Wild beavers are to return to Loch Lomond for the first time in hundreds of years after a scheme for their reintroduction was approved by ministers.  

A small family of the aquatic mammals is to be trapped on Tayside and released into the nature reserve early next year.  

The decision marks the third new site approved for the release of beavers in Scotland, following the initial trial at Knapdale in Argyll and the release at Argaty, near Doune, last year. 

Feral beavers, believed to have escaped private enclosures, are also resident in the Tay and Forth river regions, with an ‘urbanised’ population said to be living in Perth.   

READ MORE: Collaboration is the key for Scotland’s beaver strategy

The plan will go ahead despite opposition from local anglers and farmers, who raised concerns the animals’ tunnelling could undermine the Loch’s banks while their dams could prevent salmon from swimming upstream to spawn.   

An application from RSPB Scotland, which jointly manages the nature reserve along with Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority and NatureScot, was submitted in October.

The Herald:

Beavers have previously been released at Argaty, near Doune

The proposed release site was found to be prime beaver habitat, and it is suspected that the furry animals have already begun to colonise the Loch since at least 2019. 

Once the beavers are released, they will be closely monitored by RSPB site staff to see how they settle in. 

Eurasian beavers are native to Britain and used to be widespread in Scotland, sharing their waterways with humans for thousands of years until they went extinct in the 16th Century.  

Their loss was mainly due to hunting for fur, meat and ‘castoreum’ - an oil used mainly in perfumes - but also from loss of wetland habitat.   

Beavers are dubbed ‘nature’s engineers’, and shape their habitat to suit their needs. This process leads to the creation of wet woodland, open water and channels that benefit a whole range of species including dragonflies and fish.  

The animals’ activity can also reduce the speed of water flow, reducing the risks of flash flooding, and improve water quality, by trapping sediments. 

The Herald:    Loch Lomond 

Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management at RSPB Scotland said that the elusive rodents will bring benefits to Loch Lomon which human intervention could not achieve.  

He said: “We are incredibly excited to be able to offer a home to these amazing animals. The Loch Lomond NNR is an ideal home for beavers with fen, open water and wet woodland habitat for them to explore.  

“Beavers are nature’s wetland creators capable of creating and managing habitats in a way that we could never hope to achieve.  

“We are looking forward to seeing the benefits that beavers bring to the wider biodiversity including amphibians, fish and wetland birds as well as our visitors who will hopefully see some of their engineering work over the coming years.” 

READ MORE: National strategy to expand beaver population developed

Donald Fraser, NatureScot Head of Wildlife Management, said: “Beavers are ecosystem engineers, creating habitats such as ponds and wetlands where other species thrive, as well as moderating water flows and improving water quality. In doing so, they play an important role in helping to restore biodiversity and respond to the climate emergency in Scotland. 

“This decision will allow beavers to be trapped and removed from highly productive agricultural land, and introduced to an ecologically suitable site, within their current natural colonisation range where they are expected to bring a range of benefits. 

“We know that beavers can occasionally cause issues, and we recognise the concerns raised by some through the engagement process. We’re committed to working with RSPB Scotland, local communities and stakeholders to develop an effective monitoring and management plan that seeks to minimise any negative beaver impacts and maximise the benefits and opportunities of beaver restoration.”