Beavers being released into wild

IMAGE: Scottish Beavers Reinforcement

Britain is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, but we can help turn the tide by reintroducing species that have been missing from our landscape – sometimes for hundreds of years. The Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) went extinct in Scotland around 400 years ago but today beavers are back bringing benefits and challenges.

Beavers are ecosystem engineers, changing the landscape around them and providing habitat for many other species. The iron in their teeth allows them to cut down trees, which they use to build dams and lodges, changing water levels to give them access to other areas and creating wetland habitat in the process.

Beavers are currently found in several parts of Scotland as a result of licensed reintroduction projects (for example Knapdale and the Cairngorms) and illegal releases (like Tayside). One of the biggest challenges for beaver conservation in Scotland currently is mitigating conflict between beavers and landowners in unlicensed release areas and ensuring long-term viability of the beaver population.  

RZSS has been working with beavers in Scotland since 2009, as a lead partner in both the Scottish Beaver Trial and the Scottish Beavers reinforcement in Knapdale. We conducted the first authorised reintroduction of beavers to Scotland and provided field, veterinary and genetics expertise to the projects.

Today, we remain involved in beaver conservation via our input into Scotland’s Beaver Strategy and our membership of the Scottish Beaver Advisory Group and the Cairngorms Beaver Group. We continue to publish our work on the conservation genetics of beavers and our vet team is actively involved in welfare discussions to ensure that beavers survive and thrive in Scotland. 

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The team

Helen Taylor releasing dark bordered beauty moths

IMAGE: Jess Wise 2023

Dr Helen Taylor

Conservation programme manager

Helen Senn 2024

Dr Helen Senn

Head of conservation and science programmes

Dr Alex Ball

Dr Alex Ball

Conservation programme manager (RZSS WildGenes)

Dr Heather Ritchie-Parker

Dr Heather Ritchie-Parker

Research scientist (RZSS WildGenes)

Prof Simon Girling

Head of veterinary services

Project updates

Date: January 2024

A new paper published by the RZSS field conservation and WildGenes teams in the journal Evolutionary Applications reports on the success of the Scottish Beavers reinforcement project. The project was designed to boost both the size and genetic diversity of the Knapdale population by moving beavers with Bavarian genetic origins into the Norwegian origin Knapdale population. Our analysis shows that this project has succeeded in increasing the genetic diversity in Knapdale and could result in novel genetic combinations if kits from Norwegian origin pairs mate with those from Bavarian origin pairs.

Beavers being released into wild

IMAGE: Scottish Beavers Reinforcement

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