NTS Rangers visit Knapdale

IMG_6574Last week 42 Rangers and Managers (and two dogs) from the National Trust for Scotland arrived at Barnluasgan to find out about the Scottish Beaver Trial.  Every year they have a conference and chose a different destination in Scotland where they can all meet up, visit an area they may not have been to before, and experience another organisation’s site.  We were very pleased that they picked us as one of their destinations for this year, and really enjoyed showing them around.

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We split the group in two and went for a walk in opposite directions around loch Coille-bharr. Although it was mid morning, and there was very little chance of actually seeing the beavers themselves, there was plenty of beaver evidence to be seen, and lots of beautiful autumnal views to apreciate.  The groups were shown an example of a beaver chew stick and chips, and during the walk, everyone managed to find their own for a souvenir to take home to show friends and family.

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They saw and handled a beaver skull and pelt, were told about the Knapdale beaver families, how they arrived in Knapdale, and how they have got on over the monitoring period of the Trail. like many visitors, many were surprised by how large the animals can grow, and this was demonstrated beautifully by one of the dogs wearing the beaver pelt!

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A highlight of the walk was finding a large elder tree which has recently been felled by the beavers at the south end of the loch near their lodge.  The teeth marks on the stump of the tree are always popular and most people cant resist running their fingers over them and remarking on how sharp their teeth must be to make such smooth cuts.

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We were very lucky with the weather, and managed to get round the loch with only one brief shower before storm Abigail was due to kick in during the afternoon.  A quick packed lunch was eaten, and then the group were off for another walk around Crarae gardens, where hopefully it would be a bit more sheltered.

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Devon’s River Otter beaver update

In late March this year the Devon Wildlife Trust re-released five Eurasian beavers on the River Otter after trapping them for health screenings. This marked the beginning of England’s first wild beaver monitoring project, researching how the re-introduction of the beaver will affect wildlife, landscapes and communities in a lowland English river valley.

In January 2015 Devon Wildlife Trust was granted a licence by Natural England to monitor the behaviour and impacts of the small beaver population (now estimated at least 12 animals). Part of the conditions of the licence is to collect sightings of the beavers. This is done through a combination of survey work and a network of volunteers.

So much enthusiasm for the River Otter beavers has been shown by local residents. A 5-minute video (below), made by film-makers from London company Seenit, shows the excitement amongst nature lovers, business-owners, walkers, schoolchildren and others about sharing their river with England’s only wild beaver families.

For up to date information about England’s only population of wild beavers. follow the Devon Wildlife Trust’s River Otter Beaver Trial on Facebook at ‘Devon Wildlife Trust’ or take a look at their website http://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/

We wish them all the best.

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Official Reports on Scottish Beavers

In May 2008, the Scottish Government gave permission to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust for a scientifically monitored, trial reintroduction of Eurasian beavers to Knapdale Forest in mid-Argyll. However, there were some conditions, including the need for the monitoring to be done independently, and coordinated by Scottish Natural Heritage.

The scientific monitoring period of the Scottish Beaver Trial came to an end in the spring of 2014. The final reports from all of the independent monitoring partners are available through the SNH website.

Independent Monitoring Partners:

A number of other monitoring projects were led by these independent organisations:

Following the scientific work undertaken at SBT, SNH have complied and released their report ‘Beavers in Scotland’. This report draws on 20 years of work on beavers in Scotland, as well as experience from elsewhere in Europe and North America. It provides a comprehensive summary of existing knowledge and offers four future beaver scenarios for Ministers to consider.

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This publication and all of the other monitoring reports and summary posters can be found on the SNH website here http://www.snh.gov.uk/beavers-in-scotland.  The SBT project partners final report is available on our website.

The Scottish Beaver Trial is now in a holding period whilst we await the decision from the Scottish Government about the future of beavers in Scotland.  In May the Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform; Dr Aileen McLeod visited Knapdale and toured the Beaver Trial site to gain a first hand view of the Trial, and meet with the trial partner organisations and locals. We eagerly await to hear what this decision will be.

In the mean time, the SBT beavers continue on with their lives in Knapdale, and our information centre is still open to visitors.  This is a difficult time of year to see the beavers as it is dark when they are active, but visitors can still enjoy a walk around the trial site to look for beaver feeding signs at the loch edges.  Throughout the winter when there are fewer leaves on the trees, it is actually much easier to spot the beaver dam and lodges, so there is always something to see whatever time of year you chose to visit.

 

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Summer guided walks

Our summer guided walks are going well, with people enjoying a walk through Knapdale forest and learing about the beavers and the habitat they create. We have been very lucky on recent walks with some great beaver sightings too!  Come along and join us on a Tuesday or Thursday evening. Call (01546) 603346 to book.Guided Walks Poster Summer 2015

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Footage revealed of second beaver kit at the Scottish Beaver Trial

Experts from the UK’s first licensed trial reintroduction of beavers – the Scottish Beaver Trial – have released footage of a second beaver kit at Lochan Buic in the Knapdale Forest of Argyll. Continue reading

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New beaver kit captured on film at Knapdale

Experts from the UK’s first licensed trial reintroduction of beavers – the Scottish Beaver Trial – have released footage of a new beaver kit at Lochan Buic in the Knapdale Forest of Argyll. Continue reading

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Nina and the Neurons

The Scottish Beaver Trial can now add ‘Nina and the Neurons’ to the list of television programmes that have come to Knapdale to film in the Trial area and see the effects the beavers have on the natural environment.

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Last week the BBC film crew, ‘Nina’ and three lucky children selected from a Primary School in Oban arrived at the Trial site to film an episode for CBeebies TV.  Obviously, filming during the day meant that there was no chance of seeing a beaver, but the crew filmed at the Dubh loch dam, and viewing point, and carried out an experiment to find out if it was easier to pull a log over the ground, or through the water.

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Nina and the kids also put their beaver skills to the test and built a dam in a stream to find out what happens to the water when the stream is dammed. (The dam was then carefully removed again to leave the area as it was found.)

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We’re not sure of the date the programme will be broadcast, it’s likely to be some time in the Autumn, but we’ll be sure to let you know as soon as we do!

 

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Student volunteer Rhona reports on her work experience with the Beaver Trial

I had a fantastic time working with Oly from the Beaver trial. I am studying for my HNC in Countryside Management and I wanted to do my work experience with them to learn, understand get an insight of the development of the trial, and to see any development since it ended. Created with Nokia Smart Cam

I was fortunate to go and visit a local school and one in Oban with Oly, the Education Ranger giving lessons to classes.  it was great to see the children learning and getting understanding about the beavers and the area that they live in in Argyll.

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I was also very fortune to see signs of beavers living in the landscape.  There were trees that they have chopped down and used to build their lodges.  They are amazing creatures in how they construct their lodges!Created with Nokia Smart Cam

I have travelled and seen many parts of the world, but Argyll is spellbinding and holds a special place in my heart and always will do.  Be as enchanted as I was and come to visit this gorgeous place!

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Beavers are a boost to wildlife tourism in Argyll.

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Along with many other tourism business owners in the area who have benefitted from the Scottish Beaver Trial being located in the Knapdale Forest, I am keen to hear whether the Scottish Government will approve the continuation of the reintroduction of the Knapdale Beavers at the trial site.  I had heard that the scientific report had been submitted this year and that the project was awaiting the decision from the Environment Minister, so I was delighted to hear that the Minister (Dr Aileen McLeod) was going to visit the site before making her decision, and was keen to meet some representatives from local tourism businesses to hear how the project had affected tourism in the area.

I was very pleased to be invited, along with Calum Ross from Loch Melfort Hotel and Christine Dobson from the Cairnbaan Hotel to meet with the Minister when she visited last Thursday (21 May 2015) and be given the time with her to talk about the impact that the trial has had on our businesses.

The meeting was organised by SNH, who arranged a visit to Dubh Loch and Barnlusagan Loch to show the minister the sites where some of the beavers have settled and made a significant impact on the landscape.  Time was also scheduled for the minister to have a relaxed coffee break and to meet with ourselves in the Barnlusagan cabin.

As the beaver trial has had a significant impact on my business I was keen to tell her about the increased publicity that the area has received as a result of the trial: in 2011 BBC Springwatch visited the site and the Knapdale forest was very much put on the map during prime time TV viewing.  Charlie Hamilton James presented a nightly update on his experiences at the trial site, raising public interest in the project. We were also lucky to have the Springwatch team visit our B&B to film a pine marten that visits frequently and to discuss with us the value of wildlife tourism to a small business like ours.   We benefitted instantly from the publicity of the beaver trial and the coverage of our B&B and still have guests returning every year who found out about us through watching Springwatch.  Similarly in 2012, Ray Mears visited the beaver trial site (and our B&B) and footage of the Knapdale beavers and our pine marten was shown on ‘Wild Britain’ on ITV & STV . In the same year the ‘One Show’ team also visited the site and provided excellent coverage of the project.  The minister recognised that the area would not have benefitted from such publicity without the beaver trial.

We were also keen to explain the importance of wildlife tourism to an area like this.  In January 2015, tourism businesses were invited to attend some pilot workshops (‘Wild about Argyll’) that were sponsored by Argyll and The Isles Tourism Cooperative, SNH and FCS.  I was the presenter of these workshops and was able to relay the enthusiasm that the 24 attendees demonstrated: recognising the wealth of wildlife that this part of Argyll is able to offer the wildlife enthusiast and wanting to work together to promote this area as serious wildlife tourism destination.  It was recognised by businesses in the immediate area that the beaver project provided visitors with some unique wildlife spotting opportunities, and the uncertainty as to whether the reintroduction would continue was a concern for some businesses wanting to use this unique selling point to attract more visitors.

Both myself, Christine & Calum were able to report experience of visitors wanting to stay longer having found out that the trial site was nearby and recognised that visitors who do not see beavers on their first visit are happy to return to give themselves another chance at seeing a beaver.  When visitors are successful in seeing a beaver, they are keen to let their friends and family know by ‘tweeting’ and ‘facebooking’ their experience which is increasing valuable ‘word of mouth’ style marketing for the area.

We discussed with her the diversity of business that were benefitting from the increase in tourism numbers and tourism spend:  illustrating that it is not just accommodation providers who are reaping the benefits: photographing the beavers is a popular attraction, visitors spend money on food and gifts while in the area and in the summer months, many buy midge repellent and nets to allow them longer at the loch side at dusk!

We had 30 minutes talking about these experiences with the minister. She seemed genuinely interested in the positive effect that such a project was having on tourism, recognising that at a time when the whole of the UK was struggling through a recession, we were able to attract a new stream of visitors who had not heard of the Knapdale forest previously and were excited to see an indigenous species returning to shape the Scottish landscape.

Recognising that businesses needed more certainty about the future of the project she assured us that the report was getting her full attention, but that it would still be a while until the final decision is announced.  We were however impressed that she had taken the time in her busy schedule to visit the site and listen to our experiences and we hope that the future of the Knapdale beavers will be

Lynn Jones

Owner: Dunchraigaig House B&B

Kilmartin Glen

and

Freelance Development Agent – Heart of Argyll and Inveraray

  Argyll & The Isles Tourism Cooperative Ltd

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Environment Ministers visits the Trial site.

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The Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod has visited the Scottish Beaver Trial for the first time since taking up the post last year to learn more about the project ahead of a decision on the future of beavers in Scotland.

The five-year scientific monitoring period of the trial, which was overseen by Scottish Natural Heritage, came to an end last year. Scottish Ministers will decide later this year on allowing beavers to remain in Scotland and if wider reintroductions will take place, after considering the results of the Scottish Beaver Trial, findings from Tayside Beaver Study Group and considerations of European experiences.

The visit allowed  Dr McLeod to meet with officials from the Scottish Beaver Trial, local businesses, Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage to learn more about beavers, their effects and the Trial’s impact on the local area.

Project Manager of the Scottish Beaver Trial, Simon Jones, said: “On behalf of the Scottish Beaver Trial, I would like to thank the Minister for taking the time to visit the project and learn more about how the beavers have impacted the area.

“The trial has been very successful in allowing a great deal of important data to the gathered over the last five years – we have learned so much about these fascinating mammals. The research co-ordinated by SNH and the independent monitoring partners has looked at all aspects of the trial re-introduction including impacts on the local economy, the environment and of course the people of Argyll.

“All this information will be of great value in helping the Minster take a decision on the future of beavers in Scotland.”

Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod, said: Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Dr McLeod said:

“Today I had the opportunity to see the beaver trial in Knapdale the impacts this trial has had in the local area.  The work of the Scottish Beaver Trial has brought together a wide range of interested parties to examine the impact of beavers.

“I am awaiting advice from Scottish Natural Heritage which will set out the impact of beavers, including the benefits to biodiversity and economic benefits through tourism, provided by the presence of beavers in Scotland.”

The Scottish Beaver Trial is a partnership led by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. It is hosted at Knapdale by Forestry Commission Scotland. It is the first licensed reintroduction of a mammal to the UK and brought the beaver back to Scotland after a 400 year absence.

Last year, a YouGov poll found 60% of Scottish adults supported the reintroduction of beavers, with only 5% opposed. Independent monitoring reports released by Scottish Natural Heritage found the Scottish Beaver Trial had positive impacts on the local economy.

During the five year period, the Scottish Beaver Trial has engaged almost 3 million people about beaver ecology through television appearances, educational programmes and site visits. The scientific monitoring required 11,817 hours of fieldwork, such as beaver tracking, lodge surveillance and water sampling.

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