An invitation to go and see the Scottish beaver re-introduction
Contrary to our over-cautious advice on Autumnwatch just over a week ago (sorry!), our friends at the Scottish Beaver Trial in Knapdale Forest, Argyll have told us that they would indeed welcome visitors to the site, where you will be able to see their great work in action (and if you are really lucky, see one of the beavers as well). The site is actually set up for visitors in such a way that it should not disturb the beavers as long as you follow the instructions and stick to the marked trails.
We've asked Simon Jones, Scottish Beaver Trial Project Manager, to write us a guest blog post to explain more.
Picture the scene: it's a cool autumn night in Knapdale Forest and the skies have just turned to a hazy dusk, marking the time for beavers to begin emerging from their lodges.
These are the first wild beavers to inhabit Scotland in over 400 years and field staff of the Scottish Beaver Trial are watching the beavers very closely. By tracking the beavers' activities in the wild, the trial aims to determine the impact bringing back beavers could have on Scotland's landscapes and whether a beaver population could once again thrive here. The results of this trial could, in fact, determine the future of beavers in Scotland.
So that's why I'm here, sitting in a canoe looking across a picturesque Scottish loch for signs of movement.
One of the newborn kits (photo copyright Scottish Beaver Trial)
Suddenly, with a splash and a tail slap, a beaver announces its presence beside me. Quickly, I turn to find a kit, newly born this spring and one of the first to be born in Scotland as part of the trial. It zooms off, already a swimming pro and moving much faster than the parents it's now trying to find. I watch, from a distance, as the beaver family goes about its business, visiting their regular feeding stations where they fell small trees and feed on the bark.
Beaver monitoring (photo copyright Scottish Beaver Trial)
Beavers have now been resident in Knapdale Forest for 18 months, with two of our established beaver family groups breeding this summer. In total we have four pairs which have all now established territories and built lodges, and sometimes even dams. With positive signs that our beaver population is beginning to settle, we hope to see some of our younger beavers, which still currently live in their family groups, disperse next year to find new mates and form new families.
You might be lucky enough to see Scotland's beavers if you visit Knapdale Forest yourself. If you do, I suggest that you begin your visit at Barnlusgan, where you can park your car. After a visit to the Scottish Beaver Trial Information Centre, I would suggest a walk around Loch Coille Bharr on the Beaver Detective Trail. This 1.5-2 hour walk takes you close to the loch edges of some occupied beaver habitat. Sign posts along the way will give you information on beavers. Look out for the many beaver signs, such as felled trees and branches, and there' s also an impressive new pond created by a dam built by the beavers. If you are patient and quiet around dusk time you might be in luck and see a beaver or two.
The Scottish Beaver Trial Information Centre (photo copyright Scottish Beaver Trial)
To increase your chances of seeing the beavers and avoid disturbing the animals, stay on the path and remain a respectful distance from the loch edge.
Visit our website to find out more about how to plan your journey to Knapdale and also learn more about this landmark trial, which marks the first time that a mammal has been reintroduced to the wild in Britain.
The Scottish Beaver Trial is a partnership project run by Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.