BEAVERS will be released into two new locations in Scotland after the government’s nature body approved new licences.

NatureScot announced on Thursday that four families of beavers would be released into Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) land at Knapdale in Argyll and in Tay Forest Park.

The sites are not currently home to beavers, NatureScot said, but they are close enough to existing populations that they hope to reinforce the presence of the mammals in the wild.

NatureScot said the new sites had been marked as “highly suitable” due to a “low risk of beaver-human conflict”.

The beavers will be trapped and taken under licence from areas where they are having a “serious negative impact” on agricultural land and where mitigation measures have not been successful or are not possible.

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The Knapdale forest site, near the Crinan canal, was chosen back in 2009 as the first place in Scotland where the reintroduction of beavers could be trialled.

The large rodents, the second-biggest after capybaras, had been hunted to extinction in the UK four centuries before.

The release of four new families of beavers should “strengthen the local beaver populations and retain genetic diversity within the Scottish beaver population as well as providing local biodiversity benefits”, NatureScot said.

Donald Fraser, the public body’s head of wildlife management, said: “Beavers are ecosystem engineers, creating habitats such as ponds and wetlands where other species thrive, as well as moderating water flows and improving water quality. In doing so, they play an important role in helping to restore biodiversity and respond to the climate emergency in Scotland.

“All of these sites are within the current beaver distribution range and have been assessed as highly suitable locations for beaver release. Beavers have been present in Knapdale Forest since the initial beaver reintroduction trial in 2009, and a small number of animals have also been present within Tay Forest Park for many years.

“We know that beavers can occasionally cause issues, and while we anticipate a low risk of conflict, NatureScot’s Beaver Mitigation Scheme will be available to assist land managers should any issues arise.

“Overall we consider that this reinforcement project will make a valuable contribution to delivering beaver restoration in Scotland as set out in Scotland’s Beaver Strategy.”