Scotland's beaver population surge is a fascinating test case for human-wildlife relations – Scotsman comment

Beavers are known as nature's engineers because of their transformative effect on the environment.

The number of beavers in Scotland has been increasing dramatically, according to a new study (Picture: Lorne Gill/NatureScot/PA Wire)

So news that their recorded population has more than doubled in Tayside to 251 in just three years and that Scotland is now home to a total of 1,000 means they will be having a real impact.

They fell trees – a single animal can gnaw through a foot-wide trunk in a single night – dam rivers, and create new ponds and wetlands that are the perfect habitat for a host of species, such as otters, water voles, birds, dragonflies and other invertebrates, and, of course, fish.

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Not only that but their activities help to reduce flooding because, during heavy rain, the water is held up and released more slowly downstream.

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However, they can cause problems for humans, for example, if they flood prime agricultural land or create issues for roads and railway lines. It was for such reasons that 56 beaver dams were removed and 115 beavers, a protected species, were legally killed last year.

Despite this, these wonderful animals have been spreading out from their heartlands in Tayside and are known to have reached Stirling.

Scotland’s wildlife is in crisis largely because of our actions and beavers can help us to repair the damage that we have caused. They could also become a significant tourist attraction.

We have increasingly come to realise that we need to find better ways to co-exist with the natural world. Precisely because they can come into conflict with human interests, beavers are a fascinating test case for the future of relations between our species and all the rest.

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