Beavering away
Beavering away

THE salmon and sea trout lobby has finally got its teeth firmly into the wildlife campaign to reintroduce beavers to the wild in Scotland. And the stage now looks set for a protracted battle of facts and figures as both sides gnaw it out.

In a lengthy paper published in FAQ format yesterday, the Tweed Foundation strongly rebuts suggestions by the pro-beaver supporters, who include the SNP environment minister Michael Russell, that the creatures pose no threat to migratory river species.

Andrew Douglas-Home, chairman of the Tweed Commission, said: “The beaver protagonists have consistently maintained that beavers and beaver dams are entirely beneficial to fish populations. However this is simply not borne out by the available scientific evidence which the Tweed Foundation has now drawn together and published.

“The literature shows conclusively that beavers can have a severe negative impact on migratory fish – particularly their ability to access spawning tributaries – with inevitable consequences for future fish numbers and thus employment levels on Scotland’s rivers”.

Four sets of beaver families totalling 17 individuals from Norway are currently in quarantine in this country awaiting release into the wilds of Knapdale south of the Crinan Canal in Argyllshire in the spring in a £1m project.

Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Edinburgh are among supporters of the initial trial, which if successful, would see the first-ever planned reintroduction of a mammal to Scotland.

The Tweed Foundation’s biologist, Dr Ronald Campbell who analysed the scientific data, much of it from Scandinavia and central Europe, for the 12-page report, said:

“These FAQs are aimed at dispelling [a] fog of misunderstanding and giving the Scottish public a clear appreciation of what it will mean to Scottish fisheries to have dams scattered across the headwater and tributary streams of Scotland in a way that it would simply not be permissible for humans to do.”

I’ll examine the opposing arguments in detail shortly.