A family of beavers has been approved for a move from Tayside to Loch Lomond.
RSPB Scotland’s application to translocate the animals was agreed by NatureScot, meaning they will be resettled in the Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve (NNR).
The project was made possible by Scottish government policy changes designed to support the expansion of Scotland’s beaver population.
It is the third new site approved for the release of beavers.
The first reintroduction trial took place at Knapdale in Argyll in 2009, followed by a successful release of a family at Argaty near Doune last year.
RSPB Scotland has welcomed the changes which allow it to support the expansion of the beaver population by moving animals to new suitable wetland areas.
In the past farmers have spoken of their anger at the damage beavers cause to their land.
In its application to licensing agency Nature Scot, RSPB Scotland said it wanted to provide a suitable site to translocate beavers which would otherwise be “lethally controlled”.
It believes that beavers will enhance habitats and diversity of species which also ties in with the Scottish government’s biodiversity strategy.
Translocation involves safely trapping and moving the beavers to the more suitable area. Now the licence has been granted, the beavers will be captured at their current location, where they may be having a negative impact on prime agricultural land.
They will go through a series of health checks before release at Aber Burn, which is likely to take place early in the new year.
Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management at RSPB Scotland, said: “We are incredibly excited to be able to offer a home to these amazing animals.
“The Loch Lomond NNR is an ideal home for beavers with fen, open water and wet woodland habitat for them to explore.
“Beavers are nature’s wetland creators capable of creating and managing habitats in a way that we could never hope to achieve.
“We are looking forward to seeing the benefits that beavers bring to the wider biodiversity including amphibians, fish and wetland birds as well as our visitors who will hopefully see some of their engineering work over the coming years.”
NatureScot, Scotland’s nature agency, said the proposed release site was found to be highly suitable for beavers.
An environmental report highlights that beavers have been present in the catchment since at least 2019, and are likely to further colonise it naturally.
‘Speeding up the process’
The agency believes speeding up the natural colonisation process there by releasing beavers will help improve population numbers and genetic diversity, delivering a wide range of benefits for nature in the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.
Donald Fraser, NatureScot’s head of wildlife management, said: “Beavers are ecosystem engineers, creating habitats such as ponds and wetlands where other species thrive, as well as moderating water flows and improving water quality.
“In doing so, they play an important role in helping to restore biodiversity and respond to the climate emergency in Scotland.
“This decision will allow beavers to be trapped and removed from highly productive agricultural land, and introduced to an ecologically suitable site within their current natural colonisation range where they are expected to bring a range of benefits.
“We know that beavers can occasionally cause issues, and we recognise the concerns raised by some through the engagement process.
“We’re committed to working with RSPB Scotland, local communities and stakeholders to develop an effective monitoring and management plan that seeks to minimise any negative beaver impacts and maximise the benefits and opportunities of beaver restoration.”
NNR is managed in partnership by RSPB Scotland, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority and NatureScot.
Eurasian beavers are native to Britain and used to be widespread in Scotland but became extinct in the 16th century, mainly due to hunting for fur, meat and “castoreum” – a castor oil used mainly in perfumes – but also from loss of wetland habitat.