Conclusions about Reintroducing
We are convinced that reintroduction is not only highly desirable, but essential and certain of success.
has happened in Europe?
The European beaver was once very widespread, distributed continuously across Eurasia from the British Isles to eastern Siberia. However over-hunting eliminated the beaver throughout most of its range so that by the beginning of the twentieth century only around 1200 individuals remained in eight isolated populations. Soon after however, these remnant populations began to receive legal protection and the first reintroduction scheme took place in 1922 when some beavers were taken from Norway to Sweden. Since then many beaver reintroduction schemes have taken place right across Europe so that reintroduced populations also now exist in Latvia, Russia, Finland, Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, France, Switzerland, Estonia, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania, Belgium and as of last year, in Denmark. Several of the more recent schemes have been encouraged by the EU Habitats Directive which urges member states to consider the desirability of reintroducing certain species, among them the beaver. As a result of these many schemes, a wealth of expertise and experience exists, in particular in Scandinavia where the first reintroductions took place.
The beaver has been reintroduced throughout Europe in many countries and a great deal of in-depth knowledge about beavers has been built up.
What stage is beaver reintroduction at in Scotland?
So far the government conservation body, Scottish Natural Heritage, has carried out a feasibility study which demonstrated that enough suitable habitat existed for beavers in Scotland. A subsequent public consultation exercise was conducted by SNH to gauge views on the reintroduction proposal. The results showed conclusively that public opinion favoured the reintroduction of beavers. The main dissenting voice however, was that of the angling fraternity who were concerned that beaver dams would impede fish migration. SNH then took the decision that a pilot study or trial reintroduction should take place in the belief that it would allow further research into beaver reintroduction. It is envisaged that once this trial has been set up, a period of 5 years will be used to observe beavers under controlled circumstances in one or two enclosed sites.
A decision will then be made as to whether full reintroduction should go ahead.
Do we agree with this approach?
The Scottish Beaver Network does not agree with this approach because we believe that European experience allows us to be much more confident about beaver restoration in Scotland. We do not feel that a trial reintroduction will be able to provide answers to all the questions it seeks to address. For example, if the self-contained trial is to take place in an isolated loch, then the concerns of anglers about the effect of dams on migrating fish will not be allayed. We feel that the time-scale involved is much too long. The recent Belgian reintroduction took place less than 2 years after the original seminal discussions. In this country, beavers may still not have been reintroduced by 2010, 15 years after they were initially included in SNH's Species Action Programme. In addition, the costs for the anticipated 5-year trial reintroduction are very high. The fears and difficulties of beaver reintroduction have been too heightened. Beaver translocation is a well-organised activity with high degrees of success. There is no doubt in our minds that beaver reintroduction to Scotland will be highly successful and much appreciated by the great bulk of the Scottish people. We believe it is important to be enthusiastic, confident and capable over the project and that it should not become bogged down by doubts and excessive scientific proof. It is essential for biodiversity and ecosystem health.
We feel that European experience will be more revealing than a trial reintroduction
Are the fears raised by the process justified?
feel from speaking with European experts that most fears are unfounded.