Beavering Away

Keeping it polite it is clear some people would prefer to see off beavers for some very good reasons.

Beavers have been legally reintroduced in Scotland. Licensed by Scottish Natural Heritage the Beaver Partnership (The Scottish Wildlife Trust, The Zoological Society of Scotland and the Forestry Commission in Scotland) released beavers under monitored conditions in Knapdale Forest in Argyllshire in 2009. The location was selected with care for the sake of existing native wild life and iy's ecology.

Unfortunatey some people have misguidedly prempted the Beaver Partnership releasing beavers illegally in uncontrolled conditions and in unsuitable locations. Just like the ill considered actions of anti-fur coat campaigners who mass released hundreds of mink in protest at the practise of mink farming their actions have had seriously damaging consequences. Mink freed by campaigners proceeded to massacre wild life for miles around and along with escapees we are still cleaning up the ongoing carnage.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has released information about what, to many, is an unknown wildlife fiasco. Beavers have been present on the Ericht in Tayside for over 20 years and the consequences have created not only an environmental problem but a public health issue.

The following report comes from SGA:


A river worker is urging Scottish Natural Heritage officials to visit first hand the widespread beaver damage on the River Ericht at Blairgowrie, claiming the species are now at saturation point.

Robert Kellie points out beaver marks on one of a number of mature trees that have been felled along the edge of the River Ericht.
Robert Kellie (59) has witnessed the re-engineering work of the beavers over decades but now fears the river is degrading at an accelerated rate due to the extent of activity.

The beavers, released illegally into the Tay catchment, have been resident for two decades and have never been subject to population control on the Ericht. Now, tunnelling has caused large chunks of the riverbank to collapse into the water.

Seven beaver lodges are active and deep holes have spring up in the bank, large enough to potentially injure walkers and horse riders using the way-marked path by the river.
Tunneling beavers have compromised an old dump face mended last year using public money, causing rubbish to line the banks.The beavers have also now compromised hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of restoration work paid for by the tax payer in July 2017, to repair an exposed dump face.
Tunnelling below the reinstated site, which was planted with trees to bind the slope, has led to domestic rubbish leaching back out along the water’s edge, with plastics and clothes littering banks a hundred yards downstream.

One observer described the scene as like something from the ‘third world’. Mr Kellie believes it is now only a matter of time before breaches occur in existing flood defences, with serious implications for adjacent fertile farmland.
He also fears for the rod fishery, with silt and gravel from the erosion leading to the loss of locally famous salmon pools.

Domestic rubbish from the compromised dump face has spread down the banks of the River Ericht which is popular with walkers.
Angling on the Ericht is worth hundreds of thousands to the economy but salmon are now passing quickly through the river due to the silting of previous holding pools. 

“I have invited SNH to come here. The beavers are amazing engineers of habitat but if there is no ability to manage them, at a certain point, they can also be extremely destructive. This river has changed in nature, over the last 40 years, but the changes are now very, very rapid, particularly the erosion. Scottish Government has said beavers are here to stay. That is why it is important authorities get this right now. I don’t want to see no beavers here. Personally, I have nothing against them but SNH need to see for themselves the realities at this site and provide a management plan that can be followed.”

Mr Kellie has also highlighted public health risks to SNH after contracting the parasitic disease, Giardiasis, (see footnote1) whilst helping to mitigate beaver damage to a spawning tributary on the River Isla.

He lost two stone in weight and it was only after vets diagnosed his Border Terrier, Ben, with the same disease did doctors make the connection with Giardiasis.

Common in countries where beavers have long been resident, the condition has left Mr Kellie - a diabetic- with secondary anaemia and lactose intolerance.

“Other animals can be a host for Giardiasis but that is two river workers now who have caught it and my vet acknowledged there have also been more cases in dogs.

“The beavers need to be trapped and tested for disease like they were in the legal beaver reintroduction trial at Knapdale. We need to know the risks. These beavers were released illegally and, if they are carrying disease, that is a concern to the public and dogs. I thought my dog was going to die and I wouldn’t wish what I have suffered on anyone.”

Beavers released in controlled conditions on land suitable for to their life style are an attractive addition to the wildlife of Scotland. Beavers were after all native in Scotland being hunted out over 400 years ago. Most anglers enjoy their encounters with otter some enjoy seeing herons or egrets, some fishery owners are happy to see ospreys dropping in to pinch a trout. We should live in harmony with wildlife now as we did in the past. There has to balance in this relationship and when birds like goosanders, mergansers and marine cormorants devastate fisheries or illegally released beavers cause a public health issue for humans, pets and livestock action is required.

It is hoped SNH will visit the the Ericht, not with Nelson eye sight but with both eyes open, see the damage and authorise action, immediately.


Footnote 1; Giardiasis is an infection of the gut caused by a flagellated anaerobic protozoan (Giadia lambia) which infects humans, pets, livestock and wildlife. Caused by injesting water or faecal matter or coming in contact with animals or humans, it is highly infectious. Symptoms - smelly diarrhoea, tummy pain or cramps, farting, bloating, smelly burps (smells of eggs), weight loss. It can easily be treated with antibiotics but like any such infection it can be harmful to vulnerable people. It is noted that in Canada the beaver is recognised as a prime reservoir of infection, known there as "Beaver Fever".(Source NHS web site).