The rivers and lakes in the southern Highlands of Scotland, United Kingdom, are now home to many wild beavers – once extinct in the region – and conservationists are making sure to protect crops and infrastructures while letting these beavers thrive.
“Beavers are nature’s supreme water engineers, but we know they may cause severe problems in some areas, particularly for crops on prime agricultural land and for important infrastructure like road drains or railway lines,” says Robbie Kernahan, head of sustainable growth at NatureScot, the government conservation agency.
Some 68 management projects have been carried through to protect farms and riverbanks, either by fencing off trees, dismantling beaver dams or adding “flow devices” to them. Extinct until recently, the number of beavers living in the wild is now estimated at 1,000, with 251 territories – 120% more than three years ago – established by them across the rivers from north of Dundee to Stirling. “The figures indicate that, while the number of beavers controlled under licence remains relatively stable, beaver numbers and beaver territories over the same period have more than doubled,” says Martin Kennedy, the president of National Farmers Union Scotland, implying that the management policy worked.