New research has found that three-quarters of Scots want public bodies to step up action on beaver reintroductions.

The semiaquatic rodents were hunted to extinction around 400 years ago, but have been brought back in select areas starting with Argyll in 2009.

In polling carried out by independent research agency Survation on behalf of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance, 73% of respondents said Scotland’s public bodies should identify more sites on their land where beavers could live.

So far five beaver families have been relocated, all of them within Cairngorms National Park.

Read More:

Kevin Cumming, the Scottish Rewilding Alliance’s Deputy Convenor and Rewilding Britain’s Rewilding Director said: "This is overwhelming public support for bringing back beavers to suitable habitat.

"Government bodies that manage land on behalf of the public need to listen, and move ahead on reintroducing these key allies in tackling the nature and climate emergencies.

"Cairngorms National Park Authority is showing what can be done, with beavers released at several sites, and plans for more over the next five years. Our other public agencies need to play catch-up with the Cairngorms, and end their own go-slow approach to restoring this biodiversity-boosting, flood-reducing, habitat-creating species."

The Herald: European beaverEuropean beaver (Image: Philip Price)

Beavers create wetlands that benefit other wildlife, soak up carbon dioxide, purify water and reduce flooding. They can also bring economic benefits to communities through eco-tourism. 

Relocating beavers to suitable wild habitat from agricultural land where they can cause problems also benefits farmers, and saves beavers from being shot. Since 2019, an average of 88 Scottish beavers have been killed under licence annually, potentially 20% of their population.

Farmer Tom Bowser, from Argaty near Doune, has reintroduced several beavers to his family farm under licence, saving them from culling.

He said: “The beavers have only brought us benefits. Their dams, in what was once a flood-prone part of our farm, have saved us real money in annual track repairs, because we just don’t see floods there anymore.”

The Scottish Rewilding Alliance says relocations should be prioritised when landowners have problems, with lethal control licences only issued as a genuine last resort. The Alliance also advocates paying farmers for having beavers on their land. 

Scotland’s Beaver Strategy, published by NatureScot in 2022 after a process involving more than 50 stakeholder organisations, aims to ensure communities are supported to maximise the benefits of beavers, with negative impacts minimised, and to actively expand the beaver population into appropriate areas.

Achieving this depends on public bodies being far more proactive in restoring beavers to public land, the Rewilding Alliance said.

Earlier this year a study by the University of Stirling looked at how beavers reintroduced to Scotland indirectly interact with deer – and the implications for the woodlands they share.

Researchers found that almost two thirds of trees felled by beavers produced new shoots, which were more abundant and concentrated closer to the ground than on other trees.

This could diversify woodland structure into a mix of short and tall tree stems, which ought to boost biodiversity, according to researchers in the Faculty of Natural Sciences.