BEAVER DAMAGE to farmland has been highlighted by NFU Scotland and the Scottish Conservative Party, during a visit to view the species' impact on Tayside farms.

Since the illegal release of beavers in the Tay catchment, lack of proper management has led to the animals spreading to occupy waterways stretching through half a million hectares of land.

During these latest farm visits, it was revealed that beavers had been felling trees along the river bank, while their dams were causing streams to back up with debris and branches. The worst of the damage had been created by the beavers burrowing into the river banks to create dens, creating large holes in the adjacent farmland and collapsing river banks.

The holes left by the beavers in some cases were over one metre deep, and posed a real threat to livestock. If cattle or sheep were to walk over the banks they could collapse into the banking and get stuck.

Witnessing first-hand the extent of the damage caused by beavers in Perthshire, Conservative MSPs Peter Chapman, John Scott and Edward Mountain called on the Scottish Government to address the problem by not allowing the beaver population to grow any further.

“Farmers must be able to control beavers, in order to ensure that their farmland isn’t being damaged further by an ever-increasing population," said the MSPs. “The Scottish Government must listen to the concerns of affected farmers, and ensure their livelihoods are not threatened by the growing beaver population."

Chairman of the NFUS’s Environment and Land Use committee Angus MacFadyen, stressed the need for an appropriate management plan for beaver colonies, to ensure they don’t impact on farming practices.

“It is imperative that any beaver colony is properly managed so that its addition to the landscape does not negatively affect agricultural practices and land use. The illegal release of beavers on Tayside some time ago means that the animals are now found on waterways stretching through half a million hectares of land.

“While Scottish Government has taken the decision to allow the reintroduction, discussions on an appropriate management plan are still taking place with stakeholders, including NFUS," noted Mr MacFadyen.

“Our members are adamant that the environmental benefits seen in localised areas must be viewed against the considerable damage from beaver activity seen on productive farmland, drainage systems, long standing flood banks and established woodland on large parts of Tayside. Members in the area welcomed the opportunity to brief Conservative MSPs on the issue and the pressing need for an appropriate management plan to be agreed,” he concluded.