Where will you find beavers?
Due to overhunting, the Eurasian beaver was driven to the brink of extinction across Europe and actually disappeared entirely from the UK centuries ago. Following a successful programme of reintroduction a few years ago, beaver numbers are growing in Scotland (and Europe!) again.
Famed for their thick, dark waterproof fur, beavers are stocky creatures with a flat tail and beady eyes. Beavers are renowned for their dam-building skills and can fell trees with their sharp teeth. They use wood to construct their dams and homes, and make an invaluable contribution to ecosystems and biodiversity through the wetlands they create.
Beavers are territorial mammals who pair up, typically having one litter of babies – or kits – each year.
They can be found in Knapdale Forest in Argyll and along the banks of the River Tay in Perthshire.
What do beavers eat?
Beavers are veggies. Because they spend so much time in the water, they are fond of an aquatic plant. They also munch on grass and herbs.
Main threats to beavers
In early 2019, beavers were granted European Protected Species status in Scotland. This makes it a criminal offence to deliberately or recklessly:
- Kill, injure or capture a beaver
- Harass a beaver
- Disturb a beaver whilst it is in a place it uses for shelter and protection
- Disturb a beaver whilst it is rearing or caring for its kits
- Prevent or obstruct a beaver from accessing a breeding site or place of rest
- Disturb a beaver in a way which is likely to impact abundance of the species in the local area or impair its ability to survive and to breed or care for its young
People can get licenses to shoot beavers, and this is often done to prevent beavers causing damage to land through the dams and wetlands they create. Whilst the Scottish SPCA understands there may be cause to humanely remove beavers, we are adamant it should be in a way which avoids unnecessary suffering. The new protections should address this and we investigate any reports we receive of beavers being injured or hurt.
Babies are also dependent on their parents for a time, and if anything happens to them it makes it almost impossible for them to survive.
If you come across a beaver which is injured or hurt, call our animal helpline immediately on 03000 999 999.
How we help beavers
One of our animal rescue officers will retrieve an injured beaver and take it to our National Wildlife Rescue Centre for a full veterinary assessment. Depending on the outcome of that, our expert wildlife team will devise a programme of rehabilitation with the goal of successfully reintroducing the beaver back in to the wild.
Caring for baby beavers can be a long-term commitment. They spend up to two years under the care of their parents, so we have to replicate that experience to give them the best chance to survive. When they are young we’ll give them all the help they need to flourish, but by the time any beaver is ready for release it will be truly wild and there will be little to no contact with our wildlife care team.
As beavers are territorial, finding a suitable release site is no easy task. We have to consider lots of factors, such as the local population and getting the necessary landowner permissions.