Wild beavers in Scotland more than DOUBLED since 2017

Scotland now has more than 1,000 wild beavers, according to a new report, which found their numbers and the number of territories have doubled since 2017.

Beavers living in Scotland today are descended from a handful of animals released from private collections in Perthshire, in an illegal rewilding project 20 years ago.

NatureScot carried out an extensive survey of beaver populations and territories in 2020, finding the population was about 1,000 living in 251 different territories. 

The range of where these territories are has grown too, from Glen Isla to Dundee and Stirling, Forfar to Crianlarich – and is likely to expand into Loch Lomond in the future. 

Robbie Kernahan, NatureScot director of sustainable growth, said with wildlife declining in Scotland, the increasing beaver population is great news. 

The report also revealed that 87 beavers were culled over the past three years by trained specialists working to reduce the impact on agriculture. 

Beavers play a vital role in creating and restoring wetlands where other species can thrive, reducing downstream flooding and improving water quality.

Eurasian beavers are a native species in the UK but they were hunted to extinction in the 16th Century. 

A growing rewilding movement throughout the 20th Century resulted in proposals to reintroduce the species.

The reintroduction was supposed to happen through a gradual official rollout organised by the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

But over fears it might not happen, groups of campaigners illegally released the animals from private collections held in Perthshire around 2000.

There was a further introduction of more animals in 2009 through an official Scottish Wildlife Trust scheme. 

The new survey by NatureScot found that most of the 1,000 in Scotland today came from the illegal release, rather than the later official rollout. 

Under species control licences reported to NatureScot in 2020, 31 beavers were trapped and moved to licensed, enclosed reintroduction projects in England; 56 beaver dams were removed; and 115 beavers were culled.

Figures indicated that between May and December 2019, 15 beavers were trapped and moved to Knapdale, Argyll, or trial reintroduction projects in England.

The survey was carried out last winter and is said to be the most comprehensive and authoritative survey of beaver numbers and their range ever conducted in Britain.