The alternative blog on the reintroduction of the Beaver to Argyll, Scotland.
Thursday, 11 November 2010
Beavers Prepare for Winter
We now have twelve beavers in Knapdale, out of a total of 28 beavers imported from Norway between February 2008 and September 2010. A total of 16 have been released into the trial area and two kits have been born. Three beavers are confirmed to have died and three are missing presumed dead. The pair released onto Creag Mhor Loch in June have moved over to the un-named loch between Loch Linne and Creag Mhor. This is the least accessible loch in the trial. The single female on Seafield Loch (Lochan Buic on the OS map) has been paired up with a male imported from Norway in September. The beaver family on the Dubh Loch are an adult pair and one sub adult female and one kit born this year and the family on Loch Linne have one sub adult male and one kit born this year. While the project was delighted that kits were born, it is more usual for beavers to produce two or three kits. The sub adult beavers are now at the age when it is likely that they will disperse from their family groups and attempt to set up new territories.
The greatest impact of beavers in Knapdale can be seen at Loch Coille Bharr and Dubh Loch. The dam continues to be raised, increasing the area of flooding and the subsequent drowning of many trees in the area. The flooded path has now been bypassed with a path which follows the ridge along the side of Coille Bhar and onto a very fine pontoon across the loch, passing below the beaver dam. We await the official opening. Great care was taken to ensure that no trees were harmed during the installation of the pontoon. Increased flooding made the entrance to the new £22,000 path impassable so a local contractor has been employed to raise the path with many tons of rock and gravel and formed a dam to hold back the flooding. It seems out of place in a Special Area of Conservation.
On Loch Linne, very little has changed as their dam building activities were thwarted when the project destroyed the dam to protect the Special Area of Conservation and the beavers do not seem to have attempted to rebuild it. Many trees have been felled and the beavers have been feeding on bullrush, water lobelia and water lily.
The pair of beavers on Seafield Loch have started to build a lodge directly opposite the fishing jetty. Many small trees and several larger ones have already been felled. The road past the loch is already subject to flooding and it will not take much in the way of damming activities on the outlet burn to flood this path. Water gates and fencing have been installed on the two burns which head south to Loch Sween, to prevent the beavers leaving the trial area by this route. The gate just up from the Seafield corner has been wrecked twice by debris swept down the burn during periods of heavy rain.
The beavers in the Creag Mhor loch area are reported to be settled but there is no further information on these beavers except that the male recently received veterinary treatment for an abscess on its rump. There have been no further updates on this beaver's condition.
Princess Anne flew in by helicopter to visit the project in her capacity as Patron of RZSS. She was able to see the effects of the beavers on Loch Linne and the Dubh Loch but the animals themselves stayed out of sight.
The Knapdale beavers had 30 seconds of fame on Autumnwatch. A very short piece of footage was shown and Chris Packham told viewers that the project was in the early, sensitive stages and so visitors should perhaps wait a couple of years before coming to see them. Given that the project was delighted with the turnout of 175 people to their four beaver safaris in the summer and that the project has to show an economic benefit to the area, this doesn't seem the most helpful of advice for the project although the beavers will undoubtedly benefit from being left alone.
Photos, Female Beaver on Seafield Loch, Large tree felled on Seafield Loch, Pontoon on Coille Bharr, New path and dam at Coille Bharr, Overflowing dam on Coille Bharr, Lodge on Dubh Loch, Beginnings of lodge construction on Seafield Loch, Tree felling near lodge on Seafield Loch.
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.