Beavers could cause 'irreversible damage' to land, farmers warn

Bob Strachan was forced to rebuild a flood bank to protect his farmland after beavers burrowed into a local riverside.

Farmers in Perthshire have calls for beavers to be managed on a Perthshire river before “irreversible damage” is done to the land.

The creatures have been blamed for the loss of land along the edge of the River Ericht and farmers say they could threaten other species, such as salmon.

Bob Strachan estimates around up to 15 metres of riverbank has been lost over the last decade, with the worst effects occurring in the last two to three years.

He’s had to rebuild a flood bank to protect his prime farmland.

He told STV News: “The beavers burrow in, which destabilises the edge of the riverbank, and then when we get high water, the river just washes the riverbank away.

Beavers are being blamed for the erosion of a Perthshire river bankiStock

“The big problem is that when they get close to the flood banks, once the water comes up and goes through the flood bank, that’s right on to agricultural land, and you can lose crop and topsoil.”

Beavers are nature’s engineers, using their huge teeth to fell trees and build dams and lodges.

Hunted to extinction by the beginning of the 16th century, they were illegally reintroduced in Tayside around 20 years ago.

More recently, many have been moved to Speyside and other parts of Scotland.

For those that monitor the river, the rodents are a growing problem, and they say urgent action is needed.

“The tunnels that they’ve started are new; they get washed out, and it releases more gravel into the river,” said Robert Kellie, Blairgowrie, Rattray & District river convener.

“This has an impact on spawning fish, so they could set their eggs in the gravel and we lose them on the next flood.

“I have asked NatureScot to come and relocate some of these animals just to stop the erosion from continuing.

“We need to thin the numbers out. There’s a high density of beavers in a three-mile stretch on the Ericht, and I think it would benefit from taking some of them away.”

Closer to Blairgowrie, many believe burrowing beavers have played a part in the partial collapse of the embankment, exposing the town’s main gas line.

The Scottish Gas Network says the washout is due to heavy rain, and they’re monitoring the pipe.

Beavers are protected by law and measures are limited to control their numbers

They say there’s no risk to gas supplies, and a temporary fix is planned while a long-term solution is found.

Beavers are protected by law, limiting measures to control their numbers.

And those behind their reintroduction say they are a benefit to the environment.

NatureScot says it understands the challenges beavers can bring for some farmers and other land managers, and it’s committed to working in partnership to resolve these.

“Our beaver team has been engaging with farmers on the River Ericht for several years, and we are aware of beaver activity and related concerns about the impacts of burrowing.

“While there are many factors that can be involved in bank erosion, it is likely that beaver activity may play a part.”

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