Beavers are a native species to the UK, hunted to extinction in the 16th century. By modifying their surroundings through coppicing, feeding and, in some cases, damming, beavers create ponds and wetlands which attract other species, provide a food source to others, and can even help improve water quality. For this reason, they are known as a ‘keystone’ species and their restoration would be beneficial to a wide range of species and habitats.
Appearance Beavers generally measure 70 – 100cm, weigh around 25kg and live for 10 – 15 years. They have a large flat tail, webbed hind feet and a waterproof coat, which equips them well for their semi-aquatic lifestyle. Unusually for mammals, the female beaver is the same size or larger than males of the same age.
Habitat Beavers live mainly in freshwater lochs and slow-moving rivers. They create ponds or adapt small lochs, through damming. This slows the rate of water flow, which in turn stimulates the growth of aquatic and semi-aquatic vegetation, providing them with a valuable food source. After a dam has been constructed and floods a suitable area, beavers will create a lodge dwelling in which they shelter and rear their young. Their felling or coppicing of small trees can improve habitats for other flora and fauna through increased deadwood, woodland reinvigoration and improved woodland sunlight, which stimulates ground vegetation. Pond building also lowers the effect of acidification in the water and in turn helps to attract other species including frogs, toads, water voles, otters, dragonflies, birds and fish.
Breeding Beavers mate for life and breed from the age of two, producing a litter of two to three kits in late spring each year. They are highly territorial and live in family groups with the young of that year and sometimes the young of the previous year. Young generally remain with their parents until they are sexually mature at two years old and are then chased off by their parents to encourage them to seek their own territories.
Diet Beavers are vegetarian, preferring mainly aquatic plants, grasses and shrubs during summer months and woody plants in winter. Winter food is sometimes stored underwater in case the pond freezes over but can also be stored on the water, which, with a layer of snow, prevents the pond from freezing..
Threats Beavers are well known for their construction skills, and build, with some precision, dams which flood an area, providing a large enough pond in which to build a lodge dwelling. They are generally most active at dawn and dusk and don’t hibernate in winter.
Beavers in Scotland A project which is being carried out by The Scottish Wildlife Trust, in partnership with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and Forestry Commission Scotland, released Beavers into the Knapdale Forest, Mid-Argyll in May 2009. These are the first beavers to live in Scotland in over 400 years. This marks the first formal reintroduction of a native mammal species in the UK. The beaver families will remain there for a five-year period from 2009 to 2014. An independent scientific monitoring programme will be carried out by SNH to assess the effect beavers have on the local environment and how well they settle in Scotland. However, approximately 146 beavers are presently living in the wild in rivers in Tayside. There are about 40 groups of beavers and seven dams in the Tay catchment. The beavers were found in the Tayside rivers and lochs stretching from Kinloch Rannoch, Kenmore and beyond Crieff in the west, to Forfar, Perth and Bridge of Earn in the East. The beavers in Tayside have been in the area since at least 2006, and originate either from escapes or deliberate releases from private collections. The Minister for the Environment decided in to allow the Tayside beavers to remain in the wild until the Scottish Government decision on beaver reintroduction in 2015.
For advice or further information on beavers in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee or Perth, call GRAHAM pest control today and we could help.