Community forums about beavers in Strathglass

european beaver 0553 L.Campbell

7th November 2017, by Alan McDonnell, Conservation Projects Manager. All images © Laurie Campbell

Supported by last spring’s beaver appeal, Trees for Life began work this summer to determine what a beaver release in the Highlands might look like. We’ve been looking both at ecological impacts and at the local community’s response to a proposal to bring beavers to their area. We decided to use Strathglass as a case study for this work because there is a history of occasional small-scale beaver escapes there.

Our conversations with the Strathglass community about the presence of beavers in the area entered another phase last week with a drop-in day and a couple of evening meetings for local people to discuss the implications of beavers being in the rivers around them. Trees for Life gave a short presentation on beavers, the benefits they bring, the problems they can cause and the methods used across Europe for managing beaver impacts. In the discussions which followed, there was a lot of interest in the fate of the beaver family that has been partially trapped and removed from the area, particularly in light of the fact that two of the three animals trapped subsequently died in captivity. However, much of the discussion also focused on the potential pros and cons of a possible longer term presence of beavers in Strathglass.

It was very clear at the meetings that local people very much value the natural beauty of Strathglass and being able to enjoy to the peace of walking beside the river Glass and the Beauly. A lot of people are warm to the idea of having beavers in the wild, but there is also sensitivity to the fact that the riverbanks are particularly important to farmers and fishermen. If there is to be a future for beavers in any part of this river system, there needs to be confidence that the ability is in place to deal with any undesirable effects on farming or fishing interests.

Prior to last week, we’ve been talking one to one with some of the farmers and landowners along the riverbanks and we spoke to just over fifty people at the three public events. While all of the conversations have been constructive and engaging, this has only been a start on exploring the issues for and against beavers in Strathglass. Our next step is to draw up a summary of the views we heard and bring this back to the community with a view to continuing and broadening the conversation.

Alan McDonnell

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