Beavers in Scotland - Scottish Natural Heritage

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Beavers in Scotland A Report to the Scottish Government

Beavers in Scotland: A report to the Scottish Government Edited by: Martin Gaywood SNH authors (in report section order): Martin Gaywood, Andrew Stringer, Duncan Blake, Jeanette Hall, Mary Hennessy, Angus Tree, David Genney, Iain Macdonald, Athayde Tonhasca, Colin Bean, John McKinnell, Simon Cohen, Robert Raynor, Paul Watkinson, David Bale, Karen Taylor, James Scott, Sally Blyth Scottish Natural Heritage, Inverness. June 2015 ISBN 978-1-78391-363-3 Please see the acknowledgements section for details of other contributors. For more information go to or contact [email protected]

Beavers in Scotland A Report to the Scottish Government

Foreword Beavers in Scotland I am delighted to present this report to Scottish Ministers. It is the culmination of many years of dedicated research, investigation and discussion. The report draws on 20 years of work on beavers in Scotland, as well as experience from elsewhere in Europe and North America. It provides a comprehensive summary of existing knowledge and offers four future scenarios for beavers in Scotland for Ministers to consider. It covers a wide range of topics from beaver ecology and genetics, to beaver interactions with farming, forestry, and fisheries. The reintroduction of a species, absent for many centuries, is a very significant decision for any Government to take. To support the decisionmaking process we have produced this comprehensive report providing one of the most thorough assessments ever done for a species reintroduction proposal.

Ian Ross Chair Scottish Natural Heritage June 2015

Commission from Scottish Ministers to SNH, January 2014 Advice on the future of beavers in Scotland SNH should deliver a report to Scottish Ministers by the end of May 2015 summarising our current knowledge about beavers and setting out a series of scenarios for the future of beavers in Scotland. The report should present a summary of existing knowledge about the likely impact of beavers living in the wild in Scotland. This summary would draw on the information gathered in Scotland from the Scottish Beaver Trial in Knapdale, the Tayside Beaver Study Group, the Beaver-Salmonid Working Group, and other projects and academic papers, as well as experience from elsewhere in the world. The scenarios in the report should be developed in an open and inclusive way with a range of interested stakeholders from the National Species Reintroduction Forum and other beaver-focused groups. They should set out the risks and benefits of each approach, and any management approaches to help mitigate the risk and/or maximise any benefits. The report should show clear links between the evidence base and the risks and benefits in the scenarios. The report should seek to describe possible ways forward to inform Ministers’ considerations of the issues rather than make specific recommendations. The report should be published.


Contents Section






Chapter 1

Introduction and background 8

Chapter 2

Sources of information 12

Chapter 3 Beavers and their interactions with the natural environment 18 3.1 Beaver ecology 19 3.2 Potential beaver habitat and population 26 3.3 Beaver genetics 34 3.4 Interactions with habitats and species 38 3.4.1 Woodland 38 3.4.2 Freshwater – Standing waters 46 3.4.3 Freshwater – Running waters 58 3.4.4 Bryophytes, fungi and lichens 64 3.4.5 Terrestrial vascular plants 72 3.4.6 Invertebrates 76 3.4.7 Fish 82 3.4.8 Amphibians and reptiles 92 3.4.9 Birds 96 3.4.10 Mammals 100 3.5 Summary 106 Chapter 4 Beavers and their interactions with the human environment 108 4.1 Socio-economics 109 4.2 Fisheries 122 4.3 Forestry 132 4.4 Agriculture 134 4.5 Infrastructure and general land use 138 4.6 Public and animal health 142 4.7 Summary 148 Chapter 5