Tayside farmers shared their concerns about the impact of beaver populations in the region during a visit by Environment Minister Aileen McLeod.

McLeod travelled to meet potato farmer Peter Grewar at East Ardler Farm and beef and arable farmer Adrian Ivory at Strathisla Farms, both near Meigle, in a visit organised by Scottish Land & Estates.

The minister was shown the problems that can occur if drainage channels such as the burns become blocked by beaver dams, and also looked at bank erosion and tree gnawing occurring where beaver are present.

McLeod will receive a report from Scottish Natural Heritage in May outlining options for the future of the beaver population in Scotland, after which a decision will be taken as to whether they will stay in Scotland and, if so, what their status in terms of protection and management will be. 

She was joined on her visit by members of the Tayside Beaver Study Group, including Scottish Land & Estates, the NFU Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, The Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board, ConFor and Scottish Natural Heritage. The group have been carrying out a study looking at the beavers’ impact on land in Tayside along with their health and genetic diversity.

McLeod said: “Today I had the opportunity to see the impact of beavers in the local area and to hear about mitigation and management methods. The work of the Tay Beaver Study Group which brought together a wide range of interested parties to examine the impact of beavers and implications for management locally has provided valuable information.

“I am awaiting advice from Scottish Natural Heritage which will set out the impact of beavers, including the benefits to biodiversity and economic benefits through tourism, provided by the presence of beavers in Scotland.”

Ivory, who recently appeared on the BBC’s The One Show to discuss the problems he is experiencing, said: “There may be parts of Scotland where beaver can exist without too many problems, but that is not the case on low-lying agricultural ground where the increasing water levels they create is a concern. Experience from other parts of Europe tells us that beaver come into conflict with human activity in a number of different ways and they have to be robustly managed to avoid this getting out of hand.” 

Anne Gray, Policy Officer with Scottish Land & Estates, added: “We are very pleased that the minister has taken the time to come to Tayside today. Scottish Land & Estates has reservations about the proposed reintroduction of beaver to Scotland and it has been helpful to raise those concerns with her. As we’ve seen today they create a range of issues for farming and other land management and it is not yet clear how this will be mitigated, managed or compensated.”