Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Knapdale Beaver Trial Update August 2010

As more beavers are added to the trial it becomes more difficult for the casual observer to keep track of what is happening so here is an update of the current situation in Knapdale. I have observed the female on Seafield Loch but for the other numbers, I am relying on the information from the Scottish Beaver Trial so cannot vouch for its accuracy.

The Dubh Loch now has four beavers, an adult pair, a female of about 3 years and a kit born this year. On Loch Linne there are also four beavers comprising an adult pair, a male of about 3 years and another kit born this year. One female beaver of about 3 years is alone on Seafield Loch, having moved from the Lily Loch after the death of its partner shortly after release. A further pair of beavers said to be 2 and 2 and a half years old (not sure how that works when I had understood that beavers give birth once a year in spring) were released onto Creag Mhor Loch on 23 June and have since moved over to the unnamed Lochan between Creag Mhor and Loch Linne. As the second pair of beavers to disperse from this loch it might be surmised that the loch is inherently unsuitable for beavers rather than the popular belief that someone shot at the first lot - a totally unsubstantiated suggestion which persists in Knapdale Beaver Mythology.

So, despite adding four extra beavers, the project is still one beaver short of the four pairs required for a viable trial, unless the male from Loch Linne and the female on Seafield Loch manage to meet and mate. With no water course between Seafield Loch and Loch Linne this may be difficult although beavers have proved themselves able to move overland and even by sea if necessary. Similarly, there is no direct route between Loch Linne and Dubh Loch to facilitate the meeting of the young male and female from these lochs. The total beaver population in Knapdale is now 11, the same number as released in May 2009.

With permission from the Scottish Government to replace dead or dispersed adult beavers up until May 2011, the project can simply continue to add new beavers to the trial to maintain the numbers. The new Creag Mhor beavers only spent 2 days in rabies quarantine (despite is being a requirement of DEFRA that all mammals entering the UK should undergo six months quarantine) and were released into the wild only seven or eight weeks after arriving from Norway. Each time the trial has a problem, it is easily solved by changing the licence conditions. The trial has been granted £20,000 by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (has no one told them that beavers are not an endangered species?) to provide new quarantine facilities and funds to import a further two beavers to Highland Wildlife Park. How do they know which gender of beaver is going to die or disperse? Apparently there are a further two pairs of beavers still in holding for possible use in the trial.

One thing we were assured of was that the presence of beavers would in no way affect the normal rights and access of the public and yet there have been restrictions on fishing in one instance, suggestions that swimming in Loch Coille Bharr might disturb the beavers and even worse might disturb the visitors who might wish to see the beavers. One week after the trial declared their ‘Beaver Safaris’ a great success with an estimated 172 people visiting the site over four evenings, the public are asked to stay away from the loch edge to prevent disturbance to the new kits.

On the positive side, work has started on the new path which bypasses the flooding which has made the Loch Coille Bharr walk impassable for the last year. It will take the visitor over the dam and is the first new infrastructure put in place to enable visitors to have access to the site.

Photos: Female Beaver on Seafield Loch, Unnamed Lochan where new Creag Mhor beavers have relocated, Branches stripped by beavers, New path at Loch Coille Bharr, Beaver Dam at edge of Loch Coille Bharr

References http://blog.scottishbeavers.org.uk/

1 comment:

  1. Beavers were extinct in the British Isles. That's very endangered. As part of the native British flora, they should be represented and intuition suggests that their effect on the ecological web of life should be a net positive one and on balance worth trying out. Ideally Britain should have a healthy population of wild cats, lynxes, three or four packs of wolves and a spattering of bears. Obviously there's simply not the habitat left to support the vast majority of our natural fauna, so the remainder is impoverished and biased against top predators that require a large range, favouring herbivores such as deer. However it makes sense to ensure what remains includes as much as is practicable, including beaver despite the occasional inconveniences that they cause.