Beaver believers: part II

Paul Scott, a Perthshire-based naturalist, has kindly returned to write a second blog article (read the first one here!). The future of  the controversial Scottish beavers should be decided upon soon, so Paul has given us an update and shares more wonderful camera trap insights into beaver behaviour… 


The future of Scottish beavers will be decided soon. (Image: Chuck Szmurlo)

The future of Scottish beavers will be decided soon. (Image: Chuck Szmurlo)

The Scottish Government’s Environment Minister, Dr Aileen McLeod, is this month due to announce the fate of wild beavers in Scotland.  The decision will be watched closely by the Devon Wildlife Trust, who are now busy with their own five year monitoring trial of the beavers around Ottery St.Mary’s, and the Welsh beaver trail who are moving towards a reintroduction in the near future.

Many landowners will also be watching very closely. Recent media reports suggest they too are expecting the species to get the nod from officialdom. Many of those who originally took a ‘removal only’ standpoint have moved towards a more mitigation and compensation focused narrative. We cannot gloss over the fact the beavers can cause real problems in some areas but most can be solved if an effective and mutually beneficial management structure can be agreed.  Non-lethal beaver mitigation methods devised in North America have already been imported and implemented with positive results at many sites around Perthshire.

Beavers do not need remote wilderness habitat to thrive. One family have already built their lodge in a back garden in Bridge of Earn. Several other families have become local celebrities around Blairgowrie, and the city of Perth has at least three successfully breeding pairs within the city limits. If all goes well, we can expect to see these fascinating animals recolonizing a much larger portion of their former range over the next decade.

The phrase ‘busy beaver’ to describe work ethic is commonly used in the UK despite the species’ absence for 400 years. This clip confirms all the stereotypes. The beaver appears to survey the site for weak spots before leaving the frame for a short time and returning with just the right amount of wet mud to patch up the offending faults.

Beavers on camera trap

Click for video (courtesy of Paul Scott)

Beavers are crepuscular rather than nocturnal and have eyesight to match, so the value of chemical signals is extremely high after dark. Scent mounds communicate the ownership of territories and the status of the occupiers to passers-by. Beavers are highly territorial and defend their territories against all visitors. This clip captured the construction of a scent mound at the border between two families.

Beavers on camera trap

Click for video (courtesy of Paul Scott)

Forward planning skills are highlighted in the late autumn as the beavers gather their winter food cache. Winter supplies of willow are weaved together into a tight raft and secured by driving larger branches into the soft mud. These rafts provide a safe haven for a multitude of other creatures and often take root, hopefully providing lasting cover for small fish and amphibians over the coming years. This clip shows how skilfully a beaver can manoeuvre a 5m willow branch towards the cache.

Beavers on camera trap

Click for video (courtesy of Paul Scott)

Trail cams can be used to great effect for research but sometimes it’s worth setting the beavers up for comedy value alone. This yearling’s problem solving skills are fairly impressive, with a juicy apple as just reward for proving a giggle or two.

Beavers on camera trap

Click for video (courtesy of Paul Scott)

For more information:

 

Scottish Wild Beaver Group

 

 

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