AN ENVIRONMENTALIST who has turned his land into a sanctuary for beavers has hit out at the numbers still being shot in Scotland.

Tom Bowser, owner of Argaty Red Kites and author of A Sky Full of Kites: A Rewilding Story, claims that although there are signs of hope for beavers in this country, they are still being killed instead of relocated.

Last year alone, 87 beavers were shot in Scotland.

“Their deaths keep the country’s cull average at just shy of 100 beavers a year – roughly a 10th of Scotland’s tiny beaver population,” points out Bowser, writing exclusively for the Sunday National.


He is particularly critical of ­Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS), the Crown Estates and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park for failing to home the “ecosystem ­engineers”.

Bowser goes on to express disappointment in wildlife charities as only two so far – RSPB Scotland and Trees for Life – have led applications for beaver relocations.

Just over one year ago ­Bowser relocated a family of beavers ­including three kits, to his Perthshire farm from an area in Tayside where they were unwanted. Only seven ­beavers have been translocated ­within ­Scotland during 2022, all of which were to ­Argaty. It made Argaty the first private site to release beavers into the wild.

Since then, he writes, the transformation has been “remarkable”.

“Amphibians now swim and breed in beaver-dug canals,” says Bowser. “Herons loiter there for the chance of spearing food. Insects feed on the sap of gnawed trees. Last winter, our first beaver dam held back ­water, and in summer droughts – while much of the country burned and waterways ­disappeared – the beavers dredged deep channels in their ponds, kept ­water within them, and kept ­thousands of species alive.

“Multiply such positive changes across a pond, tributary or whole ­river catchment, and you start to see the cumulative good of beavers.”

Although welcoming Scotland’s new beaver strategy which he says is a “cause for celebration”, he adds that he is still not happy.

“The issue here is that relocating beavers within Scotland has yet to become a normalised process that offers a viable alternative to killing,” Bowser writes.

For the new strategy to work, those who manage the land need to “step up”, claims Bowser.

“Surely those who own land should offer it up and spare beavers the ­bullet,” he says.

A spokesperson for Forestry and Land Scotland said: “FLS are ­working to support the new Scottish Government policy, to support a significant expansion of the range and size of the beaver population within ­Scotland over the next 10 years, and the ­National Beaver Strategy by providing timely opportunities to establish beavers across Scotland’s forests and land in appropriate locations within and outside their current range.

The National: Tom Bowser says just one family of beavers can make a huge difference Tom Bowser says just one family of beavers can make a huge difference

“Beavers are one nature-based ­solution to our statutory duty to ­further the conservation of ­biodiversity and we are developing plans to facilitate beaver ­translocation to a number of FLS sites over the coming years. Local consultation will be a vital part of this work.”

SIMON Jones, director of environment at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, said: “Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park is already home to a small but growing population of beavers. They are already established in the north and east of the Park and while not currently resident around Loch Lomond, beavers have been there in recent years and surveys show that the habitat is very suitable for them.

“The National Park Authority works with RSPB and NatureScot to manage Loch Lomond National ­Nature Reserve (NNR) and we are supportive of the proposal to ­translocate beavers to that location. We recently supported RSPB to carry out a stakeholder engagement exercise on beaver translocation to the Nature Reserve and a key point that this highlighted was the need for effective support for land managers who might be impacted by beaver behaviour in the future.

“This support is available through NatureScot’s Beaver Mitigation Scheme.

“The National Beaver ­Strategy sets out a long-term vision for ­beavers in Scotland and we are ­committed to supporting the development and delivery of this strategy. At a time of a global biodiversity crisis, we need the help of beavers to restore our depleted wetland habitats and the evidence shows that they can co-exist with us in modern landscapes.”

NatureScot said: “Beavers can bring great benefits for biodiversity and we’re keen to see these realised in Scotland.

“Alongside the beaver strategy, NatureScot has been carrying out work to map potential benefits and risks to assess and prioritise suitable new catchments for possible beaver releases, subject to them being suitably planned and licensed.

“We are assessing large catchment areas and ­talking to public bodies like the ­national parks and Forestry and Land Scotland, to identify the best potential sites.

“The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) has, for example, recently committed to taking a lead role in bringing beavers to the park, and FLS are looking at a number of sites.


“In the Loch Lomond and the ­Trossachs National Park we are ­currently considering a RSPB ­Scotland-led application for a licence to move beavers to the Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve (NNR).

“A consultation was also recently held by Trees for Life and landowners on a proposal for the potential ­translocation of beavers into the Glen Affric/ Beauly catchment.

“We are also assessing potential sites to translocate beavers on our own National Nature Reserves, ­however many may not be suitable – for example we have many coastal or mountainous reserves that may not be the best location for beavers.”

“Any proposal must follow the best practice guidance set out in The Scottish Code for ­Conservation Translocations, which ­importantly includes consulting with local communities, organisations and stakeholders.”

Crown Estates was approached for comment.