A NEW national strategy has been developed to expand Scotland’s beaver population for decades to come.

Scotland’s Beaver Strategy 2022-2045 has involved more than 50 stakeholder organisations and represents one of the most ambitious approaches to managing and conserving the species.

Beavers create wetland habitats that help wildlife thrive and reduce flood risks.

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The scheme aims to assess how to support communities to maximise the environmental benefits of beavers, while minimising the negative effects through appropriate management and mitigation.

The strategy highlights the need for ongoing research of the beaver population and its effects to improve management as the species expands.

It is estimated that Scotland’s beaver population is around 954 with 254 territories, NatureScot figures suggest.

The strategy was developed collaboratively under a process designed and led by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Conservation Planning Specialist Group (CPSG).

The cross-stakeholder team included representatives from NatureScot, the National Farmers Union of Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Scottish Land and Estates and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

A new Scottish Beaver Advisory group will now work to bring the strategy forward.

Biodiversity Minister Lorna Slater said: “Just 25 years ago, most people would not have imagined that beavers would soon return as a member of our Scottish fauna.

“Now they are returning, we have a responsibility to look after and value them – to learn to live alongside these remarkable animals.

“This strategy, and our work together to deliver it, is an important and welcome step towards this goal.

“I have no doubt of the positive impact that delivering it will have on the natural environment across the country, as beavers re-engineer and restore rivers and create wetlands.

“Recognising the concerns and requests made by stakeholders during the development of this strategy, the Scottish Government will support the expansion of beavers across the country, whilst ensuring land managers are supported to live alongside beavers.”

NatureScot’s chief executive Francesca Osowska said: “Our ambitious long-term vision is to see the beaver population expand across Scotland, co-existing successfully with communities.”

She added: “Beavers can play an important role in helping to restore biodiversity and responding to the climate emergency in Scotland.”