Escaped beaver leaves a trail of destruction


First it was cormorants, now it’s otters and in the near future it could be beavers ruining anglers’ sport nationwide.

The warning comes after an animal which escaped from a Hertfordshire zoo caused havoc on a nearby golf course, highlighting the species’ destructive habit of felling trees to build dams and lodges ¬ it’s estimated a beaver family could fell as many as 300 trees each winter.

And claims are being made that these dams would pose a huge threat to the free movement and migration of fish if the species was ever widely reintroduced in the UK.

A Canadian report, released at the same time as the start of a trial reintroduction of 11 beavers in the Knapdale Forest in Argyll, Scotland, revealed that a similar scheme in one of Canada’s eastern provinces had a major adverse impact on local fish populations.

‘A Conservation Strategy For Atlantic Salmon in Prince Edward Island’ showed that beaver dams ‘prevent salmon from reaching preferred spawning and nursery sites and sometimes prevent young salmon from going to sea’.

The report concluded that salmon runs would decline and eventually collapse if beavers weren’t removed or culled regularly.

“This report was unequivocal in its conclusions. Beaver dams can amount to insurmountable obstacles to migrating salmon, trout and numerous coarse fish species,” said Salmon and Trout Association boss Paul Knight.

“It is vital that proper scientific research is now commissioned into the likely impact of burgeoning beaver numbers on migratory fish populations in the UK. And there needs to be absolute clarity on what will happen to the Knapdale beavers once the trial period is concluded,” he added.

Beavers can only be introduced in England under licence granted by Natural England (NE) because the species is controlled by Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

NE claims that a public consultation process on beaver reintroductions will only be launched if it receives a licence application, however angling organisations were informally invited to submit their thoughts on potential trial introductions earlier this summer, prompting concerns that beaver releases may be just a matter of time.