SIR, – Re Tayside beavers – I was interested to read the two beaver letters in your edition of October 27.

Looking backwards to the how and who might be responsible, the essential information is already in the public domain. The beavers did not come down the Tay in a bubble. They escaped from private collections, of which there are a number in Perthshire.

Those collections sourced beavers from other collections elsewhere in the UK. They were not shipped in from abroad. DNA testing has shown that the Tay beavers are largely Bavarian in provenance and there is a suggestion of some Polish/ Eastern European blood as well.

Such animals were already present in captivity in the UK. It was legal to move them to Scotland. It was not legal to let them go, or let them escape, but there was no effective oversight of the collections here. No-one had to account for them and there was no inspection or supervision, either here or in England.

The beaver situation is, therefore, a failure of regulation. FOI information in 2011 noted that the police regarded any prosecutions as being time barred. That information also noted that although the police originally thought that people were releasing beavers, they eventually concluded that the distribution at that time could be explained by escapees breeding in the wild unseen for several years, which is what happened.

The Tayside beavers only came to public notice in 2006, but the first reported sighting was in 2001. Experienced ghillies on the Tay would tell you there have been beavers in the Tay and lower Earn since the mid-1990s.

The reason we have so many now is simply because they have been breeding successfully for so long. You don’t need white vans to account for the current numbers and distribution.

We now have a population of animals here that are doing extremely well, capable of expanding their numbers and extent despite a significant proportion of them being culled annually. Looking forward, the SNH 'mitigation' will not control numbers. It will merely mitigate against beaver impacts, but there is a cost to this and it will not always be possible. The numbers will increase, and they will continue to spread.

The Scottish Government is frightened of adverse public opinion on controlling beavers, but I see little evidence that this fear is necessary. The much awaited beaver management plan has not arrived and it is unlikely to arrive any time soon. But anyone with a clear head could write this on a single page of A4 and publish it tomorrow.

These animals are present in Scotland and they obviously do well here. In some places, they will be an asset to biodiversity and tourism, but in other areas they will be a hindrance and the cost of that is capable of escalating very quickly, especially once they start to impact upon infra structure in the Central Belt and get in to flat farming areas such as the Carse of Stirling.

The positives and negatives will fall on different people. We must not have a situation going forwards where beavers are wrapped in cotton wool like badgers are.

We simply need a situation where those that want beavers can have them and those that don’t, can do something about it. There will be a need to adjudicate in situations where beaver dams on one property are impacting on neighbours, but otherwise, people should be able to set their own populations as they see fit.

That is actually what we have at the moment. There are enough people out there who are happy to have beavers and who will tolerate or welcome them and this is sufficient to ensure viable populations in the future.

The European beaver is no longer an endangered animal. There are hundred of thousands of them now, if not 1m plus. They do not need EU Habitats Directive protection in Scotland.

They should be managed like deer, in that they should have closed seasons to protect from welfare issues and farmers should have clear guidance on recommended calibres of firearms to use. That is the only protection that is necessary. It does not matter if some beavers are culled as long as the population remaining is viable and any culling is humane.

Politics complicates matters, of course, with the narrative about staying in the EU dominating discussion here. But, if we leave the EU as planned, then we can find our own solutions to these things and we can do that better ourselves than if we are relying on others to make these decisions for us.

The farmers in Bavaria would say not to allow a problem to escalate and then put something better in place 30 years down the road. Better to do the right thing at the outset. That would be a much better approach for farmers, the environment and, ultimately, the beavers themselves.

Victor Clements

Mamies’s Cottage,

Taybridge Terrace,