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Cairngorms National Park gets licence to reintroduce beavers to Upper Spey after 400 years

By Chris Saunderson

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BEAVERS are coming back to the upper Spey – with the first releases in the next few weeks.

Beavers will be taken from the Tay to the Spey. Picture: Elliot McCandless.
Beavers will be taken from the Tay to the Spey. Picture: Elliot McCandless.

Three release sites have already been identified on land owned by Rothiemurchus Estate, Wildland Scotland and the RSPB.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority has been granted a licence by NatureScot to locate Eurasian beavers to the Upper Spey catchment in the national park.

It is hoped the beavers can help tackle the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.

The licence allows for up to six beaver families to be released in the first year.

Sandy Bremner, convener of the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) said: “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 CNPA 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.

"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 we need to work to maximise the benefits whilst managing any impacts.”

The beavers will come from the Tay catchment having been humanely trapped before undergoing veterinary health screening.

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, said: “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.”

The head ranger at Rothiemurchus Estate, Ollie Mackay, said it is excited to be selected as one of the initial reintroduction sites.

"We are working with the park authority on providing visitors with information on being in the vicinity of beavers without disturbing them.”

Tim Kirkwood, chief executive of Wildland Limited, said: “Wildland Limited continues to be committed to habitat rehabilitation on a landscape scale. Beaver are a keystone species in ecosystem regeneration and we are pleased to support the park authority in this project."

Karen Birkby, the site manager at RSPB Scotland Insh Marshes nature reserve, said the return of beavers should ultimately help achieve a 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.”

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