Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Beaver Debacle Continues

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