CONSERVATION experts predict the controversial felling of trees by beavers will help save millions of pounds spent on flood damage and defences after the animals were spotted for the first time on National Trust for Scotland property.

The creatures are often blamed for causing flooding on farmland by building dams. But conservationists said their habit of gnawing down trees also encouraged multiple new younger stems to grow, which could help to prevent flooding by reducing erosion.

Images of the animals have been caught on camera at The Hermitage, near Dunkeld beside the River Tay, where populations have been thriving following unofficial releases into the wild.

The nation’s largest conservation charity believes the beavers will play a key role in cutting its multi-million pound bill due to floods as they continue to spread across the country following the Government’s decision last month to grant them protected status as a returned native species.

Ben Notley, NTS property manager for North Perthshire, said: “It’s very exciting to find them on trust land for the first time ever. They have been expanding through Tayside and we have been looking for evidence that they were on our property for about a year.

“We suffered really badly here with damage last winter from Storm Desmond and we planted some alders earlier this year that we planned to coppice [cut back to encourage new growth].

“Now we won’t need to do that because in time the beavers should do that job for us. We expect beavers to spread further so they could have a significant impact [on reducing the chance and cost of flooding nationwide].”

The NTS, which is monitoring the beavers to assess their impact, is also launching its first beaver tours next year.