Conservation success as beaver numbers double in Scotland - NatureScot

The number of beavers has more than doubled in Scotland in the last three years to around 1000 animals, according to a NatureScot survey published today (10 August).

The new population survey has not only found that beaver numbers have increased, but that the population is in a rapid expansion phase as beavers spread out from Tayside, with territory numbers also more than doubling to 251. That population now ranges from Glen Isla to Dundee and Stirling, Forfar to Crianlarich, and is likely to expand into Loch Lomond in the future.

The survey, carried out last winter, is the largest, most comprehensive and authoritative survey of beaver numbers and their range ever conducted in Britain. It gathered detailed and up-to-date information on the locations of active beaver territories, as well as assessing the health and spread of the overall population, to help inform future beaver work.

beaver dam
Beaver dam (credit: Roisin Campbell-Palmer)

NatureScot worked with Scotland’s foremost beaver specialist, Roisin Campbell-Palmer, and experts at the University of Exeter to conduct the survey. This is the first survey conducted since beavers gained protected status as European Protected Species in Scotland in 2019 and investigated areas where beaver sightings had been reported but not confirmed.

In the last survey in 2017, approximately 1,300 km of river and loch shore were surveyed. The new survey covered an even larger area, as beavers have been sighted as far afield as Loch Lomond to the west and Fife to the south east. For the 2020-2021 survey, experienced beaver surveyors searched for signs of beavers on foot and by canoe across the area, finding 13,204 confirmed signs such as burrows, dams, lodges, scent mounds, canal digging, and tree and crop feeding.

Dr Roisin Campbell-Palmer, the report lead author, said: "Beavers are recognised as ecosystem engineers with important biodiversity benefits, though some impacts can be challenging alongside certain land-use practices. This survey will hopefully provide valuable information to land managers and policy makers seeking to maximise the benefits and minimise the conflicts associated with the return of beavers to our rivers.”

The 2020 Beaver Management Report was also published today. It outlines the range of practical mitigation measures undertaken by NatureScot and land managers last year to reduce the negative impacts of beaver activity, such as burrowing and dam building on agricultural land. It reveals that 68 active mitigation projects (such as tree protection and installing flow devices in beaver dams) were progressed. To prevent serious damage to agriculture, under species control licences reported to NatureScot, 31 beavers were trapped and moved to licensed, enclosed reintroduction projects in England, 56 beaver dams were removed, and 115 beavers lethally controlled.

To read the full 2020-21 survey, click here and to read the Beaver Management Report click here.

Posted on: 10 August 2021

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