In a groundbreaking development for wildlife conservation, NatureScot has approved the release of up to six families of beavers in the Cairngorms National Park within the next year. The move is anticipated to usher in significant ecological and biodiversity benefits to the expansive national park, marking a pivotal moment for the ongoing efforts to reintroduce these industrious creatures to the British landscape.
The Cairngorms National Park Authority, buoyed by the approval from NatureScot, will spearhead the reintroduction efforts, focusing on a range of carefully selected sites in the upper River Spey catchment. Beavers, once hunted to extinction in Britain approximately 400 years ago, have been making a steady comeback in both England and Scotland. Last year saw the release of London’s inaugural beaver pair in the northern enclave of Enfield, and the ensuing months revealed promising results, including the sighting of a new beaver kit navigating the waters alongside its parents.
The River Spey will join the ranks of Scottish river catchments actively participating in the beaver restoration initiative. Tayside, Knapdale, Loch Lomond, and the Forth have already embraced the return of beavers, with NatureScot citing the upper River Spey catchment as “highly favourable” for reintroducing the species. The assessment pointed to a low risk of conflicts between beavers and humans, auguring well for the anticipated environmental benefits in the Cairngorms National Park.
Donald Fraser, the head of wildlife management at NatureScot, emphasized the decision as a “significant milestone” for beaver restoration in Scotland. He acknowledged the support and concerns voiced by farmers and crofters during the consultation process. The monitoring and mitigation plans outlined by the Cairngorms National Park Authority, along with the existing Beaver Mitigation Scheme, were deemed satisfactory to address potential conflicts effectively.
Under the newly approved license, up to six beaver families or pairs with dependent young will be released in the first year at agreed-upon sites. The license also allows for additional releases at other locations over the next five years, with a maximum cap of 15 beaver families. The selection process for release sites involves trapping beavers from areas where their presence has negatively impacted farmland, and where mitigation efforts have proven unsuccessful or are impractical. All beavers undergoing relocation will undergo thorough health screening before embarking on their new life in the Cairngorms.
The Cairngorms National Park, spanning over 4,500 square kilometres in northeast Scotland, stands as the largest national park in the UK. Its diverse landscapes, ranging from mountains to valleys, provide habitats for a plethora of unique and threatened species. Golden eagles, capercaillie, mountain hares, and snow buntings are just a few of the inhabitants that stand to benefit from the return of beavers, as their natural engineering skills contribute to the overall health and equilibrium of the ecosystem.
As the countdown begins for the much-anticipated reintroduction of beavers to the Cairngorms National Park, conservationists and nature enthusiasts alike eagerly await the positive transformations that these industrious creatures are poised to bring to one of Britain’s most cherished natural landscapes. The return of beavers signals not only a triumph for wildlife conservation but also a beacon of hope for the sustained harmony between humanity and the natural world.