Beavers successfully relocated to Loch Lomond

A family of beavers have been successfully moved to Loch Lomond marking another major milestone for the species’ return in Scotland

Beaver kits exploring - photo credit - Beaver Trust

RSPB Scotland translocated a family group of seven beavers to the Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve with a helping hand from Lorna Slater, Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity.

Loch Lomond is only the third location in Scotland where a beaver translocation has taken place since the reintroduction trial at Knapdale in 2009.

The pair of beavers and their five young offspring (two yearlings and three kits) were moved from an area in Tayside as part of plans to speed up the return of beavers to the Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve, which is jointly managed by RSPB Scotland, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority and NatureScot. 

Crates containing beavers being lifted from transport - photo credit - Beaver Trust

RSPB Scotland, the nature conservation charity leading this effort, anticipates that the beavers which are “nature’s engineers” will create and enhance habitats and boost biodiversity in the NNR helping to address both the climate and nature emergencies.

The licence to move beavers to Loch Lomond was granted late last year by government agency NatureScot. Following this, the family of beavers were captured and then underwent a series of health checks and tests at the Five Sisters Zoo, in West Lothian, where they were held until being taken to the RSPB Scotland nature reserve last Friday to be released.

Crates containing beavers being lifted from transport - photo credit - Beaver Trust

On the day, the beavers were released with just ten people present at the release to minimise any possible stress to the beavers. The kits’ crates were opened first, and they seemed initially reluctant to leave the warmth of the straw inside, before tentatively emerging. Each then seemed to have a different and individual reaction – two returned to the crates for a time while three entered the burn with the adult male. The female’s crate was opened last. She immediately entered the water with a big tail slap and then the whole family were away to explore their new home on the floodplain of the River Endrick.

Beaver kits being released - photo credit - Beaver Trust

Both the beavers and habitat, on the RSPB Scotland nature reserve, will now be closely monitored by local staff to see how they settle in and begin to modify the wetland. This includes remote monitoring of water levels, using camera traps to directly monitor beavers and mapping field signs of beaver activity.

Hopes are high among nature lovers and conservationists that this latest translocation will mark the start of further beaver restoration as part of Scotland’s Beaver Strategy, with further colonisation of this and other suitable catchments. This would greatly assist the Scottish Government policy to support the expansion of the beaver population across Scotland and help address both the climate and nature emergencies.

Minister Lorna Slater releasing the first beavers - photo credit - Beaver Trust

Biodiversity Minister Lorna Slater said: “It’s been a delight to witness the translocation of this family of beavers to their new home in the Loch Lomond Nature Reserve.

“This once lost species were driven to extinction in Scotland, but are becoming an established part of our natural environment once again. Through translocation projects like this one, beavers are slowly being reintroduced across the country and helping to promote biodiversity and restore nature.

Beaver kits sniffing - photo credit - Beaver Trust

 “Now children growing up in Scotland will grow up alongside beavers - learning about the amazing things that they do, like natural flood management, and creating wetland habitats that support a range of other species.

 “This represents an amazing story of regaining something that was lost, of getting that abundance back and passing on a nature-positive legacy for future generations. I am thankful to NatureScot and the RSPB for their work with this particular project and others like it, supporting the expansion of beaver populations across Scotland.”

Beaver kits finding one another after being released - photo credit - Beaver Trust

Anne McCall, Director of RSPB Scotland, said: “We are delighted to have been able to offer a home to this family of beavers, speeding up their return to Loch Lomond. The National Nature Reserve, with its mix of open water, fen and wet woodland is a perfect place for them. As nature’s engineers they manage and create habitat in ways we could never hope to replicate.

“We are looking forward to seeing the many benefits this should bring to other wildlife from birds to dragonflies, fish to frogs, both on our nature reserve and in the wider NNR. We also hope our visitors will be able to enjoy spotting their natural engineering feats in the coming years. But, most of all we hope this translocation (and what Argaty did before us) will mark the start of beavers returning to more of Scotland bringing with them a much-needed boost for biodiversity”.

Beaver kit swimming in new home - photo credit - Beaver Trust

Roisin Campbell-Palmer from The Beaver Trust managed the translocation process. She said: “It's incredibly fulfilling to release this family into Loch Lomond NNR today. It's an ideal home for them with lots of suitable habitat where they will be able to bring real biodiversity benefits. It's a great achievement for everyone involved and an important step in the restoration of beavers in Scotland.

“In line with Scotland's new beaver strategy to 2045 we hope that conservation translocations such as this are recognised as a welcome alternative to lethal control, and a key tool in restoring the species that become normalised.”

Gordon Watson, Chief Executive at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, said: “This release of a family of beavers at Loch Lomond is a positive step forward both for the natural environment here in the National Park and for the national Beaver Strategy and the impact it can have on supporting biodiversity in Scotland. We are delighted to have supported the RSPB in this process.

“These are not our first beavers – beavers have already been moving into other areas of the National Park for many years now and surveys show that they are likely to thrive in the habitat around Loch Lomond. 

“Evidence shows that beavers can co-exist with us in modern landscapes and bring multiple benefits, from creating wetland habitats that support multiple species to helping mitigate flooding. Our Future Nature strategy supports the translocation of beavers to help enable these benefits and we hope to explore more opportunities in the future.”

NatureScot Chief Executive Francesca Osowska said: “It’s incredibly exciting to see beavers return to Loch Lomond, marking an important step in helping to restore biodiversity and respond to the climate emergency in Scotland.

“Our surveys have shown that beavers are likely to have been present in the catchment since at least 2019, and this family will help to speed up that natural colonisation process. In doing so they will bring a wide range of benefits for biodiversity in the nature reserve and the wider National Park – from creating ponds and wetlands where other species can thrive, to helping natural floodplain functioning and improving water quality.”