There has been much in the media since the Scottish Government’s acceptance that the two Scottish populations of beavers – Tayside and Knapdale – can remain and will be given legal protection. Most that I have read is positive, even in farming-related articles. I suspect that farmers will be relieved that if there are problems with beavers some control has been authorised by the government, though details of the control are not yet published.
Nature writer Jim Crumley recently wrote an excellent article in The Courier setting out the benefits to the environment of beavers. I have just finished reading his book, Nature’s Architect, which sets out in much more detail the advantages of having busy beavers back in Scotland.
Changes never please everyone and there are three letters in The Courier today from disgruntled subscribers. One of the letter writers states he has just returned from Tierra del Fuego in Argentina and claims that beavers there, released for the purpose of fur farming, have caused devastation to the environment. He states that, ‘the beaver population has grown to such an extent that tracts of forest have been decimated and are now considered an ecological disaster’. I’m not an expert in beavers (few folk in this country are since Castor fiber been absent for around 400 years) but the area the writer has photographed has two fallen trees in the foreground that appear to be blown rather than chewed about 18” from the ground as is consistent with those I have seen that beavers have felled. I see not a single chewed tree stump in the photo and the dead trees, which are mostly still standing, look much more like they have been ravaged by disease or fire rather than beavers. Neither do I see water in any shape or form in the picture. I don’t doubt that the writer has been told this is beaver damage but to me there is no evidence of it in the photo.
The second letter writer is of the view that beavers are the thin edge of the wedge and fears for the release of lynx, wolves and bears next, and voices his concern for walking his wee dog. Lynx and wolves may well be on the cards but the letter writer and his wee dog might be long gone by that time.
These were both genuine concerns and folks are entitled to their views. It was the third letter that really annoyed me. He claims that ‘The recently-formed Scottish Wild Beaver Group has been set up mainly to spread the irresponsibility of setting free beavers contained in private collections’. While I don’t disagree that beavers have been deliberately released – or at best have had their escape engineered – I don’t subscribe to the view that this has been the purpose or the work of the Wild Beaver Group. Its published aims are ‘to promote, for the benefit of the public; the study, conservation and protection of wild Eurasian beavers and their natural habitats in Scotland’.
So far this was just his view, to which he is entitled. It was his final condescending, egotistic, arrogant (you can see I’m angry) sentence that made my blood boil. He stated, in relation to Jim Crumley, who originates in Dundee and is one of the most knowledgeable nature writers in Scotland, that he ‘should leave rural matters to lifelong countrymen and women’. How often have I heard this type of comment from somebody who might work in the countryside and thinks that automatically qualifies him as an expert in all wildlife matters.