Reintroduction to Scotland

2009 was a landmark year for Scottish wildlife conservation, as it saw the beginning of the official Scottish Beaver Trial.  Roy Dennis has been one of the leaders of the campaign to reintroduce beavers to Scotland for over 20 years – the process first started in the mid 1990s when he was on the Main Board of Scottish Natural Heritage.  HFW campaigned for beaver reintroduction and set up the informal group of beaver supporters which set up a public website explaining the importance of restoring beavers to Scotland.  Unfortunately, there were serious delays in progressing the official project and the reintroduction is still at the trial stage; we are also disappointed that much of the research has been organised to test the potential problems of beavers while the many and varied benefits have not been sufficiently studied. We hope to see them fully restored to the Scottish landscape as soon as possible.

Photo by Laurie Campbell

To visit the Scottish Beavers Network website click here:

The Scottish Beaver Trial

The trial is a partnership between the Zoological Society of Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Forestry Commission Scotland.  Roy Dennis was a member of the group which formulated the approach to government to allow a trial. Scottish Natural Heritage is overseeing the scientific monitoring of the trial.  Its aim is to determine whether the reintroduction of beavers to Scotland is feasible and beneficial to nature conservation.

The trial has five main aims:

  • To study the ecology and biology of the Eurasian beaver in the Scottish environment.
  • To assess the effects of beaver activities on the natural and socio-economic environment.
  • To generate information during the proposed trial release that will inform a potential further release of beavers at other sites with different habitat characteristics.
  • To determine the extent and impact of any increased tourism generated through the presence of beavers.
  • To explore the environmental education opportunities that may arise from the trial itself and the scope for a wider programme should the trial be successful.

16 beavers from 5 family groups have been brought over from Norway and released in a large fenced enclosure in Knapdale.  The beavers have successfully bred and reared kits.   They will be allowed to remain for 5 years and after this the Scottish Government will decide whether the trial has been successful and whether or not to begin full-scale reintroduction.

For more information on the trial and updates on the activities of the beavers, visit the Scottish Beaver Trial website:

The Tay Beavers

There is another population of wild-living beavers in Scotland in addition to those that are part of the official trial in Knapdale.  The first confirmed sighting of an escaped beaver in Tayside in recent years was in May 2001 and there have been numerous reports since then, on the Earn, Tay, Isla, Ericht and Dean Water – from Aberfeldy to Glamis and Comrie to Bridge of Earn and Invergowrie, including lodges and young.  It is not clear how the beavers got there, but it is believed that they escaped from captivity and have since bred in the wild.  There has been no official census but estimates suggest that there is a population of 50 to 100, the result of a probable five generations of breeding.

The Scottish Wild Beaver Group is an officially recognised charity  that was formed in 2010 in response to the decision of the Scottish government to start trapping the beavers.  There is a dispute over whether the beavers should be allowed to remain given that they are not part of the official trial.  Trapping was suspended in summer  2011 and the government has decided to carry out a census, monitor the beavers and their impact on the environment, and then review the situation at the end of the Knapdale Trial.  SWBG believes that the Scottish Government should recognise that beavers are now established in the wild in their natural range in Scotland and give them the protection of European law.  Our view is that beavers have become established, albeit not in an accepted manner, and as such are now an important population to study the relationships with fisheries and agriculture, and to work out robust management.