ArticlePDF Available

Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain

Authors:
  • NatureScot
  • COLIN GALBRAITH ENVIRONMENT

Abstract and Figures

Conclusions: Two key questions have been addressed in the preparatory work undertaken to date: is it feasible to reintroduce the beaver, and is it publicly desirable? The answer to both questions is a clear ‘yes’, although in both cases there are a number of caveats, some of which will be examined during the trial at Knapdale. A beaver-reintroduction project has to be carefully planned to maximise the chances of success and to take account of beaver welfare. Beavers are also known sometimes to cause management problems and so, understandably, there are people who have concerns. However, on the basis of the experience of the 24 European countries which have reintroduced beavers so far, the costs of beaver reintroduction appear to be outweighed by the benefits, which is reflected in the fact that, although some countries have active beaver-management programmes, we have found no evidence of reintroductions being halted or reversed because of adverse effects. There are few wildlife conservation projects that have been more intensively scrutinised in Europe than the proposal to reintroduce the European Beaver in Scotland. That scrutiny is possibly set to continue, with a trial reintroduction in Knapdale in spring 2009. Elsewhere in Britain, the prospect of reintroducing the species is also being given serious consideration. After all the planning and debate, are we finally about to experience, once again, what it is like to share our countryside with this extraordinary and charismatic animal? Keywords: Eurasian beaver, Castor fiber, Scotland, conservation translocation, trial reintroduction, Knapdale, Scottish Beaver Trial
Content may be subject to copyright.
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
August 2008 British Wildlife 381
Martin Gaywood, Dave Batty and Colin Galbraith
After many years of debate and planning, in
2009 European Beavers Castor fiber will
for the first time be released legally into
the wild in Britain.
There have been a number of well-publicised
projects across Britain concerning the European
Beaver, most notably the trial reintroduction
in Knapdale Forest, in Argyll (Gaywood 2001,
2005). Following the inclusion by Scottish Natu-
ral Heritage (SNH) of the European Beaver as a
species to be targeted for management action in
Scotland’s ‘Species Action Framework’, a licence
application was submitted on behalf of the ‘Scot-
tish Beaver Project’ alliance of partners for a trial
reintroduction at Knapdale (see text box). This
was approved by the Minister for Environment of
the Scottish Government, Michael Russell MSP, in
May 2008. South of the border, partnerships are
now looking at the feasibility of releasing animals
not just into enclosures, but into the wider English
and Welsh countryside.
SNH has been investigating and advising on
matters concerning beaver reintroduction for over
12 years. The aim of this article is to share some of
our experiences, to summarise some of the complex
issues that have created so much debate, and to
Reintroducing the
European Beaver in
Britain
European Beaver. Mike Lane/Natural Image
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
382 British Wildlife August 2008
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
August 2008 British Wildlife 383
inform those interested or involved in any further
reintroduction projects. The work which SNH
has pursued in Scotland has been guided by the
‘Reintroduction Guidelines’ produced by the IUCN
(1995). These provide a simple and pragmatic set of
procedures for species reintroduction projects, and
their use has been formally adopted by all of the GB
country conservation agencies (JNCC 2003). Any
beaver reintroduction proposal should ensure that
they are fully addressed. Recently, a few individual
animals have escaped from private collections.
These were not planned reintroductions, and so
attempts are being made to recapture them.
Ecology and history
A fuller description of beaver ecology can be found
in Kitchener (2001), but it is worth summarising
some of the most significant aspects as they are
important factors in the discussions surrounding
reintroduction of beavers in Britain.
The European or Eurasian Beaver is a large (11-
27kg for animals over three years), semi-aquatic
rodent that was once found from the Chinese-
Mongolian border in the east, to western Europe
and Britain in the west. The fossil record indicates
that the species was living in Britain 2 million years
ago, 1.3-1.5 million years before the first humans.
The other extant beaver species, the North Ameri-
can Beaver Castor canadensis, is superficially simi-
lar in appearance and requires close and expert
examination to allow the distinguishing features
to be determined. In places where they both occur
in the wild, such as Finland, where the North
American species was introduced in 1933-37, they
appear not to hybridise.
Beavers do not eat fish. They are totally herbiv-
orous and feed on a wide range of terrestrial and
aquatic plant species. Herbaceous species tend
to be favoured more in the warmer months, but
towards autumn the diet tends to switch to higher
proportions of broadleaved woody plants. Species
such as Aspen Populus tremula and willows Salix
are preferred but others are also taken, depend-
ing on availability. Conifers are rarely browsed
or felled. Although much larger trees may also be
felled, beavers tend to fell shrubs and trees with
trunk diameters in the region of 3-8cm in order
to feed on the bark, twigs and leaves and, when
necessary, to use the wood for their engineering
works. Woody material may be cached underwa-
ter to provide a winter source of food.
Beavers require two basic elements in their habi-
tat: fresh water and broadleaved woodland. A large
part of their lives are spent in or near water, and
they usually forage little more than 10m from the
water’s edge, and very rarely more than 100m.
The Knapdale trial beaver
reintroduction
In May 2008, the Scottish
Wildlife Trust (SWT) and the Royal
Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS)
received a licence from the Scottish
Government to release up to four
families of European Beavers in
Knapdale Forest, Argyll. The site
is owned by Forestry Commission
Scotland. Animals will be collected
from Norway in autumn 2008,
quarantined, and released in spring
2009. Over the following five
years the ecology of the beaver
in the Scottish environment, and
its effects on the environment,
will be monitored. At the end of that
period the results will be collated and
assessed, and a decision made by the Scottish Government on the next stage. An exit strategy is built into the project.
Mammals Trust UK is also providing support.
There are 31 conditions associated with the licence. Some of these concern mitigation relating to the Natura sites at
Knapdale. A key condition relates to SNH’s role – the monitoring of the trial will be undertaken independently of the
rest of the project, and a group led by SNH will report results direct to the Scottish Government. SNH will also report
on whether the conditions of the licence are being fully addressed on the ground.
Knapdale, the Scottish trial-reintroduction site. Martin Gaywood
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
382 British Wildlife August 2008
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
August 2008 British Wildlife 383
Territory sizes vary, depending on the quality of
the habitat concerned, and have been recorded as
covering from as little as 0.5km of riparian edge per
family to up to 12km or considerably more. The
animals live in family units, typically consisting of
an adult pair with 2-3 young (kits) of the current
year plus young from the previous year. Individuals
leave their families when they are about two years
old and set up their own territories. The Wolf Canis
lupus can be a major predator, although there are
records of kits being taken by such animals as Otter
Lutra lutra, White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla
and Fox Vulpes vulpes. American Mink Mustela
vison has been recorded as taking North American
and European Beaver kits.
Beaver dens tend to be situated next to stand-
ing or slow-moving fresh water, with the entrance
usually underwater to provide safety from preda-
tors. If water levels are low, beavers will dam
streams less than 10m wide, using wood, stones,
mud and other materials to create ‘beaver ponds’.
Some reports suggest a tendency for the North
American species to build larger dams than the
European species. Dens may be dug directly into
river or loch-side banks, or incorporated within
constructed lodges. The beavers’ engineering skills
can also extend to the construction of ‘canals’ to
enable them to stay in water as they move around
their territory.
Identifying the time when the beaver became
extinct in Britain, even to the nearest century, has
proved challenging. The last record north of the
border was made by Hector Boece in 1526, in his
‘Cronikils of Scotland’, in which he referred to
beavers as abundant in the Loch Ness area (Kitch-
ener & Conroy 1996). Coles (2006) refers to
beavers as disappearing from the historical record
in Wales around the same time, but suggests that
they may have hung on well into the late 18th
century in Yorkshire.
The cause of extinction within Scotland is
thought to have been primarily over-exploita-
tion, mainly for the highly valued pelts. Meat
and castoreum (a scent-marking secretion from
the castor sac, believed to have medicinal quali-
ties; indeed, it does contain salicylic acid, an active
ingredient of aspirin) may also have been sought.
Habitat destruction probably had a localised
effect. This unsustainable level of exploitation
was mirrored across the whole of Eurasia until, by
the beginning of the 20th century, the species was
heading for global extinction, with only around
1,200 animals left in eight isolated populations.
In western Europe, a few hundred remained in
three populations: in southern Norway, the Elbe
in Germany and the Rhone in France.
The 20th century was a period of remarkable
turnaround in the fortunes of the European Beaver.
Its value as a fur-producing species prompted
its initial protection, and animals were reintro-
duced in parts of its historic range. There are
now approximately 29 countries with European
Beaver, and a total estimated global population of
634,000-732,000 (updated from Halley & Rosell
2003). However, this figure is heavily weighted
towards eastern Europe and Scandinavia, espe-
cially Russia with 232,000-300,000 animals, the
Baltic Republics with >161,000-181,000, and
Sweden and Norway with >170,000. There are
now 678 SACs (Special Areas of Conservation)
within ten EU Member States where European
Beaver is recorded as a Habitats Directive Annex
II interest (an increase from 85 SACs in four EU
Member States in January 2002).
Potential effects of a reintroduction in Britain
In order to gain a more detailed picture of the
possible effects of reintroducing the beaver, a
number of reviews have been commissioned by
SNH, and liaison with specialists across Europe
and North America has been undertaken.
The large, webbed hind feet and the smaller front
feet, which are used for handling and carrying
materials, can be clearly seen on this young beaver
kit. Martin Gaywood
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
384 British Wildlife August 2008
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
August 2008 British Wildlife 385
Land use (agriculture, forestry, fisheries)
There is little published information available on
the interactions between beavers and agriculture.
Intensively farmed fields simply do not provide
good beaver habitat. We have come across no
reports of beavers grazing grass crops to signifi-
cant extents, but they have been reported as feed-
ing occasionally on orchard trees, maize, corn,
oil-seed rape, potatoes and sugar-beet near ripar-
ian zones, and sometimes causing localised flood-
ing. In the flatter regions of the Baltic Republics,
beavers have colonised the extensive network
of Soviet-era drainage ditches. We have some
reports that bank damage, resulting from burrow-
ing activities of beavers, can present localised
problems, for example for artificial fish ponds.
Conversely, colleagues in France have reported the
value of beavers in improving river-bank stability
by regularly coppicing larger trees leaning from
river banks.
The burrowing activities of beavers have been
raised as a potential concern in relation to canal
banks. The Netherlands reintroduced beavers in
1988, and our Dutch colleagues have reported one
example of a beaver hole dug into the base of a
dike which then had to be repaired. The number
of other reported problems in The Netherlands is
low.
Opponents to reintroduction often raise Bavaria
as an example of where the beaver population of
10,000 animals sometimes results in problems.
The beaver-management specialists based there
reported in late 2007 that around 500 animals
are removed each year (most are killed), although
in 90% of casework any problems, or perceived
problems, can be resolved without animals being
removed. They report agricultural damage as still
being relatively small (a cost of a few thousand
euros per year).
A review by Reynolds (2000) found no reports
of nationally significant economic or ecological
damage to woodlands in Europe caused by beavers,
nor have the authors following more recent inves-
tigations. Localised problems do occur, sometimes
in relation to grazing of broadleaved commercial
species, but more often as a result of damming and
flooding, which can cause tree death, the flood-
ing of tracks and the blockage of culverts. On the
other hand, woodland managers see the benefits
of beavers creating wildlife habitat, clearing scrub,
slowing down the succession of open-water habi-
tats and providing visitor attractions.
Interactions between beavers, fish and fisher-
ies have been examined in some detail by Collen
(1997), who concluded that beavers may have
positive effects on some fish species in some places
and negative effects in others. Most concerns
have surrounded the effect of beaver dams on the
migratory movements of commercially important
fish such as Atlantic Salmon Salmo salar. Halley
& Lamberg (2001) undertook a preliminary study
over one year on a 1.3m-wide Norwegian spawn-
ing stream, with four beaver dams present along a
250m length. Salmon and Sea Trout Salmo trutta
in their first and second years were found all along
the stream, including between the dams and above
the highest dam. There were young, growing
Salmon above all the dams.
A recent study by Parker & Rønning (2007)
indicated that most landowners in their Norwe-
gian study area were unequivocally positive about
having beavers together with Salmon and Sea
Trout on their streams. They also concluded that
most Salmon reproduction in the study area was
undisturbed by beavers.
The Danish trial reintroduction at Kloster-
heden showed temporal effects on Sea Trout
movements and assumed that its populations may
become isolated upstream of dams at times of
low water flow (Salmon were not present at the
site, but the researchers believe that the species
would not be so affected in this way). However,
the barrier effects of dams will constantly change
as water levels change in response to rainfall, as
water bypasses form and as the ‘leakiness’ of the
dams alters. Minimal effects on populations of Eel
Anguilla anguilla and Brook Lamprey Lampetra
planeri were observed, and populations of other
fish species, such as Roach Rutilus rutilus and
Stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus, may benefit
from beaver ponds at Klosterheden in the longer
term.
There is a concern also that the release of
beavers could result in the introduction of the
flatworm Gyrodactylus salaris into our native
population of Salmon. This is a parasite of fish
that occurs in several European countries and has
devastated some Salmon stocks. It can survive for
several days in damp or wet conditions, such as
on fishing equipment, clothing, etc. Beavers have
been suggested as potential external carriers of
the parasite. Checks should therefore be made to
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
384 British Wildlife August 2008
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
August 2008 British Wildlife 385
find out if potential source loca-
tions of beavers for any British
reintroduction are free of G.
salaris, and government precau-
tions should be followed to
ensure that animals are free of
any such parasites before leav-
ing quarantine.
In summary, it is important to
acknowledge that there can be
problems caused by European
Beavers in certain places and at
certain times, but the level of
damage at a national scale is not
reported as significant. This has
to be balanced with the wider
benefits that beavers may bring.
Hydrology, geomorphology,
and water chemistry
Beaver dams have been
described as having the ability to
ameliorate downstream flood-
ing events during periods of high
rainfall (particularly significant
as climate change is expected
to result in higher winter rain-
fall and increased incidences
of flooding events) and to act
as sediment and pollutant traps. Gurnell (1997)
suggested that, after a Scottish reintroduction,
the predicted preference of beavers for floodplain
and minor tributary areas for dam construction
would result in a relatively small hydrological
and fluvial geomorphological impact on main
river channels. Damming of small rivers would
result in an increase in open-water and wetland
habitat, and reductions in the load of moving
sediment, including suspended sediment. Sedi-
ments trapped behind dams may eventually form
‘beaver meadows’. Undammed stretches of river
may become morphologically more complex as a
result of the sediment-storage and energy-dissipa-
tion impacts of dams. There is a possible increased
risk of blockages of man-made structures caused
by coarse woody debris (CWD), although most
pieces of wood cut by beavers tend to be relatively
small (less than 2m in length). The role of CWD in
freshwater systems is of increasing interest to river
managers.
A recent study in the Tatarstan Republic, Russia,
examined the effect of 21 reintroduced beavers
above a lake suffering from degradation result-
ing from agricultural soil deposition. The beavers
created three dams that, during a flooding period,
stopped an estimated 4,000 tonnes of sediment. In
water downstream of the dams, the mass of sedi-
ments decreased by 53%.
Biodiversity
Studies have shown that the habitat changes
brought about by beavers affect the other species
present, the creation of beaver ponds favouring
lentic (still-water) species over the lotic (running-
water) species that may have been locally present
before. The effects of beavers on different species
groups and habitats are well reviewed in Rosell et
al. (2005). More recently, effects on biodiversity
were studied at an enclosed Scottish site (Jones
2005). The general view is that the presence of
the European Beaver has a positive effect on a
range of wildlife, for example aquatic inverte-
brates, deadwood insects, amphibians, birds (such
A European Beaver dam. If water levels are already sufficiently high at
a site, beavers may not need to build dams. Martin Gaywood
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
386 British Wildlife August 2008
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
August 2008 British Wildlife 387
as waterfowl and species which use nest holes in
dead trees) and bats. This is backed up by anecdo-
tal observations made by some of our European
colleagues, which includes such events as Otters
recolonising areas that have become more suitable
for them following beaver colonisation.
The term ‘keystone’ species therefore seems
particularly apt for the beaver. Species reintroduc-
tions are often criticised for being too expensive,
and it is claimed that the money could be better
targeted at existing species. However, the reintro-
duction of the beaver would not only result in the
restoration of a native species to our fauna, but
could also have a positive impact on a wide range
of other species.
There are also positive, indirect effects that
the beaver may have on biodiversity through
its use as a potent symbol for raising awareness
and resources for wide-scale riparian and Aspen
woodland restoration programmes (Batty 2002).
Any future reintroduction would have to ensure
there was suitable management to protect certain
biological features if they were
judged to be particularly vulner-
able (e.g. some woodland stands
with lichen assemblages of high
conservation value), but this
could be combined with using
beavers as a focus to provide
new opportunities to restore
and extend habitats. Education
and interpretation programmes
directed at more general biodi-
versity could also benefit by
using the beaver as an exam-
ple to explain the ecology and
importance of wetland and
woodland ecosystems.
Public health
The most common public-health
issue raised in relation to the
beaver is Giardiasis (Galbraith
& Gaywood 2002). Giardiasis is
caused through the ingestion of
oocysts of the flagellate proto-
zoan parasite Giardia lamblia,
often via untreated water, and is
one of the most common causes
of diarrhoea. In North America
giardiasis is often called, rather
unfortunately, ‘beaver fever’. In fact, the major
source of Giardia infection in humans in North
American is other humans. The term ‘beaver fever’
was apparently invented by a section of the press
in the 1970s and reflects the fact that beavers exist
in areas where many people camp, hike and may,
on occasion, become infected.
Giardia and other potential pathogens, such as
Cryptosporidium, already occur naturally in the
British environment and within animal and human
populations. We have found no reported instances
of European Beavers causing health problems in
humans from Giardia or Cryptosporidium, nor
have we found any situations where European
Beavers are viewed as a significant human-health
problem. However, as part of any future reintro-
duction, the precautionary advice would be to
carry out pre- and post-release monitoring of
private water supplies and watercourses in the
release area. At the Scottish release site, at Knap-
dale, public-health specialists undertook a regular
programme of water sampling and water analysis
Beaver grazing of trees can open up patches of the woodland floor to
sunlight. Martin Gaywood
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
386 British Wildlife August 2008
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
August 2008 British Wildlife 387
from 2002 to 2004 to build up a picture of the
water quality prior to releasing beavers for subse-
quent comparison with the post-release situation
(Morrison 2004). The views of specialists at the
Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental
Health (SCIEH) were also sought, and the local
authority was advised that, ‘subject to the beavers
undergoing appropriate quarantine and screening,
the introduction of a limited number of animals
and the provision of monitoring and controls, the
project will not pose a significant additional public
health risk…the risk of increased human cases of
Giardiasis is significantly low that it should not be
considered an obstacle to beaver introduction’.
Socio-economics
‘Eco-tourism’ is particularly important in Scot-
land, especially to more remote
rural communities, and its
promotion has become
an important role for
government agen-
cies and commer-
cial operators.
The White-tailed
Eagle reintro-
duction on Mull,
for example,
is estimated to
bring in about
£1.7m per year to
the local economy.
Opponents have
suggested that the
nocturnal behaviour
of beavers would make
them a poor tourist draw, but in fact the animals
can often be seen in daylight, especially during the
long summer days, and can become habituated to
low levels of human disturbance. They also leave
very distinctive and impressive field signs, such as
browsed trees, canals, lodges and dams. Beavers
were reintroduced in Klosterheden Forest, in west
Denmark, in 1999 and by 2005 there were over 72
organised ‘beaver tours’ to the site, involving 2,064
people in that one year alone. In Belgium, beaver-
themed holidays are advertised via the www.pays-
descastors.be website.
There are also the more indirect socio-economic
effects, which can be significant but are perhaps
harder to quantify. For example, there are the
costs associated with the localised impacts of
culvert-blocking, ditch-blocking and the felling of
garden or commercial broadleaved trees. Benefits
may arise from the environmental role of beaver
dams, such as flood amelioration, and sediment
and pollutant traps. For nature reserve and other
land managers they also provide a free service by
reducing scrub encroachment and slowing down
the succession of standing waters. Campbell et al.
(2007) have reviewed the economic effects and
estimate that the benefits of beaver reintroduction
could be around 100 times larger than the costs.
Managing beavers
There is a wealth of experience regarding manag-
ing beavers, both in North America and Europe.
Measures include non-lethal trapping tech-
niques, tree and crop protection,
protecting culverts (‘beaver
deceivers’) and regulat-
ing beavers’ damming
activities (e.g. pipe
systems to regulate
flow). Published
material is widely
available (e.g.
Halley &
Bevanger 2005),
although not all
management
methods used
overseas may be
appropriate or legal
in Britain. It will be
important to ensure that local
management expertise is in place prior to
any British reintroduction.
Ecological feasibility of a reintroduction in
Britain
Could viable populations of European Beavers
survive in the British countryside? From a Scottish
perspective, we are confident that reintroducing
beavers is ecologically feasible and we have now
built up a picture of potential reintroduction sites.
Webb et al. (1997) used GIS (Geographic Infor-
mation Systems) techniques to examine the avail-
ability of suitable habitat for the European Beaver
across Scotland. The study showed that this habi-
tat was not uniformly distributed across the coun-
try and riparian broadleaved-woodland patches
European Beaver. Mike Lane/Natural Image
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
388 British Wildlife August 2008
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
August 2008 British Wildlife 389
tend to be fragmented (Fig. 1 shows an updated
version of this study). However, it also demon-
strated that suitable habitat was present in certain
areas and judged capable of holding between 200
to 1,000 individuals.
Further analysis of habitat (Rushton et al. 2000;
South et al. 2001) resulted in an increased estimate
of 178-386 families (about 700-2,000 individuals)
within 45 distinct patches in Scotland. These stud-
ies also applied predictive modelling techniques at
a national scale, and these suggested that viable
populations could be established under certain
release scenarios. The predictive modelling tools
were later refined and applied
specifically to Knapdale to
predict the outcome of a reintro-
duction there (Rushton et al.
2002).
The models developed for
Scotland have also been applied
to Norfolk, and these predicted
that the county could support
between 18 and 40 beaver fami-
lies. The feasibility of reintro-
ducing the species in parts of
England is currently the subject
of an ongoing project supported
by Natural England and
Mammals Trust UK, the results
of which are expected in autumn
2008. In Wales, the follow-up
to an initial scoping study on
beaver reintroduction (Anthwal
et al. 2005) is currently being
considered.
Public desirability of a
reintroduction in Britain
Article 22 of the EC Habitats
Directive states that a ‘proper
consultation of the public
concerned’ is an important
requirement before a reintroduc-
tion is carried out. The IUCN
Reintroduction Guidelines also
emphasise the importance of
assessing public attitudes. We
are unaware of any species-
reintroduction project in Europe
that approaches the extent
of consultation that has been
carried out for the proposed beaver reintroduction
in Scotland over the last ten years.
National consultations
A national consultation exercise was organised
by SNH during 1998 (Scott Porter Research &
Marketing 1998). Three target audiences were
approached. A total of 2,141 responses was
received from a ‘passive public’ audience, of which
63% supported the proposal to reintroduce Euro-
pean Beaver in Scotland. Of the 1,944 responses
received from a ‘pro-active public’ audience, 86%
were supportive.
Figure 1 Distribution of possible suitable beaver habitat in mainland
Scotland. The red areas indicate habitat networks which may be of
sufficient size to support viable beaver colonies, whereas the green
areas may be of insufficient size. Note that this provides a broad
overview, and does not necessarily show suitable reintroduction sites;
finer, detailed analysis is required when assessing more local sites.
© Crown copyright. All rights reserved Scottish Natural Heritage 100017908 [2008].
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
388 British Wildlife August 2008
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
August 2008 British Wildlife 389
A total of 281 approaches was made to
the third, ‘key consultees’ audience, with 144
responding. The levels of support varied, conser-
vation and academic sectors giving the strongest
support, and with reservations expressed by other
interest groups, especially within agricultural and
field-sport sectors, the fishing sector being the
most opposed. A trial reintroduction was viewed
by many as a preferred mechanism for addressing
some of the concerns expressed.
The beaver was included as a species for targeted
management action in Scotland’s ‘Species Action
Key considerations for a beaver-reintroduction proposal
1 Existing guidelines – Address the IUCN Reintroduction Guidelines.
2 Type of reintroduction and aims – Is it an initial ‘trial’ (if so, what is its purpose and what are the success and
failure criteria?) or a ‘full’ reintroduction?
3 Project management – The likelihood of success will be increased if it is properly managed and project team-
member roles clearly set out. Matters such as staffing, access to specialist skills, health and safety, timescale etc.
must be addressed.
4 Legal issues – Section 14 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 makes it an offence to release into the wild any
animal that is of a kind ‘not ordinarily resident’ in Great Britain. Any beaver release, therefore, is subject to licence
from government. Legal advice is recommended to define the legal status of released animals – European Beaver
is currently not a ‘European Protected Species’ under domestic legislation (although it is listed on Annex IV of the
Habitats Directive). During the Knapdale trial, Forestry Commission byelaws will provide for protection of animals
on FCS land.
5 Site selection – Consider ecological suitability (Macdonald et al. 1997), the outcome of predictive modelling
studies, presence of designated sites (e.g. Natura sites which are likely to require an ‘appropriate assessment’), the
expected future colonisation pattern for the area, and practical suitability for field officers.
6 Local consultation – Relevant local landowners, organisations and public.
7 Donor country – Norway is being used as the source of beavers for the Scottish trial, following the
recommendations of Kitchener & Lynch (2000). As a precautionary measure, and until more information becomes
available, we would strongly encourage other Great Britain reintroductions likewise to use animals of the
Norwegian subspecies (Castor fiber fiber), because of the potential ecological risks that animals from other sources
might pose to those from Norway (Rosell & Steifetten 2004).
8 Capture/transport/quarantine – The precautionary recommendation is that animals should be captured in
autumn, quarantined for six months, and released in spring (spring capture risks harm to pregnant females,
summer capture risks harm to very young kits, and winter capture may present difficult field conditions). The use
of specialist zoo-based personnel is recommended to assist with issues such as arranging various permits and
providing transport crates, government-vet-approved quarantine facilities and access to veterinary expertise (Gow
2002).
9 Release – A crucial stage. Various methods can be used to reduce the risk of animals moving away from the
release site: e.g. release whole family groups rather than individuals, use temporary fencing, provide food, place
animals into artificial lodges which have entrances temporarily blocked, and use bottled beaver scent to fool the
animals into thinking that there are other beaver territories upstream or downstream. All beaver families should
be released into the reintroduction area at the same time, otherwise the first beaver group will establish very large
territories before the next are released. Precise release sites should provide good habitat, be accessible to field
workers and be suitable for the management of visitors.
10 Management of animals – Ensure that suitable local support is available to monitor beaver activities, and to deal
with any management problems. Set up procedures to deal with any damage.
11 Exit strategy – Set out reasons for implementing an exit strategy. Options may include trapping and repatriation
to donor country (unlikely) or transfer to other reintroduction programmes, housing in zoological collections,
sterilisation of the animals or humane destruction.
12 Monitoring strategy – The type of scientific monitoring will vary depending on the type and aim of the
reintroduction. Subjects for monitoring may include the beavers themselves, other ecological factors (species,
habitats, hydrology, fluvial geomorphology, etc.), land use and public health.
13 Resourcing – A well-managed beaver reintroduction will be expensive!
14 Public relations and communications – Project partners should co-ordinate their communications, and ensure
that the public are kept well informed.
15 Wider opportunities – The project may be developed further to make the most of opportunities for public access
and interpretation, education (e.g. school field studies), local eco-tourism and economic development. Care is
needed to minimise disturbance to the beavers that may result from these activities. The beaver can also be used
as a charismatic symbol to kick-start wider conservation and habitat-restoration programmes, for example Aspen
woodland.
16 Further phases – Consider options for the next stages after the current project has been completed.
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
390 British Wildlife August 2008
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
August 2008 British Wildlife 391
Framework’, the consultation for which was run by
SNH in 2006. Responses noting support for includ-
ing the beaver within this were far more frequent
than were opposing ones, and the Framework
received a ministerial launch in 2007 (SNH 2007).
Local consultations
If a reintroduction project is to succeed, it must
take account of the views of local people, and
address concerns and opportunities in the plan-
ning and operation of the project.
For the Knapdale trial proposal, two local
consultations have now taken place. The first was
undertaken in late 2000, during which local indi-
viduals and organisations were encouraged to pass
on their views to SNH. This was done in a number
of different ways, including ‘beaver information
days’ at a local venue, the distribution of informa-
tion leaflets and the presentation of proposals at
the Community Council meeting. The outcome
of that local consultation was positive overall and
indicated that a majority of the public, local bodies
and organisations were in favour of the trial.
The second local consultation was run by the
SWT and the RZSS in late 2007. It followed a
broadly similar approach to the first, although a
much greater proportion of the responses were
received from mid-Argyll as a whole compared
with the area immediately local to Knapdale.
Interestingly, whereas the level of public support
for a beaver trial was strong across mid-Argyll,
there was a small majority against the trial
amongst those local to Knapdale (Scottish Beaver
Trial 2007). Some respondents expressed concern
that beavers might damage salmon fisheries and
could carry disease, or simply felt that the money
to be spent on the project might be better used
elsewhere. However, many others were enthusias-
tic about the proposed project, seeing benefits for
wildlife and the natural heritage of Knapdale and,
potentially, for tourism.
Other surveys
A question on the Knapdale proposal was also
put to the independently co-ordinated Citizens’
Panel by the Argyll and Bute Community Planning
Partnership in June 2002. A total of 46% of 680
Argyll and Bute residents agreed that a Knapdale
trial should be undertaken and 21% disagreed
(33% unconcerned either way).
The Scottish Economic Policy Network
(Scotecon) also publicised a report on public atti-
tudes towards the control of wild animal species
in Scotland (Philip & Macmillan 2003). In their
study, involving detailed interviews of 71 partici-
pants, the reintroduction of the beaver was
supported by 72% of participants (14% did not
support it and 13% were not sure either way).
There was also a willingness to pay an average of
£24 per household per year for ten years to fund a
pilot beaver-reintroduction project.
Conclusions
Two key questions have been addressed in the
preparatory work undertaken to date: is it feasi-
ble to reintroduce the beaver, and is it publicly
desirable? The answer to both questions is a clear
‘yes’, although in both cases there are a number of
caveats, some of which will be examined during
the trial at Knapdale. A beaver-reintroduction
project has to be carefully planned to maxim-
ise the chances of success and to take account of
beaver welfare. Beavers are also known sometimes
to cause management problems and so, under-
standably, there are people who have concerns.
However, on the basis of the experience of the
24 European countries which have reintroduced
beavers so far, the costs of beaver reintroduction
appear to be outweighed by the benefits, which is
reflected in the fact that, although some countries
The arguments for reintroducing the beaver
Environmental – Beaver can have an overall positive
effect on biodiversity through creating coppiced
woodland (Green 2000), standing and fallen dead
wood, new ponds and other wetland features. It
could be used as a symbol in raising awareness and
resources for wide-scale woodland-habitat restoration
programmes.
European law – European Beaver is listed on Annexes
II and IV of the EC Habitats Directive 1992. Article 22
of the Directive requires Member States to ‘study the
desirability’ of reintroducing species listed on Annex IV.
Socio-economic – Beavers are likely to be a draw
for tourists, and a focus in developing education and
interpretation programmes. Beavers provide ‘ecosystem
services’ such as flood amelioration, the reduction of
river siltation etc.
Moral grounds – Humans were responsible for beaver
extinction and so a reintroduction helps to right this
historic act. Britain is a rich nation that should play its
part in restoring biodiversity.
Public desire – Large numbers of people want to see
beavers restored to the countryside.
Also see Kitchener & Conroy (1996) and Woodroffe
(2005).
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
390 British Wildlife August 2008
Reintroducing the European Beaver in Britain
August 2008 British Wildlife 391
have active beaver-management programmes, we
have found no evidence of reintroductions being
halted or reversed because of adverse effects.
There are few wildlife conservation projects that
have been more intensively scrutinised in Europe
than the proposal to reintroduce the European
Beaver in Scotland. That scrutiny is possibly set to
continue, with a trial reintroduction in Knapdale
in spring 2009. Elsewhere in Britain, the prospect
of reintroducing the species is also being given
serious consideration. After all the planning and
debate, are we finally about to experience, once
again, what it is like to share our countryside with
this extraordinary and charismatic animal?
Acknowledgements
We should like to thank the very many individuals
and organisations with which we have collaborated
over the years whilst investigating beaver reintroduc-
tion. In particular, we acknowledge our colleagues
across many European countries who have gener-
ously provided us with their time, effort and knowl-
edge. Colin Stewart kindly prepared Fig. 1.
References
All SNH publications listed below can be accessed via www.snh.
gov.uk/speciesactionframework, together with further infor-
mation on the European Beaver.
Anthwal, V, Goodger, B, & Kirby, J 2005 Scoping study for the re-
introduction of the Eurasian beaver Castor fiber into Wales. CCW
Contract Science Report 690, Bangor
Batty, D 2002 Beavers: Aspen heaven or hell? In: Cosgrove, P, &
Amphlett, A (eds) The Biodiversity and Management of Aspen
Woodlands: Proceedings of a one-day conference held in Kingussie,
Scotland, 25th May 2001, pp. 41-44. The Cairngorms Local Biodi-
versity Action Plan, Grantown-on-Spey, UK
Campbell, R, Dutton, A, & Hughes, J 2007 Economic Impacts of Beaver.
Report for the Wild Britain Initiative
Coles, B 2006 Beavers in Britain’s Past. Oxbow Books, Oxford
Collen, P 1997 Review of the potential impacts of re-introducing Eura-
sian beaver Castor fiber L. on the ecology and movement of native
fishes, and the likely implications for current angling practices in
Scotland. SNH Review 86, Battleby
Conroy, J, & Kitchener, A 1996 The Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) in
Scotland: a review of the literature and historical evidence. SNH
Review 49, Battleby
Galbraith, C A, & Gaywood, M J 2002 The proposed trial re-introduc-
tion of European beaver: The Giardia issue. Environmental Health
Scotland 14 (4): 12-13
Gaywood, M 2001 A trial re-introduction of the European beaver to
Scotland. In: Czech, A, & Schwab, G (eds) The European Beaver in
a New Millennium. Proceedings of second European Beaver Sympo-
sium, 27-30 September 2000, Bialowieza, Poland. Carpathian Herit-
age Society, Krakow, Poland
Gaywood, M 2005 A proposed trial re-introduction of European beaver
to Knapdale. In: Rooney, P, Nolan, P, & Hill, D (eds) Restoration, Re-
introduction and Translocation. Proceedings of the 20th Conference
of the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, 9-11
November 2004, Southport
Gow, D 2002 The transport, quarantine and captive management of
European beaver Castor fiber. Unpublished report to SNH by Wild-
wood, Kent
Green, T 2000 Coppicing like a beaver. British Wildlife 11: 239-241
Gurnell, A 1997 Analysis of the effects of beaver dam-building activi-
ties on local hydrology. SNH Review 85, Battleby
Halley, D J, & Bevanger, K 2005 The beaver – management for hunting,
wildlife and environmental resource. A handbook of modern meth-
ods for practical management of beaver populations. NINA Report
21.61s. (in Norwegian)
Halley, D J, & Lamberg, A 2001 Populations of juvenile salmon and trout
in relation to beaver damming of a spawning stream. In: Czech, A, &
Schwab, G (eds) The European Beaver in a New Millennium. Proceed-
ings of second European Beaver Symposium, 27-30 September 2000,
Bialowieza, Poland. Carpathian Heritage Society, Krakow, Poland
Halley, D J, & Rosell, F 2003 Population and distribution of European
beavers (Castor fiber). Lutra 46: 223-234
IUCN 1995 IUCN Guidelines for Re-introductions. IUCN, Gland, Swit-
zerland
JNCC 2003 A Policy for Conservation Translocations of Species in Brit-
ain. JNCC, Peterborough
Jones, K 2006 Ecological effects of the feeding and construction activi-
ties of the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) in Scotland: implications for
reintroduction. PhD thesis, University of Stirling
Kitchener, A 2001 Beavers. Whittet Books, Stowmarket
Kitchener, A, & Conroy, J 1996 History of the beaver in Scotland and
the case for its reintroduction. British Wildlife 7: 156-161
Kitchener, A, & Lynch, J M 2000 A morphometric comparison of the
skulls of fossil British and extant European beavers, Castor fiber. SNH
Review 127, Battleby
Macdonald, D, Maitland, P, Rao, S, Rushton, S, Strachan, R, & Tatter-
sall, F 1997 Development of a protocol for identifying beaver release
sites. SNH Research, Survey & Monitoring 93, Battleby
Morrison, A 2004 Trial re-introduction of the European beaver to
Knapdale: public health monitoring 2001-3. SNH Commissioned
Report 77, Battleby
Parker, H, & Rønning, O C 2007 Low potential for restraint of anadro-
mous salmonid reproduction by beaver Castor fiber in the Numed-
alslågen river catchment, Norway. River Research and Applications
23: 752-762
Philip, L J, & Macmillan, D 2003 Public Perceptions of Attitudes Towards
the Control of Wild Animal Species in Scotland. Report to Scotecon.
net, Department of Land Economy, University of Aberdeen
Reynolds, P 2000 European beaver and woodland habitats: a review.
SNH Review 126, Battleby
Rosell, F, & Steifetten, O 2004 Subspecies discrimination in the Scan-
dinavian beaver (Castor fiber): combining behavioural and chemical
evidence. Can. J. Zool. 82: 902-909
Rosell, F, Bozser, O, Collen, P, & Parker, H 2005 Ecological impact of
beavers Castor fiber and Castor canadensis and their ability to modify
ecosystems. Mammal Review 35: 248-276
Rushton, S, South, A, & Macdonald, D 2001 Predicting the outcome of
a proposed re-introduction of the European beaver (Castor fiber) to
Scotland. SNH Research, Survey & Monitoring 153, Battleby
Rushton, S, South, A, & Lurz, P 2002 Predicting the outcome of a
proposed re-introduction of the European beaver Castor fiber at
Knapdale, Argyll. SNH Commissioned Report F022AC327, Battleby
Scott Porter Research & Marketing Ltd 1998 Re-introduction of
European Beaver to Scotland: results of a public consultation. SNH
Research, Survey & Monitoring 121, Battleby
Scottish Beaver Trial 2007 Trial reintroduction of the European beaver
to Knapdale, mid-Argyll. Scottish Wildlife Trust
SNH 2007 A Five Year Species Action Framework: Making a Difference
for Scotland’s Species. SNH, Battleby
South, B, Rushton, S, Macdonald, D W, & Fuller, R 2001 Reintroduction
of the European beaver (Castor fiber) to Norfolk, U.K.: a preliminary
modelling analysis. Journal of Zoology 254: 473-479
Webb, A, French, D D, & Flitsch, A C C 1997 Identification and assess-
ment of possible beaver sites in Scotland. SNH Research, Survey &
Monitoring 94, Battleby
Woodroffe, G 2005 A trial reintroduction of the European beaver. Brit-
ish Wildlife 16: 381-384
Martin Gaywood is Policy & Advice Manager
and manages the Species Action Framework at
SNH. Dave Batty is a Policy & Advice Manager
providing casework support. Colin Galbraith is
Director of Policy and Advice at SNH. All three
have been closely involved in developing beaver-
reintroduction work over many years.
... Modelling and GIS tools have been used to identify potential beaver habitat across Scotland, and to predict possible population levels following any release. A first map of potential beaver habitat was published by Webb et al. (1997), although this was revised by SNH using updated GIS datasets (Gaywood et al., 2008), and was revised again using new datasets and criteria based on the latest ecological research (Stringer et al., 2015). These illustrate that there are some extensive networks of freshwater and riparian broadleaved woodland habitat across many parts of the country. ...
... This led to a decision to run a trial reintroduction to allow some of the concerns, and potential benefits, to be looked at in more detail. There have also been a few other surveys which involved an examination of public perceptions on beaver reintroduction, and which have tended to give results in support of releases (Gaywood et al., 2008). ...
Chapter
Full-text available
• The feasibility and desirability of reintroducing beaver to Scotland has been explored over many decades, and progressed in detail since the mid-1990s. • The inclusion of beaver in the Species Action Framework (SAF) demonstrated the continued interest in beaver reintroduction issues, and prompted a licence application to release beavers at Knapdale, Argyll, for the purpose of running a scientifically monitored trial. The licence was approved (2008) and the first animals were released in May 2009 as part of the ‘Scottish Beaver Trial’ (SBT). • The SBT was a complex project, which required careful planning and management, involving issues ranging from the identification of necessary resources, capture and quarantine requirements, animal tracking and veterinary requirements, independent scientific monitoring, local consultation and engagement, visitor management and associated education programmes, and potential impacts on designated site interests. • Other initiatives and projects concerned with beavers ran over the same period. These included the work of the Tayside Beaver Study Group (TBSG), the Beaver-Salmonid Working Group (BSWG), the National Species Reintroduction Forum, and a number of stand-alone projects. • The results of all of this work were collated as a package of information and sent, together with the Beavers in Scotland report produced by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), to the Scottish Government in June 2015 to support their decision making. • On 24 November 2016 Roseanna Cunningham MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, announced that beavers will remain in Scotland.
... After 3 years of legal struggles the program was finally abandoned (Genovesi and Bertolino 2001). Further problems are posed by species that were driven to extinction in their native range or parts of it, but were reintroduced using specimens taken elsewhere previously and bred in captivity or in the wild, like the Chinese Père David's deer (Elaphurus davidianus; Zheng et al. 2013;Chebez and Rodríguez 2014), or from populations that survived elsewhere, like the European beaver (Castor fiber) (Gaywood et al. 2008), and many others (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Species_reintroduction). ...
Article
Full-text available
Although isolated records of nonindigenous species (i.e., species transported with the aid of human activities outside of their native geographic ranges) have been known for centuries, the first comprehensive work on these organisms and their impacts is the book by Charles Elton published in 1958. The rate of species introductions increased significantly since the middle XIX century, with recent estimates suggesting around 600 plant and animal species per year. Many of these introductions have been deliberate (crops and ornamental plants, domesticated and wild animals), but most were accidental, usually in association with the intra- and intercontinental transport, chiefly by sea, of people and merchandise. Some of these species have been very successful in colonizing the new habitats and became invasive, displacing native species and affecting resident communities and human interests. As a consequence of these high-profile invasions, in the last 30 years or so a new ecological discipline flourished - "Invasion Biology". Among its goals are attempts at establishing hypotheses or general rules aimed at explaining how and why some introduced species are so successful in the areas they colonized. However, empirical support for these hypotheses has been very uneven: each explains some cases but fails to account for many others. Invasion Biology is presently moving on thin ice, unable to reach consensus on such elementary notions as differences between native, introduced, and invasive. Idiosyncratic conservation-related issues, as well as legitimate and personal interest-driven academic and social factors led to the demonization of introduced species engendering a deep crevice in the field. A majority of the scholars in this young field adhered to the concept that geographic origin is of utmost importance: all introduced species are undesirable, and therefore guilty of negative impacts until proven innocent. In contrast, other researchers consider that geographic origin is of minor importance; like many indigenous species, most introduced organisms have negative impacts on some natives, positive on others, and mostly neutral impacts overall. The pristine state of ecosystems, free from introduced species, is a subjective human concept strongly influenced by emotional, ideological and cultural values fostered by conservationists. Both introduced and native species can have undesirable impacts on ecosystems and on human interests, and these impacts depend on multiple factors, especially the species concerned, but also many other conditions associated with functional roles, time, and space. When the overall impacts are clearly negative, both native and introduced species may require human intervention in the form of control or eradication actions, regardless of their geographic origin.
... The biology of reintroduced beavers has been extensively researched, and the course of population development can be predicted with a certain degree of confidence. However, the anthropogenic (social) aspects of reintroduction require the most care and deliberation (Gaywood et al., 2008). Similarly to Wales, a simulation analysis was carried out to predict the consequences of reintroducing European beavers to Norfolk, England (South et al., 2001). ...
Article
Full-text available
The natural increase in the European beaver population in Poland, noted after 1945, was unsatisfactory. In 1975, the population amounted to only 500 individuals and was not sufficient to guarantee the species' continued survival. Nearly the entire beaver population was confined to north-eastern Poland, and natural population dispersion was not observed. Beaver colonies were translocated to other Polish regions as part of the Program for the Active Conservation of the European Beaver in Poland, implemented in 1975, which saved the beaver population from complete extinction. Since the beginning of the 21st century, efforts have been made to manage the Polish beaver population by hunting without changing a protected species' status. The beaver population continues to increase uncontrollably, which results in costly conflicts as beaver activities infringe upon the intended use of the land by humans. The future status of the European beaver in Poland remains unclear.
... Beavers are food opportunists that utilise the highest quality food resources in an optimal manner (Nolet and Rosell 1994;Haarberg and Rosell 2006); as such, their diet can differ significantly depending on local food availability and time (Jenkins 1979;Harkonen 1999;Haarberg and Rosell 2006). Previous studies have shown that, for certain periods, field crops in agricultural landscapes may provide the highest quality component in herbivore diet, and this is also true for both European beaver (Schwab and Schmidbauer 2003;Gaywood et al. 2008) and the North American beaver (Castor canadensis) (Swenson et al. 1983;Dieter and McCabe 1988). While crop damage by beavers is an increasingly recognised phenomenon in both Europe (Schwab and Schmidbauer 2003) and North America (Baker and Hill 2003), little attention has been paid to beaver damage to agricultural production, primarily as damage levels are relatively low, and there is a general lack of information on beaver dietary behaviour in open landscapes. ...
Article
Full-text available
The European beaver (Castor fiber) has extended its range into most Central European countries over the past 30 years, resulting in increased forestry damage and water management issues. As the number of beavers increases populations become established in new types of habitat. In the Czech Republic, for example, established beaver populations are now found on rivers flowing through agricultural landscapes, where living conditions differ significantly to those found in forest landscapes. To date, there have been no studies on the impact of beavers on agricultural production. The aim of this study was (1) to describe how beavers graze field crops, and (2) to estimate potential damage to agricultural production. This 2-year study examined five beaver territories in agricultural landscapes where crops were separated from watercourses by a narrow strip of bank vegetation. Beavers fed on all crop types grown in their territories throughout the growing period (May–October), peaking from mid-June to mid-July. The beavers clearly preferred oilseed rape, which (along with wheat and barley) represented the largest part of the grazed area. Rape was usually grazed at during vegetation growth and flowering, while cereals were usually grazed from the milk ripe kernel stage to harvest. Damage to agricultural production was up to €20–30 per ind./year. While beaver population density in the agricultural landscape remains low, damage to agricultural production is relatively insignificant; however, field crops clearly represent an important part of the beavers’ diet in such areas, helping them survive in such open landscapes.
... Third, in the process of beaver-induced landscape change, visible signs of activity are left (such as dam structures or felled trees) which are viewable when the animal itself may not be seen (Brazier et al., 2020). Fourth, they are 'predictable in activity or location' as they are territorial and (although largely nocturnal) they are often seen in daylight hours, especially in the summer months (Gaywood, Batty, & Galbraith, 2008;Reynolds & Braithwaite, 2001). Fifth, where they are introduced they would possess 'elements of rarity' (Reynolds & Braithwaite, 2001) in the early stages or 'super local-abundance' (Reynolds & Braithwaite, 2001) as they become more widespread (Halley & Rosell, 2002;Halley, Saveljev, & Rosell, 2020). ...
Article
Full-text available
Wildlife reintroduction projects are required to account for social and economic factors. Wildlife tourism is often cited as a benefit of reintroduction, so an understanding of whether and how this manifests is required. Through a case study of a village in the catchment of a live reintroduction project (Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) in England) we reveal how reintroduced species tourism has economic benefit for local business, but the scale of benefit is dependent upon business initiatives that take the opportunity (eg merchandise, marketing etc.). We suggest reintroduction practitioners should actively encourage local businesses to maximise opportunities, especially where tourism is cited as a reason to reintroduce. We recommend further research into whether benefits remain in the long-term, but speculate some value will persist. Finally, we recognise reintroduction-related wildlife tourism may interact with other local issues, but seeing a reintroduced species or signs of its activity can produce positive emotional responses.
... Several projects involving reintroduction of birds, or translocations of locally extinct species, have been successfully undertaken or are underway (Love 1983;Waters and Waters 2001;Carter et al. 2008), whereas mammals have been slower to follow. Nevertheless, a trial reintroduction of the European beaver (Castor fibre) in Scotland started with the release of three beaver families in Knapdale, Argyll, in May 2009 (Gaywood et al. 2008;Scottish Beaver Trial 2009) and there is growing interest in developing similar projects in England and Wales (South et al. 2001;Coles 2006;Gow 2006;Gurnell et al. 2009). Natural England considers proposals for reintroductions against criteria that follow the principles in the IUCN Guidelines for Reintroductions (IUCN 1998). ...
Article
Past hunter-gatherer societies are often perceived as having co-existed harmoniously with their environment. In reality, few ecosystems remain unaltered following the arrival of humans and the relationship between people and wildlife over the past thousand years is characterised more by conflict than harmony. Over this period, many industrialised countries, particularly in Europe, have seen a substantial loss of natural habitats, in parallel with huge increases in human populations. England is one such country; here, the human population is estimated to have increased 45-fold since 1066 AD. Over the past 50 years, however, many of these countries have witnessed a change in public attitudes, leading to ‘protective’ legislation for species and habitats, with the subsequent recovery of at least some species. As a result, some people now argue that certain species are ‘over-protected’, leading to calls to remove protection. We review how the regulatory system in England is used to achieve a sustainable balance between wildlife and human interests, illustrated with examples from key areas of conflict. In all, more than 8000 licences permitting activities affecting protected species are issued in England each year, about half of which concern human–wildlife conflicts, including almost 1000 aimed at preventing serious damage by wildlife.Weestimate that wildlife licences are relied on by more than 100 000 people to resolve human–wildlife conflicts. In most cases, less than1%of a species’ population is likely to be affected by regulated activities and, where this is not the case, thresholds are set to ensure the control measures do not lead to the long-term detriment of populations. We conclude by suggesting how the legislative framework may need to adapt to deliver modern aspirations to reconcile human and wildlife interests.
Article
Full-text available
Two species of eagles (Golden and White‐tailed) bred in Wales during prehistoric and historic times and became regionally extinct as breeding species in the mid‐1800s. They are iconic and charismatic, and discussions about reintroducing them back into the Welsh landscape have been ongoing for years. Reintroductions, however, can be risky, costly and/or contentious. To address these concerns, and to judge whether it is appropriate to reintroduce a regionally extinct species; the “International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)” have produced criteria by which a proposed reintroduction can be assessed. A key criterion is that the potential reintroduction location lies within the former range of the species. In this study, we addressed this criterion by assessing the past distributions of Golden and White‐tailed Eagles within Wales. Using historic observational data, fossil/archaeological records and evidence from place‐names in the Welsh language, we demonstrated strong evidence for the presence of both of these eagle species in Wales in pre‐historic and historic times. We used kernel density functions to model the likely core distributions of each species within Wales. The resulting core distributions encompassed much of central and west‐north Wales for both species, with the White‐tailed Eagle exhibiting a wider core distribution extending into south Wales. Our results fill knowledge gaps regarding the historic ranges of both species in Britain, and support the future restoration of either or both species to Wales.
Article
Full-text available
In November 2016, the Scottish Government announced that they were minded to allow the two 'trial' reintroduced populations of Eurasian beaver Castor fiber to remain in Scotland and be allowed to expand naturally, and that the species will receive legal protection. This was a historic moment: the first formally approved reintroduction of a mammal species anywhere in the United Kingdom. The issues surrounding beaver reintroduction to Scotland had been the subject of intense investigation and public debate over the previous 21 years. Extensive multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary work was performed to assess the desirability and feasibility of reintroducing the Eurasian beaver and informed the government's decision. This was one of the most detailed assessments carried out for any species reintroduction proposal. The work was broadly divided into desk-based and stand-alone studies based primarily on the European and North American experience of living with beavers, the scientifically monitored Scottish Beaver Trial reintroduction in west Scotland, a study of beavers resulting from unauthorised releases in an east Scotland catchment and the work of a specialist group that examined beaver–salmonid interactions and issues. It was confirmed that beavers have a very positive influence on biodiversity overall, although some specific species and habitats of high conservation importance can be adversely affected if appropriate management is not in place. Beavers provide a range of ecosystem services with the potential for socio-economic benefits. However, beavers' activities may affect some land uses, the extent and significance depending on local conditions. Management techniques are well developed, although some will require refinement and appropriate licensing within a Scottish regulatory regime. A strategic approach to developing management throughout Scotland will need to be progressed in partnership with key stakeholders.
Article
This article looks at progress with reintroducing the beaver in Scotland, and beyond to the ecological and cultural issues surrounding lynx and wolf.
Article
Full-text available
Following its near extinction in the late 19th century, the Eurasian beaver has now recolonised much of its former distribution and seems poised to reconquer the very western edge of its native range - Great Britain. This is the scene of a fascinating social battle, with this remarkable rodent as the central character. In this article we give an overview of the current situation regarding the status of beavers in Britain (including the formal scientific trial reintroduction and a now recognised separate, established unlicenced free-living population within Scotland), and explore some of the key arguments which may decide their future. Sections include historical context, beaver return and the law, beaver populations within Britain including unoffcial releases, arguments for and aganist beaver reintroduction, and speculate on the future of beavers in Britain.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Historical evidence suggests that Castor fiber Linnaeus 1758, once widely distributed throughout mainland Scotland, became extinct by the sixteenth century. Plans for a trial reintroduction have recently been proposed by SNH (Scottish Natural Heritage). Initial work concentrated on assessing the feasibility of a re-introduction. GIS techniques identified potent¬ tially suitable beaver habitat. The potential effects of Castor fiber on local hydrology, native woodlands and the movement of native fish species were reviewed. The conclusion was that a re-introduction is ecologically feasible. SNH have also assessed the desirability of re¬ introducing the species. A widespread consultation exercise showed overwhelming public support. However, certain interest groups raised concerns. Consequently a trial re-introduction was proposed to allow specific issues to be examined. Plans for the trial are now well underway. Knapdale Forest in Argyll has been selected as the trial site. It is proposed that 3 families be re¬introduced and studied over a 5 year period, subject to a licence to release the animals from Government. At the end of the trial period, the results will be assessed and a decision made as to whether to recommend a full-scale re-introduction. Key words: Castor fiber, re-introduction, Scotland
Article
Full-text available
Introduction: The project proposed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is a trial which will allow an investigation into the ecology of the European beaver Castor fiber in the Scottish environment, and the effect of its presence on wildlife and land uses. Rigorous scientific monitoring will be a key element of the trial, including the monitoring of water supplies by Local Authority public health specialists (further details of which are given below). An exit strategy has been built into the project in case it needs to be halted at any stage. It is worth emphasising at the outset that the proposed trial is subject to approval by Scottish Executive. Gordon Downie 's article raises a number of interesting points. A Steering Committee, made up of representatives of a number of organisations, drafted the framework for undertaking a trial beaver reintroduction in Scotland. The issue of Giardia and other diseases was investigated by a technical sub-group. Keywords: Eurasian leave, Castor fiber, public health, Knapdale, trial reintroduction, conservation translocation
Article
Full-text available
We developed a spatially explicit model for investigating the proposed reintroduction of the European beaver to Scotland. The model simulates the births and deaths of individuals and their dispersal between habitat patches, using a habitat template created from an existing land cover map which was derived from aerial photography. Uncertainty in model parameter estimates was accounted for by using high, medium and low values for each, derived from the literature. We used the model to predict the result of different release protocols and compared the predictions to those generated by application of a population viability analysis package, Vortex. Predictions of the two approaches were similar. We showed that predictions were particularly sensitive to the levels of the demographic parameters and that, providing these were set to at least medium levels, reintroduction sizes of 20 animals led to high persistence and population increase. We describe the potential use of simulation modelling at all stages in the reintroduction process.
Article
Full-text available
An existing spatial population model, developed to assess the reintroduction of the European beaver Castor fiber to Scotland, was applied to predict the likely result of reintroducing beavers to Norfolk, England. A habitat analysis was conducted using the Land Cover Map (classified satellite imagery developed by the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology) to predict the location of areas suitable for beavers. The model was used to simulate population processes within these areas and dispersal between them following a range of reintroduction scenarios. To represent uncertainty regarding the probable behaviour of beavers in Norfolk, the habitat analysis and model were applied using three sets of parameter values (high, medium and low) derived from the literature. It was predicted that Norfolk could support between 18 and 40 beaver families. Using high or medium parameter values, beaver populations were predicted to expand following reintroduction and spread to new areas. Using low parameter values populations were predicted to decrease, risk extinction and not colonize new areas. This analysis is a preliminary investigation into the likely fate of beavers in Norfolk. Checking the estimates of habitat availability in the field would enable greater confidence to be placed in these predictions.
Article
Full-text available
After being reduced to about 1,200 animals in eight isolated populations by the beginning of the 20th century, European beavers (Castor fiber) have powerfully recovered in both range and population, through relaxation of persecution, natural spread, and widespread reintroductions. Populations are now (2003) established in all countries within their former natural range in Europe except for Britain, Portugal, Italy, and the south Balkans (Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia; status in Bosnia-Herzegovina is uncertain). In Asia, there are significant populations in central Siberia, Kamchatka, and on the Amur; and small relict populations elsewhere in Siberia, and in Xinjiang (China)/western Mongolia. The current minimum population estimate is 639,000. Both populations and range are in rapid expansion. We present maps summarizing current knowledge of the world distribution of European beaver and the Eurasian distribution of the introduced American beaver (Castor canadensis), and tables of the most recent known population estimates for each country.
Article
After a long absence, beaver Castor fiber are rapidly returning to Europe. Their dam-building and tree-felling behaviour may have consequences for salmon Salmo salar and sea trout Salmo trutta management. In 2003 we investigated the parallel use of stream sections by beaver, sea trout and salmon and determined the potential hindrance that beaver dam-building presented for reproducing salmon and sea trout along 65 km of the Numedalslågen River and tributaries, a major Norwegian catchment. We also surveyed landowner attitude to having beaver on salmon and sea trout streams. Most salmon spawned in the river and most sea trout in 51 tributaries. Nine of these tributaries also hosted spawning salmon. 15 (29%) of the 51 tributaries with spawning sea trout and six (67%) of the nine with spawning salmon had intermittently been occupied by beaver. Though beaver preferred to colonize the same sections of stream used for spawning, only 15% of the stream length navigable by salmon and sea trout on the 51 tributaries had actually been used by beaver, and only three colonies were occupied autumn 2003 (1 colony/25.0 km). Five dams were functioning during autumn 2003 on the 51 tributaries (1 dam/14.3 km). These potentially hindered sea trout and salmon from reaching 18% and 3%, respectively of their potential spawning habitat, though all dams were low (≤0.5 m). Though the autumn density of occupied beaver colonies along the river (1 colony/2.5 km) was 10.0 times the density on the 51 tributaries, no dams were built on the river. Thus most salmon reproduction in the catchment was unhindered by beaver. Nine of 14 landowners were unequivocally positive about having beaver together with salmon and sea trout. We conclude that the presence of beaver on similar catchments will likely have only an insignificant negative impact on the reproduction of sea trout and salmon. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.