Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Beavers in Knapdale - One Year On

27 May 2010 was a busy day in Knapdale. It was almost a year since the introduction of eleven beavers to Knapdale Forest; media attention was at its height, SWT & RZSS published a very upbeat press release in which it was stated that there were ‘signs of success’, and the latest additions to the beaver trial on 4 May were said to be ‘settling in well’. What it didn’t mention was that on the same day, one of those well settled beavers, (having not been seen for about 10 days) was found dead in it’s lodge only 23 days after release. This news was not released until the tv cameras and national press had left the area to pursue the next story.

During the consultation prior to the granting of the licence we were given a lot of information about beavers and how they might behave in Scotland. So, one year on, what have we learned about Beavers in Knapdale?

Beavers do not enjoy six months living in totally unnatural quarantine conditions.

Beavers are social animals and do not thrive alone.

Beavers do build dams and cause flooding.

Beavers are better than humans when assessing suitable beaver sites.

Beavers do kill trees.

Beavers do travel in the sea.

Beavers alter and manage wetlands but they do not ‘do it for free’.

Beavers are not ‘geographically contained in Knapdale’.

Beavers are not easy to catch.

Beaver Radio Tracking Devices fall off beavers.

Beavers require constant monitoring and management.

Of the 25 beavers which were imported from Norway in 2008, 12 have died, 3 are missing presumed dead, 7 remain in Knapdale (two settled families of 3 and a single female currently on the move) and 3 are either dead or still in captivity in Edinburgh Zoo or Highland Wildlife Park.

The Scottish Government has granted permission for the introduction of a further pair of beavers (the fifth family or pair to be introduced bringing the total of families/pairs in Knapdale up to three. Four pairs are considered the minimum requirement for a viable trial) and the replacement of adult beavers which die or disperse from the trial site up to May 2011.

In more than 10 years since the project was first proposed, the budget has increased from something in the region of £400,000, to £700,000, to £1.7 million, to something over £2 million.

Environmental Benefits A small loch has been enlarged creating a slightly larger area of wetland which as a percentage of Argyll’s wetland is infinitessimal.

Environmental Casualties Many trees have been felled or flooded removing woodland habitat.

Tourism & Economic Benefits Visitors to the area have been able to view beavers. Hotels and Community Venues hosting Beaver Consultation and Stakeholder meetings have benefited.

Tourism Casualties Visitors have been denied access to the walk around Loch Coille Bharr (the recently rebranded Beaver Detective Trail) due to thigh high flooding on the path.

With another four years of the trial to go, it is impossible to predict the outcome but whatever happens, Knapdale will remain a wonderfully beautiful area with an astonishing range of wildlife which is in no way dependent on the presence of beavers.

Photos: Single Female Beaver on Seafield Loch (Lochan Buic) 15 June 2010. This beaver is the surviving animal of the pair released onto the Lily Loch 4 May 2010.

Beavers on Lily Loch 9 May 2010, before the death of the male during May 2010. The male has green ear tags.

Tree Stumps, Lily Loch 8 June 2010

Monday, 7 June 2010

Letter expressing dismay

Dear Editor,

I write to express my dismay at the depletion in the number of Beaver in Knapdale. Surely the experiment must fail if SWT runs out of subjects, though as they set it up they can vary it to suit. I do hope the Zoo has been quietly stocking up for just such an eventuality. Having had to do so already, I hope they have a supply chain in place, now that the death of Beavers is an expected by- product of the endeavour.

I don’t remember SWT or SNH being particularly frank about the expected losses, but the fact SNH is involved is par for the course. Having been instrumental in the slaughter of some 600 or so Hedgehogs on the Uists, it is no surprise to find them involved in the deaths of another species

Hence my concern, if we run out of Beaver, will they look elsewhere for a suitable subject? Something like the Mink perhaps, this charismatic animal is a keystone predator and as such is responsible for the successful elimination of noisy seabird colonies and those nasty wee water voles.

Oddly enough, the Mink too was introduced into the wild by well meaning interfering busybodies. True, they didn’t have 2 million pounds to spend, but I think we can safely say that Mink are a success story.

I’m sure SNH aren’t too fussed about the species just as long as it can be killed in the interests of environment/ecology/habitat and EU dictat. So please can we have more Beaver, it surely makes sense to kill alien species rather than indigenous ones.

Yours faithfully

Alexander Hamilton