The European beaver has been reintroduced into a loch in western Scotland. Eleven individual beavers were released on Friday, May 29th by the Scottish Beaver Trial (SBT), a project run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the Forestry Commission Scotland. The beaver was hunted to extinction throughout Britain during the Middle Ages for its fur. The last record of a beaver in Britain was made in 1526.
“Welcoming beavers back to Scotland marks a historic day for conservation. These charismatic creatures are not only likely to create interest in Scotland from further afield but crucially can play a key role in providing good habitat for a wide range of wetland species,” Roseanna Cunningham, Scottish Minister for the Environment, said at the release.
The European beaver. Photo by: Per Harald Olsen.
Three beaver families were imported from Norway and released into the Knapdale Forest after being kept in quarantine for six months. It is believed these Norwegian beavers are the closest genetically to those that once lived in Scotland.
Some Scots oppose the reintroduction, citing that the beavers could hamper salmon and sea trout migrations by changing rivers’ and lakes’ waterflow. In light of such concerns, the reintroduction includes a five year period of intense study and monitoring to keep track of how the beavers are affecting the Scottish landscape.
Others, including Wildlife Extra have questioned the cost of the program, which is estimated at one million pounds. They argue that the money would have been better spent on Scottish wildcats, Moray firth dolphins, or reforestation forests, especially considering that the European beaver is not an endangered species.
Having been decimated for its pelts throughout Europe, the European beaver has already been reintroduced into 24 European countries. The beaver is the world’s second largest rodent after the capybara of South America. There are two species: the European beaver and the American beaver.
(02/23/2007) Beavers have returned to New York City for the first time since colonial days when the animals were hunted to extinction for their pelts.