BEAVER NUMBERS across Tayside have almost tripled in the past six years – prompting Scottish Natural Heritage to set up a 'mitigation' scheme for farmland affected by the species' activity.

A newly published SNH report estimates that around 430 beavers now live in over 100 active beaver territories in and around the Tay, in comparison to the 150 beavers in 40 territories estimated by a 2012 survey into the population that had arisen from animals illegally released in the area.

SNH’s director of sustainable growth, Nick Halfhide, said: “By building dams, beavers improve local water quality and help nurture other wildlife, and it’s wonderful that people now have a chance to see these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.

“But in some parts of Scotland, beavers can cause problems, particularly in areas with prime agricultural land. So we are setting up a mitigation scheme – with input from a range of interest groups such as NFU Scotland through the Scottish Beaver Forum – to develop and trial techniques to help farmers deal with any problems they encounter.”

The survey detected 72 beaver lodges, 339 burrows, and 86 dams or recently removed dams. Beavers create lodges by burrowing into banks where they dig several chambers and entrances.

Tay catchment beavers were found range from as far north as Dunalastair Water, extending out to the River Dochart and River Lyon in the west, over to Forfar Loch in the east, and down to Loch Earn in the south. Beavers were also found to be spreading beyond Tayside. There are a small number of beaver territories within the Forth catchment from Loch Achray in the Trossachs, parts of River Teith and Devon, to the main stem of Forth River near Stirling.

NFU Scotland director of policy Jonnie Hall said the report underlined what Tayside famers and NFUS had highlighted previously – that beaver numbers and their range have increased rapidly, impacting on some very productive agricultural locations.

“Those impacts from beavers have to be managed, and we are working closely with SNH to find constructive ways forward," said Mr Hall. "What may be seen to be a conservation success story, albeit as a result of illegal release, now has to be set against real and significant agricultural damage.

“Ultimately we need effective management protocols in place and that means testing all practical mitigation measures and making sure that they work effectively to enable beavers to coexist within the farmed landscape, rather than have beavers impose on farmers what they can and can’t do," he said.

Professor Richard Brazier from the University of Exeter, which carried out the latest survey, added: “This survey provides a comprehensive understanding of the current extent of beaver activity across Tayside and neighbouring catchments and expansion in beaver territories since 2012.

"Our survey data and subsequent analysis provides a wealth of information into how free-living beaver populations expand across, and utilise resources within Scottish catchments. This information has wide ranging value for informing policy and management strategies surrounding beaver reintroduction across Scotland and beyond, maximising our ability to manage the conflicts and maximise the benefits associated with beavers.”

SNH stressed that it was already providing farmers with free advice, as well as "practical, on-the-ground solutions", including techniques used across Europe, such as deterrent fencing, tree guards, piped dams, culvert and flood bank protections.

For the full report, go to