OCTOBER will see work begin on the 'most comprehensive and authoritative' survey of beaver numbers and range ever conducted in Scotland.

NatureScot – the rebranded Scottish Natural Heritage – is asking landowners and the public to help it gather detailed and up-to-date information on the locations of active beaver territories, as well as assessing the health and spread of the overall population, in what will be the first survey conducted since beavers gained protected status as European Protected Species in Scotland.

Beavers have already spread from where they first established their Scottish stronghold on the Tay. As such, the new survey, involving experts from the University of Essex, will cover Tayside and the surrounding river catchments, including the Forth and river systems in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, investigating some areas where beaver sightings have recently been reported but not confirmed, as far afield as Glasgow to the west and Fife to the south east.

NatureScot project lead, Roo Campbell, said: “From sightings so far this year, it looks like beavers are spreading even further in and around Tayside – there’s even been a beaver spotted in the west of Glasgow. This is wonderful news, as beavers play a vital role in creating habitats such as ponds and wetlands where other species thrive, alleviating flooding and improving water quality.

“But sometimes beavers can cause problems particularly on prime agricultural land, which is principally found on low lying farmland particularly in the east of the country," admitted Mr Campbell.

“We expect to see the beaver population expanding away from the high conflict areas where their release or escape was unauthorised, and into more suitable habitat where they can thrive and enrich Scotland’s nature. In fact, this survey will tell us if that is starting to happen already.”

Experienced beaver surveyors will search for signs of beavers on foot and by canoe across the area under scrutiny – but the public can also help the survey by reporting sightings of beavers and their field signs using the Mammal Society’s 'Mammal Mapper' app, available for both iPhone and Android, or online at https://www.brc.ac.uk/mammals/recording.php

Landowners with land with rivers, burns or other waterbodies in and around Tayside, including the Forth catchment and around Loch Lomond, are being warned that contractors for the survey may pass across property during the course of their work. NatureScot will be liaising with NFU Scotland and Scottish Land and Estates to make contact with members to inform them of the survey's timing and access arrangements.

However, given the scale of the survey, NatureScot said that it would not be possible to contact every landowner in advance.

"The survey will help anticipate future management for beavers and NatureScot encourages land owners to support the work of the surveyors – for example, by reporting the presence of beavers on your land," said the statement.

If you have concerns about the survey taking place on your land, contact Roo Campbell on 01463725130 or roo.campbell@nature.scot.