The first beaver kits to be born in the wild as part of the Scottish Beaver Trial have been seen in Knapdale Forest, Mid-Argyll, Scottish Beaver Trial staff have announced. As part of the partnership project between the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which launched the first formal trial reintroduction of a mammal back to the UK, the newborn beavers (known as kits) are estimated to be eight weeks old and their sighting marks a positive achievement in the progress of this landmark project.
Christian Robstad, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Beaver Field Officer, described his experience spotting Scotland’s exciting new arrivals: “Seeing the Trial’s newborn beaver kits was really amazing – this is a huge achievement for the project and for conservation in the UK. It’s often difficult to tell if wild beavers are pregnant especially as they are elusive and largely nocturnal animals, but with our adult female beavers at two sites known to be in peak condition, there was a real possibility that kits could follow.
Kits from 2 families seen
“Increasingly in the last few weeks, staff and volunteers have seen more evidence that there were young around and tracking activities were stepped up. After weeks of patient observation, we were finally rewarded with not just one kit being spotted but a second kit from a different family group as well. “The first emerged as part of a ‘family outing’ with its parents and older sister close by to offer additional protection. It kept close to the edge of the loch and called out to its family for reassurance while it began to learn to forage for food.”
Population establishing itself in the wild
Simon Jones, the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Scottish Beaver Trial Project Manager, continued: “Receiving confirmation of the presence of at least two beaver kits this year in Knapdale is a fantastic step forward for the Scottish Beaver Trial as we can now begin to see how a small reintroduced population starts to naturally establish itself in the wild.
“Both these beaver families are real Trial success stories, having settled into Knapdale very well. Both have built their own lodge and one family has had great success building a dam to access better food supplies. This has created a magnificent new area of wetland in which wildlife is now flourishing in.”As beaver kits are very small, shy and look very similar to one another, there is a chance that even more kits have been born this year. We will be tracking our animals closely and hope to determine the exact number of kits produced as part of the Trial soon. This task will be made easier for us as the kits get older and more confident about emerging from the lodge and foraging for food on their own.”
Allan Bantick, Chair of the Scottish Beaver Trial Steering Group, said: “Conservationists and ecologists have campaigned for fifteen years for the return of the beaver to Scotland and thereby to correct the mistake of four hundred years ago when beavers were hunted to extinction. These births are small but significant steps in that direction.
After being hunted to extinction, the first beaver kits in more than 400 years were born as part of a wildlife initiative. That’s terrific, but Global Animal wonders if the left hand knows what the right hand is doing or if there are lessons to learn from history. Hunting restrictions recently changed in Scotland to allow killing wild animals without the need for a license (see story: New Hunting Rules Are A License To Kill). Is this one step forward and two steps back? Tell us what you think. – Global Animal