Bringing beavers back to Cairngorms National Park

NatureScot approved the licence application for Cairngorms National Park Authority to translocate Eurasian beavers to the park, with the first sites receiving beavers in the coming weeks.

Photo by Melina Kiefer on Unsplash

Beavers are a keystone species, with the potential to help tackle the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss. This will be the first out of range translocation in Scotland and will make a significant contribution to the delivery of the Scottish Beaver Strategy.

The Park Authority, working with a range of partners and landowners, submitted the licence application in October, following extensive consultation with the agricultural community, fishing interests, the public and other key stakeholders.

The translocation licence from NatureScot allows for up to six beaver families to be released in the Upper Spey catchment in the first year. The first three release sites are on land owned by Rothiemurchus Estate, Wildland Scotland and the RSPB.

Sandy Bremner, Convener of the Cairngorms National Park Authority said: “We are pleased that NatureScot has granted the licence, allowing for the translocation of beavers to the Upper Spey catchment. This is a significant moment in the history of the National Park, with the licence allowing us to return beavers to the area after an absence of 400 years. I want to thank the Park Authority staff and everyone who has helped us reach this point. I am especially grateful to the National Farmers Union of Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates, the Spey Fishery Board, RSPB and NatureScot who have been with us since the very first Cairngorms Beaver Group meeting back in 2017 – and to all those who have expressed concerns and worked with us to shape further mitigation measures.”

Grant Moir, Chief Executive of the Cairngorms National Park Authority added: “This is a milestone moment and we’re grateful to over 500 people who took part in our public consultation. As an organisation we are mindful that whilst the majority of respondents were supportive there remains some concerns about the impacts from beavers on some farms in the area. We have listened carefully to those concerns and adjusted our approach to provide further reassurance to the farming community, with that dialogue continuing. We have effective mitigation measures in place with the work being led by the Park Authority Beaver Officer, who can react quickly to minimise any negative impacts. Beavers will provide many positive benefits for the area both environmentally and economically but as the applicant we need to work to maximise the benefits whilst managing any impacts.”

The Scottish Government Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, Lorna Slater welcomed the news: “The decision to grant a licence for the release of beavers in the Cairngorms National Park is a huge step forward in our collective efforts to re-establish this once lost species across Scotland. The Cairngorms National Park Authority is putting in place measures to ensure the release of beavers will both support biodiversity and benefit the local economy.”

The beavers will come from the Tay catchment having been humanely trapped before undergoing veterinary health screening. Once healthy pairs and families are available for translocation, they will be brought to the Cairngorms National Park and released in locations that have been identified as highly suitable and where the local landowner has been keen to welcome them. The sites chosen have also been carefully considered for their suitability from both a beaver and human standpoint.

Dr Roison Campbell-Palmer of the Beaver Trust explained: “We are delighted NatureScot have approved the licence to release beavers into the National Park. Actively expanding the beaver population into appropriate areas is an important step towards realising the vision of Scotland’s National Beaver Strategy. Having carried out detailed modelling of the Spey catchment with the University of Exeter, we are confident beavers will thrive here due to the abundance of suitable habitat. This project has been exemplary, with well-planned local engagement, carried out by an exceptional team, which we’re proud to have contributed to.”

Karen Birkby, the Site Manager at RSPB Scotland Insh Marshes nature reserve, said: “We are very pleased that a licence to move beavers into the Cairngorms National Park has been granted allowing us to be one of the three initial release sites. The return of beavers should ultimately help us achieve our long-term vision for Insh Marshes – to improve the functioning of the river Spey and its floodplain for nature and people. We look forward to welcoming beavers back to Insh Marshes at some point next year – they will bring many benefits to other wildlife and naturally adapt the nature reserve in ways we could never hope to replicate.”

Availability of beavers and weather conditions depending, the first families are expected to be released in the Cairngorms National Park very soon.