The Scottish Government in their wisdom, have given the Beaver Project an extension to their licence which has allowed them to release a further pair of beavers onto Creag Mhor Loch and to replace dead or dispersed adult beavers up to May 2011. 13 months from the start of the trial, with four additional beavers released we still only have three pairs, one single and two juveniles. With the smallest number for a meaningful trial being four families, the trial has effectively lost a year and the data at the end of five years will be questionable.
The Beaver Project have published the findings of the post mortem on the adult male beaver released onto the Lily Loch on 4 May and subsequently found dead in the lodge on 27 May. ‘The beaver is believed to have failed to adapt to the local diet following the change in his surroundings and found to be in poor body condition resulting from a lack of food in his digestive system’. In other words, he starved to death. This seems astonishing given that the beavers were being closely monitored post release, the beaver had not been seen for at least a week and the radio signal had not moved for the same time. The release site is a very small lochan and the artificial lodge only a few metres from where the Project Team were monitoring activity - or lack of it. The last time I spoke to monitoring staff at the Lily Loch I asked if they were still feeding the beavers and was assured that they were feeding themselves - clearly they were not. It seems unlikely that a beaver would fail to adapt to the Knapdale diet without some underlying cause and it is believed that this was the beaver which was rumoured to have been injured in captivity, prior to it’s release. Only a cynic would suggest that the news was suppressed until after the Anniversary Press Release. It seems that the image of the Project is more important than the welfare of beavers.
Following the death of it’s partner, the female beaver moved to Seafield Loch and has since been observed on the loch but I am not convinced it is still there. Perhaps hammering in of marker pegs in the ground and metal discs on the trees might have frightened it away? There are some signs of activity, a gnawed tree and some smaller nibblings but generally it does not seem to have made much impact on the loch. The beaver was described as being sub-adult so may not be able to cope without a family group. With the unexplained death of it’s partner, it might have been sensible to capture and examine the female to check it’s health and remove it from the trial area where it will be exceptionally lucky to meet up with a spare male beaver. The water course from Seafield Loch will take the beaver to Creag Mhor Loch where the two new beavers have been released and they are unlikely to welcome a spare beaver. Had it been released, as originally intended, onto the Frog Loch it would be connected to Loch Linne where there should be a spare male beaver ready to establish it’s own territory.
The Dubh Loch beavers continue to maintain and enlarge the dam at the edge of Coille Bharr. Water levels had dropped after months with very little rain but the drought now seems to have ended.
On recent visits to Loch Linne, we have only spotted one beaver on the loch. It is possible that the adult female has given birth and will be staying in the lodge, but the two males, adult and juvenile, should be out and about, getting food for her. The beaver had no ear tags and no sign of a radio tracking device. Early July is when kits should emerge from the lodge, but so far there has been no sign - but with only infrequent visits to the sites, I don’t know what is happening and like the rest of the public have to rely on the Beaver Trial for information which is not always forthcoming. Kits will be a big draw for the public and there will be a conflict between wishing to put out ‘Good News’ and not wishing to cause disturbance to the beavers.
Photos 1 Single female beaver on Seafield Loch 15 June 2010, 2 Tree on the edge of Seafield Loch, 3 Rowan on rocky promontory at the north end of Seafield Loch, 4 Seafield Loch looking South
It is difficult not to feel contempt for Mike Russell, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and Scottish Natural Heritage et al over the intended beaver introduction. Not the same contempt that they have displayed for procedure during the risible consultation period and subsequently, I don’t have the right sort of cynicicm. If the opposite of the truth is a lie then between them, from Alec Salmond down, they have indulged themselves. SWT`s campaign of deliberate misinformation and evasion seemed to spur the other participants on. We learn from Mike Russell that “the people of Scotland” want this introduction, yet if you read the SNH survey you will discover that only 39 people, not even 39%, were in favour. Alec Salmond says that beaver were “highlighted” by SNH in their species action framework; not so, it merely appears on a list. Mike Russell said he was confident that SNH would give him unbiased advice! Is this the same SNH that spent over £83,000 trying to introduce beaver themselves? The same SNH that SWT says asked them to apply for the licence so that they wouldn’t appear to be involved? The same SNH that produced a report that said it was highly unlikely that a viable beaver population could exist in Scotland without human intervention. SWT boast that they will release them anywhere they can and then wash their hands of any responsibility thereafter. This from a charity supposedly protecting existing animals; I wonder just how honest they have been with their membership.
SNH has a list of invasive species, and more are arriving all the time, from Knotweed to American crayfish, Japanese shrimp to the New Zealand Flatworm, and let’s not forget the mink, the grey squirrel, and Sika Deer. They are big on reports because it looks like they are doing something, but action on the ground is a bit thin. So much more fun to connive with SWT to spend £2 million pounds on the introduction of another non-native life form. Mike Russell, parroting SWT, calls it a “charismatic” creature. It is certainly one way of describing a giant water rat famous for its destructive habits; in Europe hundreds of millions of euros are spent annually putting right the damage they cause to the infrastructure.
It’s worth remembering that SNH are the people who would rather slaughter hedgehogs on the Uists, because “they might get stressed” in a box on the ferry to the mainland. Now they have no qualms, moral or ethical, about trapping 40/50 beavers in Norway, transporting them in box to Scotland, quarantining them in questionably suitable security, trapping them again, putting them back in a box and taking them to Argyll. The release site in North Knapdale is designated SSSI and contains rare aquatic plants and other protected species such as, adders, newts, divers and dragonflies. It is an eco-system that has evolved over several hundred years without benefit of beaver and is a rich and diverse habitat. It was 4th on the SNH list of suitable beaver release sites, but presumably being on Forestry Commission land (themselves historically notorious for landscape abuse) it was the easiest option. Mike Russell, again parroting SWT, points to the creation of ponds and wetlands as one of the benefits of beaver, as these already exist, as he well knows, I wonder where he is referring to. All parties are keen to stress the species diversity advantages, without actually being able to be specific. No one has as yet revealed what it is that Argyll lacks that beaver will encourage. They also of course fail to point out that the existing species will be put at risk and that some will disappear altogether, but as there doesn’t appear to be a comprehensive species audit, we`ll never know. If at the end of the trial period the beaver are removed, will SWT and SNH be able to restore the ecosystem they have wantonly destroyed in the name of some very doubtful science?
If you or I were to pick the rare water lily or catch a newt, the full force of outraged environmental guardians would be brought to bear. So how is it that Mike Russell can get a giant rodent to do it and it’s all right? If this ill-conceived and pointless endeavour is successful, there will be a cost, financially and environmentally, a tab to be picked up by our children, who will no doubt wonder who the arrogant, self aggrandising perpetrators were, and why they were allowed to get away with it.
Open letter to papers and the Scottish Government
Dear Sir, It seems that it might be up to eight beaver that have died, certainly five died during their incarceration in a concrete floored shed during quarantine. They died to boost the ego of the former Environment Minister. They died as a consequence of lies told by Alec Salmond. They died because of Scottish Natural Heritage and political chicanery. They died because of the arrogance of the Scottish Wildlife Trust. They died because no one cared enough, not the opposition in Edinbrough, not the big businesses upon which they might deprade, nor the public, lulled and gulled by SWT’s pernicious propaganda. Presumably they are considered the broken eggs for the TWO AND A HALF MILLION pound eco-omelette being foisted on Argyll.
Now that so many have died, is the trial introduction still a valid endeavour? It has been admitted that the original number of beaver was insufficient for a proper trial, and that the five year trial period was not long enough for a proper study. So one does rather wonder how so many people got caught up in this fraudulent scheme. Because of the former minister’s ludicrous ambition to be known as the man who brought beaver to Scotland, no independent assessment was ever conducted. All the information, most of it of a blatant bias, has been generated by SWT and SNH. Should beaver become a problem after SWT’s Simon Milne has achieved his ambition to release them all over Scotland his solution is to issue hunting licences.
This whole ill starred enterprise is as ethically and morally bankrupt as the instigators who sponsor it. It was an act of despoliation to introduce a giant destructive rodent into a centuries old closed eco-system, which incidentally, already contained everything supposedly encouraged by beaver, except the hairy dragonfly. A TWO AND A HALF MILLION pound dragonfly needs to be bloody spectacular! It’s all there will be, that, and some dead trees.