Monday, 19 October 2009

Dam Destruction and Errant Beavers

On Friday 2 October, The Argyllshire Advertiser ran a front page story with full colour photo of beaver damage to trees on Baxter Nisbet’s land at Drimvore. This could only be caused by either the missing adult female beaver from Creag Mhor Loch or her female kit. These beavers had allegedly been shot or disturbed by shots in the forest on or around 6 June and had left the loch at that time. The shots were only reported to the police at the end of July when the male beaver turned up at a fish farm on Loch Craignish and the absence of one of the three released families became public. It has been a feature of the trial so far that only ‘good’ beaver news is released. The media was full of reports of a beaver having been shot and subsequently I had a visit from the police who were investigating the alleged incident. When your conscience is clear, a police car driving into your yard is a heart sinking experience.

It was anticipated that the beaver or beavers would be recaptured ‘within a fortnight’ but as of today, 19 October, they remain at Drimvore, continuing to damage trees, outside the release area.

One of the stated aims of the Beaver Project is to ‘Assess the effects of beaver activities on the environment, including a range of land uses’. Five months into the trial, I think we can already make an assessment of those effects. Beavers will not remain contained in a geographical area. They have already demonstrated that they can travel overland and through sea to find new territories and will cause damage to trees on privately owned land. It was predicted that dispersing beavers would be likely to follow watercourses to the south of the release lochs but the Creag Mhor beavers moved north.

The beavers have also shown that they are not as easy to catch as we were led to believe.

As the autumn progresses, the beavers are moving on to larger trees. Two fairly substantial trees beside Loch Linne have been felled but have hung up in the canopy making the bark and smaller branches inaccessible.

Another effect of beaver activity is flooding. The ‘Beaver Detective Trail’ around Loch Coille Bharr remains flooded and the water level continues to rise despite drier weather conditions in recent weeks. The dam which is preventing water from the Dubh Loch draining into Coille Bharr looks as if it has been deliberately lowered at one end to stop the water level rising further. The water level on Loch Linne which was threatening to submerge the fishing pier has gone down. This has happened because the dam on the outflow loch has been dug out.

How can there be a proper assessment of the impact of beavers on an area if the natural behaviour and activity of the beaver is thwarted? Giving the public a sanitised version of the consequences of beaver impact may prolong the trial for a while but if and when the population expands, it will become increasingly difficult to downplay the undesirable results of this introduction.

Photos - 1, Two large trees partially felled at Loch Linne, 2, Material dug out of Loch Linne dam, 3, Dam appears to have been disturbed at Loch Coille Bharr, 4, Water Level reduced to 7 from earlier recorded 8.