Thousands of beavers could be roaming free in Scotland by the end of the decade if the species continues to breed as it is currently doing.  

Population trajectories for the furry mammals predict that as many as 10,000 could be found in the wild in just seven years, as it cements its place in the country’s ecosystems.  

Beavers are known to live in feral colonies, with a stronghold on the River Tay, while there has been a planned re-introduction of the species at Knapdale in Argyll and releases at Loch Lomond and Argaty, near Doune. 

NatureScot says that the aquatic creature's population across the country is expanding rapidly, with an estimated 424 beaver territories currently occupied, comprised of more than 1,500 individuals.  

READ MORE: Family of dam-building mammals released at Loch Lomond

The latest report on beaver management found there has been a significant increase in the proportion of animals trapped and moved compared to those lethally controlled last year. 

The figures for 2022 show a reduction in the number of beavers removed under licence, which includes lethal measures, from ‘conflict areas’ in Tayside to prevent serious damage to agriculture – down from 120 in 2021 to 108. 

The Herald:

Meanwhile, a total of 45 animals were trapped and moved to licenced projects, compared with 33 in the previous year. Of these, 15 were released to the wild in Scotland, the rest in England.  

The proportion of beavers that were trapped and translocated was therefore 42 per cent last year, a substantial increase from 28% in 2021. 

A total of 63 beavers were killed under licence, a significant decrease from 87 in 2021. In addition, 108 dams were removed. 

The Scottish Government support the expansion of the beaver population across Scotland, and there have been increased efforts to promote trapping with land managers as a successful alternative to lethal control. 

An expanded NatureScot beaver team stepped up work with land managers to mitigate beaver impacts where required, helping more people to live alongside these ecosystem engineers. This included 24 new mitigation cases in 2022.  

The Herald:

Lorna Slater at a beaver release at Loch Lomond 

Biodiversity Minister Lorna Slater said: “It is welcome news to see the increase in the proportion of beavers being translocated and that numbers in Scotland are increasing, but more work is required. It is vital that we continue to protect and value these iconic animals. 

“The report indicates that not only are beaver population numbers increasing at a healthy rate, but that alternative forms of management are being actively used by land managers to reduce their impact. This is a direct result of our commitment to promote the expansion of beavers to all parts of Scotland. 

“Beavers help re-engineer and restore rivers and can create wetlands. Their introduction is a vital part of our wider commitment to protect and restore Scotland’s natural environment.” 

The Herald:

Donald Fraser,NatureScot’s Head of Wildlife Management, added: “We’re pleased to report a significant increase in trapping last year, with NatureScot staff working hard with land managers, the Beaver Trust and the Five Sisters Zoo to enable this wherever possible. As this work continues, we expect to see a further shift away from lethal control. 

“Alongside this, a huge amount of effort has also been going on behind the scenes to put in place the support and resources to enable others to take forward well-considered translocations in Scotland.

READ MORE: National strategy to expand beaver population developed

"The release of beavers at a new site at Loch Lomond earlier this year marked a significant milestone in the restoration of the species, with two other proposals for the River Spey and Glen Affric/ Beauly areas currently being explored. 

“NatureScot has carried out environmental assessments of these catchments, and we are now inviting views on these. This will ensure we fully understand the likely effect of beaver translocations.”