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.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the update Jane - feels like we get the REAL story from you!
    £22K??!!!! Take it this was allowed for in the elastic budget?