Friday, 5 February 2010

Beavers on the Lily Loch





At a recent drop in Beaver Information evening at Tayvallich, the film of the capture, quarantine and release of the beavers into Knapdale was shown. Anyone with an interest in animal welfare would be taken aback to see how they were captured with nets from boats, bundled into sacks and crates, kept in holding and then flown to Britain and transported to the quarantine facility in Devon which could hardly be described as ideal beaver habitat. It is not surprising that only one beaver family survived the experience intact, requiring the release to be bolstered by two families from an earlier importation which had been held at Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park. These animals were not mentioned in the film, giving the impression that all the released beavers came from the same place at the same time. It was fortunate for the project that RZSS happened to have removed their existing collection of Bavarian beavers and replaced them with beavers from the ‘right’ area. Otherwise there would be no trial.

Currently there are two families of three remaining in the trial site - Loch Linnhe and the Dubh Loch. One young female beaver from the Coille Bharr/Dubh Loch family has been missing since August 09 and there is a plan to search for it along the coast from Carsaig to Craignish. The two female beavers from Creag Mhor Loch have been missing since June 09. Signs of beaver activity were spotted in September at Drimvore, north of the Crinan Canal. A burrow on the River Add was washed out in floods and since then, there has been no sign of the animals. The adult male from Creag Mhor Loch which has been living alone on the loch since its escape bid ended last August was caught before Christmas in the routine catch-up to assess the animal’s health. It was found to be in poor condition and has been taken to Edinburgh Zoo for further investigation and treatment. It is not yet known whether it will be fit to return to the trial in the future.

Two families are not enough for a viable trial so two of the beavers from the original importation, an adult male and sub adult female, are to be paired up and released onto the lochan south east of Seafield Loch, locally known as the Lily Loch. This is a delightul lochan, fringed on three sides with a narrow band of broadleaved woodland and surrounded by conifers. There are more hardwoods to the south of the loch, soon to be under water if the beavers build a dam. This has always been a peaceful spot to sit and enjoy the native flora and fauna.

To discourage the animals from moving south along the burn which emerges onto land at Seafield Farm, it is proposed to fence the burn. How can anyone judge what impact beavers will have on the Scottish landscape if they are not allowed to roam freely. Why not just fence all the beaver lochs and call them Wildlife Parks and charge admission - then we would have a proper assessment of the benefits to tourism. Assuming the beavers remain on the lochan rather than heading for Seafield Loch, it will not take them long to dam the outlet stream and submerge the walkway and bench, removing another amenity enjoyed by locals and visitors. Being only a matter of a few hundred yards from the Clay Pigeon shoot, we can only hope they are not frightened away by the noise.

Even if this third pair settle on the Lily Loch, there are still not enough animals for a viable trial so it is proposed that permission is sought for the release of a fifth family sometime during the first two years of the trial so presumably more beavers will have to be captured in Norway, quarantined and released - unless of course RZSS, having lost their beavers which were brought over without any thought of being part of the trial, have had the foresight to import more animals for their collections. Wouldn’t that be lucky.