to be providing homes for local otters and otters themselves are possibly proving a natural predator for beaver kits. Several have been observed stalking beaver lodges with kits inside. The fear of sections of rivers being over run with dozens of beaver are unfounded as beaver territories are made up by family units of 4-5 animals who will defend their patch against any others. Study and managment works well wherever there are already beavers in Europe so the UK should be no different. The Knapdale and Tayside beavers provide a unique opportunity to study the species over a wide range of habitats and will give practical management experience for all interested groups. The return of the beaver has already happened and long may it continue.

  • Comment number 16.

    Let's hope that next year Springwatch will feature the genuinely wild beavers of the Tay as well as the microchipped, manhandled and over managed beavers of the Knapdale Trial.

  • Comment number 17.

    The people who want to introduce beavers have not thought the likely problems through. If, as they claim, beavers would be good for the environment by damming streams, a quicker method is to use a machine to create ponds. Are the people responsible for introducing beavers also going to be responsible for managing beaver numbers, i.e. cull them? What next? Wolf hunting? Look what happened when coypu were introduced. The people who want to introduce alien species do not understand our environment and bio-diversity, they are just playing at it!

  • Comment number 18.

    Thank to Dispensia. I was beginning to wonder if the opposition to beaver reintroduction existed at all. How good to have written down for all to see where the enemies of biodiversity are coming from.  When their work is finished there will be no tigers in India, no  orang-utans in Borneo, no rhinoceros in Africa, no bears in Europe and no wolves in North America.  Ponds dug by JCB with butyl liners, mowed grass, landscapes utterly dominated by monocultures be they grain, dairy, grouse or red deer interspersed with strips of asphalt: what a vision of the future!

  • Comment number 19.

    The Knapdale Trial is supposed to demonstrate whether or not reintroducing beavers to Britain is a good idea or not. However, two and a half years in, those in favour are adamant it is a good idea while those against are equally convinced it is a bad idea. Theoretically no-one should make up their minds until the end of the trial when the pros and cons are assessed. I live a mile from the nearest beavers and have watched the trial with great interest. There is a huge discrepancy between the reality of what is happening in Knapdale and the portrayal of it in the media. Chris Packham (clearly in the pro camp) says the beavers are doing well. And yet four breeding pairs have only produced two kits this year - one of which was killed by a predator (probably a dog). Beavers are expected to produce 2 or 3 kits per year. There have been 20 beavers in Knapdale during the course of the trial and at the last count, 12 are still on the release lochs. The other eight are missing or confirmed dead. A dam built by one family of beavers has recently been removed by the trial team, as was an earlier dam built by the same family, effectively thwarting the beaver's natural behaviour. In the meantime, there are an estimated 35 - 80 beavers (this is the Scottish Natural Heritage estimate; The Scottish Wild Beaver Group an independent charity, who are campaigning for the beavers to be allowed to remain free, put the number at 135) living wild on the Tay and it's tributaries doing what beavers do and apparently thriving without monitoring or interference from 'experts' and without the £2m price tag. These beavers, despite having been known about for 10 years, have largely been ignored by the media. The presence of these beavers (deemed illegal by the Scottish Government) and the failure of last year's attempt to remove them (one was caught, then died in Edinburgh Zoo) means that beavers have effectively been reintroduced to Britain and the Knapdale Trial has been a waste of time and money (and the lives of many beavers).

  • Comment number 20.

    It's a great idea to bring back the Beaver, I get fed up with the notion that wildlife can exist IF and only IF it doesn't come into conflict with man, in that case it has to be controlled or eradicated, with that kind of mindset wildlife will continue to decline around the world....

  • Comment number 21.

    Beavers are indigenous so can hardly be classed as alien. As for natural predators, bring back the wolf.

  • Comment number 22.

    So, Springwatch, what is it to be? More endorsement of the official trial and an ongoing policy of pretending the Tay beavers don't exist? Did Alastair Campbell so shake the BBC to its roots that every single program must now slavishly follow the official line?

  • Comment number 23.

    I am all for Beavers being brought back, as for the trial in Knapdale ? This trial has been a disaster from the word go. How many Beavers have died because of bad management? Lets look at all the people that have gone through the trial and been forced out because of blatant bullying from the trial team. How much of the Beaver trial funds have been spent on stopping the public finding out that bullying is going on and gone on. You have Top bosses from organisations involved, offering members of their organisation ie staff, money to walk away and say nothing about being bullied. If the BBC new what was going on with the Beaver trial, you would not be seeing this. The BBC would not touch it.
    The trial as been rushed through from the start, what science are they hoping to get from Beavers on a loch? And to think they paid over £2 million for the Beavers when they all ready had Beavers on the River Tay? You can see why the trial team were all for catching up and destroying the Beavers on the River Tay.
    I just hope if any one is thinking of bringing Beavers back, they don't wait for the trial to finish, ask any one in the wildlife world, they will tell you how bad its been run. They have lied to the public from day one, they even lie to each other; they catch up the Beavers every other month, For what to check they are still Beavers? The Beaver trial is a disgrace, and if it fails it will not be the Beavers fault. It will all be down to the people running the show.

  • Comment number 24.

    I think the opposition to the re-introduction to Beavers shows a very worrying attitude to conservation in modern Britain. Also I'm very sceptical about this trial and what will be learned from it. I'm sceptical about the trial because I fail to understand how you can extrapolate the impact of a much larger Beaver population on the landscape and ecology over time. The suspicion is that it is the usual procrastination process over re-introductions, an look for excuses for stalling by kicking it off into the long grass for as long as possible.

    None of our rivers, or indeed much wet ground can be thought of natural without Beavers. It is difficult to think of another species, which at such a low biomass, can be so instrumental in it's effect on the landscape and ecology. It's not as some appear to think, that Beavers simply create flooding. They create fantastically diverse landscapes with mosaics of different habitats. The trouble is that the vast majority of people can no longer think ecologically in terms of the landscape and its ecology being part of complex processes. They tend to see landscape and ecology in terms of static features, and not the complex underlying processes. The concept of habitat mosaics and the increased amount of niches for a wider range of biodiversity is not something most people understand. Not the science, people were once familiar with these processes, it is just everyday insight and experience, that the majority now lack.

    Of course this is exactly why modern land managers in the UK tend to be opposed to Beaver introduction. The way Beavers manage the landscape is out of tune with modern land management techniques in the UK. This is why I think the opposition to Beaver re-introduction is so worrying for conservation in the UK. We tend to have eliminated many of our "problem" species, which cause a nuisance to a few, and rely on our being an island to stop these species re-introducing themselves. Beavers, Bears, Wolves, Lynx etc. Yet the UK is home to the great BBC NHU and many conservation NGOs. The British public is all for conserving exotic species elsewhere, Pandas, Tigers etc. elsewhere. Yet why should people accept the very real danger that Tiger's pose to people in the countries where they are found, but in the UK we fret about the minor inconvenience that Beavers might cause to a few land managers. How can we hope to conserve any species with this attitude?

  • Comment number 25.

    Like Jane Allan, I also live within a mile of an active beaver colony but I'm on the opposite side of the country in Perthshire. The Knapdale trial gets more than it's fair share of bashing but everyone knows that it's in the wrong place due to the over the top antics of the anti beaver brigade and the strange desire of the powers that be to pander to them. In a roundabout way this has been great news for the beavers themselves as the spotlight has focused firmly on the official trial while the original five animals that escaped from a wildlife park in West Perthshire way back in 2000/1 just get on with being beavers. Sure they have been joined by the odd previously quarantined European beaver that has escaped from other private collections, or the Scottish born offspring from those captive beavers, but the fact remains that the original five is now an impressive 100+ wild beavers who are breeding well, having mainly positive impact and winning the battle for hearts and minds in the 'unofficial' reintroduction. The best part is that these beavers secretly, and in some cases not so secretly, have the backing of those involved both directly and indirectly in the official trial. SNH are obviously fairly quiet on the whole situation over here in Perthshire but they have their best deer managment team on the case so everything is bound to turn out just fine. Has anyone said anything about the full survey of the Tay catchment area that SNH have planned for completion by the end of next April that hasn't even been started yet? Hundereds of miles of riverbanks, streams, ponds and ditches are going to meticulously searched at breakneck pace for the renegade beavers in an effort to get a definitive population count, although everyone and their dog knows that there are many more than could ever be removed without causing a huge public outcry. Everyone also knows that the trials in Knapdale, Devon and Wales will provide enough data for the T crossers and i dotters to being going on with and that Tay beavers are the ideal opportunity to study the probable positive impact that these animals have on Salmon rivers. Surely it's time for the Scottish government to be brave and announce what everyone already knows. The Tayside beavers have been a huge success, they are here in numbers and are without doubt here to stay. The debate should not be about whether beavers should be brought back, it should be why it took so long to do it. Spring watch will hopefully drop in next year to see all of this for themselves. Who knows, this could be the Joanna Lumley moment that is long overdue and the BBC could there to help make history happen.

  • Comment number 26.

    The Biggest mistake the Beaver Trial have done, is in the use of Beavers from Norway, ask the experts over their and they will tell you they are worried about inbreeding in there stock of Beavers. Yet the Scottish went ahead and brought them any way. Then they tried to stress that we should all use these Beavers because they would most likely resemble the Beavers we had. We don't have are own beavers any more. So why should it matter were are new Beavers come from. If you brake down the cost of the trial, you will see that a certain person in Norway made a lot of cash from this deal, yes the same man who wants us to use just Beavers from Norway the same man who is getting all the data sent to Norway. This braking the contract with the Scottish Government and SNH.
    We need Beavers back in the UK, yet this mickey mouse trial is embarrassing for all concerned. Having seen that Beavers can live on the River Tay, side by side with humans for the last 10years. Why did the SWT and the ZOO go to all that trouble to embarrass them self's, taking Beavers to Knapdale? They could have saved a lot of money and time and used the Beavers on the Tay.
    Beaver will play such a role in Conservation if we bring them back, they should be here and just left to get on with it. Not caught up every month and samples taken, this is not good for any wild animal, and you wonder why so many have died in Knapdale.
    Scotland is a fabulous place for Wildlife, its just a shame that the people who are meant to be responsible for their well-being of the wildlife only have their interests to hart, as seen with the way these people have reacted to the Tay Beavers. Lets not forget a young Scottish Beaver was caught on the River Tay, only to die in the hands of the people running the trial. Through shock of missing its parents.

  • Comment number 27.

    I wonder why a presenter or someone from the programme has not commented on this thread no doubt we already have wild beaver in scotland so why the silence is knapdale a nice wee jolly for them?

  • Comment number 28.

    I am in favour of beavers being introduced, they will assist man in looking after the environment and extending the biodiversity. If there are unwanted side effects we are fully able to observe them before they get too serious and can take appropriate steps to conserve the environment and the beavers.

  • Comment number 29.

    I have only just read this and wish to comment. I am no expert but i get concerned when the idea of reintroducing an animal back into the environment comes up. When an animal becomes extinct it doesnt necessarily mean that habitat dies too, it develops or reacts. Is it really fair to reintroduce the beaver into an environment that has developed without the beaver? I would say not initially but i am unsure.

    Many people have talked about the positive effects on the environment, for example the natural management of wetlands, that the beaver will bring/encourage, but there is surely also negative effects (aside from the views expressed about fishing/water). I am not saying these necessarily outweigh the positives but surely they must be considered. Many people have also talked about the relationship between beavers and fish but what about smallers animals? how will the animals that share the same diet be affected? and will insects and birds be disrupted if the beaver if reintroduced? if so to what extent?.

    I agree with the above fears about what would happen if beaver populations started to dominate the landscape in a negative sense. would they be culled? and who is responsible for all of this?. If managed properly then arguably this would not happen but surely in managing a reintroduced species you want it to thrive not to control it. This also links to the relationship between beavers and humans and whether that will strain the relationship between nature and man. I would say though that i do not think it is fair that farmers/landowners should necessarily have a greater authority here if they suppose damage may be done to their livelihoods.

    Just my thoughts on the matter.

  • Comment number 30.

    @all who want wolves: Bringing back the wolf is a pretty terrible idea for so many reasons but one that wins this argument hands down; they will eat someone.

    might take a month might take 5 years but someone somewhere will be wolf food.

    If all of those in favour volunteer themselves for some "being eaten by wolves" trials to prove that it's harmless then maybe we can move forward.

  • Comment number 31.

    beavers and all wildlife mean little to conservative government.....81% of mp's though say greater protections are needed for woodlands,,,,what about protecting the wild nature we have left,,,the conservatives craftlyily say they will protect AONB,greenbelt and countryside treasures,but countryside is seperate from real wild nature sites like national parks!,most of united kingdom is not protected from development! we have unique wild nature,grasses,flowrs ect..are they to build on that....! this is not classed as countryside....wilderness is diffferent....where is ressaurance in nppf new planning laws this willbe protected?

  • Comment number 32.

    There is quite a hypocritical view about wildlife in this country. People don't want wildlife that effect humans and their property in any way, but at the same time want other countries to save the tiger and live along side far more dangerous animals rather then hunting them to extinction.

    If we can't even live along side our native wildlife, do we have a right to ask anyone else to do the same in their countries?

  • Comment number 33.

    Was just thinking it might be worthwhile doing a slot on the beavers in the Tay Valley. If I recall correctly, these were escapees/deliberately released and have been around for some years.

  • Comment number 34.

    I wonder if the Tayside beavers are already being "culled" on the QT?

  • Comment number 35.

    beaver reintroduction is only good for the wild life in the areas they are in...creation of these large pools due to damming brings in exra insect and amphibian life, which has the automatic knock on effect of of attracting more insects and wild life around them...they also create little holding areas for young fish to live and grow in relative safety and then move on to the faster deeper water when they are able...studies in the USA have proved that beavers are vital to the stability of river systems...bring more of them back to britain....we need them.


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