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Lost species to return to Cairngorms after absence of four centuries

By Gavin Musgrove

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Beavers are to return to Badenoch and Strathspey fir the first time in 400 years. Picture: Lorne Gill (NatureScot).
Beavers are to return to Badenoch and Strathspey fir the first time in 400 years. Picture: Lorne Gill (NatureScot).

NatureScot has today approved a licence application from the Cairngorms National Park Authority to release up to six beaver families at agreed sites in the upper River Spey catchment.

The decision will help increase the current range of beavers in Scotland.

The approval marks the fifth catchment to which beavers have either been officially granted permission to remain or have been released.

Populations are already established in Tayside, on the Forth, in Knapdale and Loch Lomond.

The application from the CNPA was assessed by NatureScot in line with the Scottish Code for Conservation Translocations, which considers a range of issues including site suitability and potential impacts on neighbouring land management and community interests.

NatureScot has assessed the catchment as 'highly favourable for beavers with a low risk of beaver and human conflict'.

An environmental report highlights parts of the River Spey catchment have long been identified as one of the most suitable locations for beaver releases.

NatureScot said it considers that establishing a new population in the River Spey will bring many biodiversity and ecosystem benefits to the Cairngorms National Park and make a significant contribution to beaver restoration in Scotland.

Donald Fraser, NatureScot head of wildlife management, said: “This decision marks a significant milestone for beaver restoration in Scotland, bringing this keystone species back to one of our biggest river catchments with huge potential for beavers to contribute to habitat restoration and biodiversity enhancement in the Cairngorms National Park.

“We also appreciate and understand both the support and legitimate concerns articulated by farmers and crofters through the consultation process.

"We are satisfied that the monitoring and mitigation plans set out by the Cairngorms National Park Authority, alongside our existing Beaver Mitigation Scheme, will sufficiently address any potential conflicts that may arise.”

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The licence permits the release of up to six beaver families (pairs with dependent young) at the agreed sites in the first year.

It also allows for future additional releases at other sites over the next five years up to a total of 15 beaver families.

Any additional releases and sites would be subject to approval by the NatureScot licensing team.

The beavers will be trapped and taken under licence from areas where they are having a negative impact on prime agricultural land and where mitigation measures have not been successful or are not possible.

The beavers will undergo appropriate health screening before being released.

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