22/08/2012
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Latest beaver trial report published

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The latest report on beaver ecology as part of the Scottish Beaver Trial has been published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). A group of European Beavers was reintroduced to Knapdale Forest near Lochgilphead in 2009, as part of the Scottish Beaver Trial. Since then SNH has been closely monitoring the beavers, and their effects on the environment, in partnership with a number of other independent organisations. The results of this monitoring will help inform the Scottish Government's decisions about the future of beavers in Scotland following the trial, including whether they should be permanently reintroduced.

The report summarises the results of monitoring work carried out on the beavers over the first two years of the trial, from their release in May 2009 until June 2011. It also reports on the use of the site by Otters. The work was carried out by the Wildlife Conservation Unit at the University of Oxford (WildCRU) in partnership with SNH staff, largely based on observations collected by Scottish Beaver Trial field staff. Three beavers died in the first year of the trial and a further three disappeared from the trial site. In the second year there was one disappearance and no deaths. All the beavers captured for routine health checks were in good body condition. Evidence including gnawed or felled trees, tracks, beaver dams or lodges gave a good overview of the areas used by beavers and their activities on land. Future monitoring will include measures to identify where individual beavers are living and how much time they spend in the water compared with on land.

Martin Gaywood, who leads the independent scientific monitoring of the trial for SNH, said: "As part of the trial we are monitoring both the effects of beavers on their environment and seeking to gain a better understanding of their ecology in a Scottish context. These annual reports are vital to the trial, because they show us how beavers are getting on at Knapdale. At the end of the five-year trial the results of the monitoring work will give the Scottish Government the information they need to decide whether beavers should be permanently reintroduced to Scotland." Dr Lauren Harrington from WildCRU added: "In the reports that cover the next three years of the trial we hope to assess the success of the trial population and to be able to make more comparisons with the ecology of reintroduced beavers in other European countries."

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Written by: Scottish Natural Heritage