Wild beavers have officially returned to Loch Lomond after an absence of hundreds of years. 

A family of the aquatic mammals has been released at the nature reserve, marking a major milestone in the species’ return to Scotland.  

Seven beavers – an adult pair and five young offspring - have been given license to roam the shores and waterways of the loch, after being translocated from a from an area in Tayside. 

The plan was given the green light by Scottish Government agency NatureScot, 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 last year. 

The beavers were released last week with just ten people present to minimise any possible stress to the animals.  

The Herald:

The crates of the young beavers, known as ‘kits’, were opened first, with the animals initially reluctant to leave the warmth of the straw inside.  

Each then seemed to have a different and individual reaction to their new surroundings – two returned to the crates for a time while three entered the burn with the adult male.  

The female’s crate was opened last. She immediately entered the water with a big tail slap and then the whole family were away to explore their new home on the floodplain of the River Endrick.  

READ MORE: Scheme to reintroduce beavers gets the go-ahead

Dubbed “nature’s engineers”, beavers were once native to Scotland but were hunted to extinction.  

The dam-building rodents shape their habitat to suit their needs, leading to the creation of wet woodland, open water and channels which benefit a range of species including dragonflies and fish.   

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

Anne McCall, Director of RSPB Scotland, said: “We are delighted to have been able to offer a home to this family of beavers, speeding up their return to Loch Lomond. The National Nature Reserve, with its mix of open water, fen and wet woodland is a perfect place for them. As nature’s engineers they manage and create habitat in ways we could never hope to replicate. 

 “We are looking forward to seeing the many benefits this should bring to other wildlife from birds to dragonflies, fish to frogs, both on our nature reserve and in the wider NNR.  

“We also hope our visitors will be able to enjoy spotting their natural engineering feats in the coming years. But, most of all we hope this translocation will mark the start of beavers returning to more of Scotland bringing with them a much-needed boost for biodiversity”. 

The Herald:

Roisin Campbell-Palmer from The Beaver Trust managed the translocation process.

She said: “It's incredibly fulfilling to release this family into Loch Lomond NNR today. It's an ideal home for them with lots of suitable habitat where they will be able to bring real biodiversity benefits.  

“It's a great achievement for everyone involved and an important step in the restoration of beavers in Scotland.” 

READ MORE: Second family of beavers relocated to a farm in Scotland

Loch Lomond is only the third location in Scotland where a beaver translocation has taken place since the reintroduction trial at Knapdale in 2009 and a previous 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, while Loch Lomond is thought to have been colonised by the animals already.  

Both the beavers and their habitat on the loch will be closely monitored by local staff to see how they settle in and begin to affect their wetland environment.  

This includes remote monitoring of water levels, using camera traps to directly study the beavers and mapping field signs of their activity.  

Hopes are high among conservationists that this latest translocation will mark the start of further beaver restoration as part of Scotland’s Beaver Strategy. 

The Herald:

Lorna Slater (centre, purple jacket) releases the beavers

Biodiversity Minister Lorna Slater, who was present at the release, said: “It’s been a delight to witness the translocation of this family of beavers to their new home in the Loch Lomond Nature Reserve. 

“This once lost species were driven to extinction in Scotland, but are becoming an established part of our natural environment once again. Through translocation projects like this one, beavers are slowly being reintroduced across the country and helping to promote biodiversity and restore nature. 

“Now children growing up in Scotland will grow up alongside beavers - learning about the amazing things that they do, like natural flood management, and creating wetland habitats that support a range of other species.” 

She added: “This represents an amazing story of regaining something that was lost, of getting that abundance back and passing on a nature-positive legacy for future generations. I am thankful to NatureScot and the RSPB for their work with this particular project and others like it, supporting the expansion of beaver populations across Scotland.” 

Gordon Watson, Chief Executive at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, said: “This release of a family of beavers at Loch Lomond is a positive step forward both for the natural environment here in the National Park and for the national Beaver Strategy and the impact it can have on supporting biodiversity in Scotland. We are delighted to have supported the RSPB in this process. 

 “These are not our first beavers – beavers have already been moving into other areas of the National Park for many years now and surveys show that they are likely to thrive in the habitat around Loch Lomond.  

“Evidence shows that beavers can co-exist with us in modern landscapes and bring multiple benefits, from creating wetland habitats that support multiple species to helping mitigate flooding. Our Future Nature strategy supports the translocation of beavers to help enable these benefits and we hope to explore more opportunities in the future.” 

NatureScot Chief Executive Francesca Osowska said: “It’s incredibly exciting to see beavers return to Loch Lomond, marking an important step in helping to restore biodiversity and respond to the climate emergency in Scotland.”