Beavers on the move

Beavers bring many benefits for nature, but their activities can occasionally cause problems for farmers and other landowners. When measures to minimise issues such as flooding have not been successful, beavers can sometimes be trapped and moved under licence from NatureScot, working with specialist staff from the Beaver Trust. In today’s blog we hear about the experience of one farm where beavers were successfully caught and relocated.

A close-up of one of the beavers moved from the farm ©Beaver Trust

When beavers first arrived near Gillian Spalding’s farm they were a welcome sight. With a strong ethos of farming for nature, Gillian was delighted with her new neighbours, but it wasn’t long before some beaver activity began to impact on the farm.

Beavers can create incredibly diverse and rich wetland habitats which are great for biodiversity, but this ability to significantly change the environment they live in can also cause issues, particularly near farmland. Beavers can build dams, fell trees and dig burrows and canals.

Gillian said: “Initially, I was delighted at the beavers being there as it really went with our conservation and farming for wildlife ethos. But as time went on the beaver family grew and so did the number of dams! After two years the extent of the flooding damage became too much and that is when I needed some help with mitigating the beavers.”

NatureScot’s beaver team worked with Beaver Trust specialist Roisin Campbell-Palmer to look at what measures might work on the site. As part of NatureScot’s Beaver Mitigation Scheme it was agreed that a flow device would be installed in the now large dam on the farm to help reduce water levels and tree protection works were carried out. Unfortunately further damming by the beavers meant these measures were not going to be sufficient to allow the beaver presence to be tolerated.

Gillian explained: “Roisin and her team are really efficient at their jobs and provide so much help and advice. Roisin was really sympathetic to our needs and worries about the extent of the damage and provided swift solutions. Sadly, not all mitigations were going to be viable so therefore a trapping licence was needed.”

Where it’s necessary to remove beavers, NatureScot wants to see trapping under licence used wherever possible, rather than the last resort of lethal control.  Working with the Beaver Trust, our staff can arrange trapping at no costs to the land manager where a licence has been approved. Trapping is proving to be successful, and while some patience might be required, normally takes a few weeks.

One of the beavers in the holding facility at Five Sister Zoo ©Beaver Trust

Gillian added: “Within a few weeks of the licence being approved, all the beavers were caught and relocated. The whole process was much easier than expected and I feel has been a really positive experience.”

Beavers can be moved to licenced projects in England and Scottish Government policy now supports expansion of the population in Scotland, which allows for much more potential for trapping and moving beavers here.

The family of beavers moved from Gillian’s farm were taken to holding facilities at Five Sisters Zoo where they were health screened by staff from Five Sisters Zoo, Beaver Trust and an independent specialist wildlife veterinarian for a range of pathogens of concern, before finding a new home at the Argaty Red Kite centre near Doune in February.

One of the beavers is released ©Beaver Trust

Trapping requires specialist skills and careful regard is given to safeguarding beaver welfare.

Roisin said: “Translocations can be an incredibly positive and rewarding mitigation tool.

“Beaver Trust is committed to working with both landowners experiencing challenges with beavers and those seeking to welcome them back.

“We are dedicated to animal welfare, working alongside our project partners Five Sister Zoo and specialist wildlife vets, ensuring high standards of captive care and health screening so that animals are fit for release.”

The beavers are now thriving at their new home. Tom Bowser, the owner of Argaty Red Kites, said: “It’s great to have beavers back at Argaty.

“Already we have seen amazing changes to biodiversity here with dragonflies, spiders, amphibians and mustelids flocking to the growing wetlands.

“We are so grateful to Gillian for engaging in translocation and to Beaver Trust for their amazing work to get them here.”

If you are experiencing problems with beavers on or near your land, you can find out more about NatureScot’s Beaver Mitigation scheme and how to contact the team for help and advice on our website.

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