BOTH of Scotland’s national parks are set to have official beaver populations.

The news comes after NatureScot, the government’s conservation agency, approved a licence application from the Cairngorms National Park Authority to release up to six beaver families in the upper River Spey catchment.

A family is defined as a pair of beavers with dependent young kits. The licence allows for future releases of up to 15 families over the next five years.

The approval marks the fifth catchment to which beavers have either been officially granted permission to remain or have been released.

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Populations are already established in Tayside, on the Forth, in Knapdale, and in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

NatureScot said the newly approved Spey catchment had been assessed as “highly favourable … with a low risk of beaver/human conflict”.

The agency said in a statement: “NatureScot considers that establishing a new population in the River Spey will bring many biodiversity and ecosystem benefits to the Cairngorms National Park and make a significant contribution to beaver restoration in Scotland.”

The National:

Donald Fraser, NatureScot’s head of wildlife management, said: “This decision marks a significant milestone for beaver restoration in Scotland, bringing this keystone species back to one of our biggest river catchments with huge potential for beavers to contribute to habitat restoration and biodiversity enhancement in the Cairngorms National Park.

“We also appreciate and understand both the support and legitimate concerns articulated by farmers and crofters through the consultation process. We are satisfied that the monitoring and mitigation plans set out by the Cairngorms National Park Authority, alongside our existing Beaver Mitigation Scheme, will sufficiently address any potential conflicts that may arise.”

NatureScot said the beavers will be trapped and taken under licence from areas where they are having a negative impact on prime agricultural land and where mitigation measures have not been successful or are not possible.

The beavers will also undergo appropriate health screening before being released.