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BEAVERS are to be allowed to stay in Mid Argyll, the Scottish Government has announced.
But environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the species will have to be actively managed, in line with practices in other European countries.
Work has now begun to ensure beavers can be added to Scotland’s list of protected species as soon as possible. It will be the first time a mammal has been officially reintroduced to the UK.
A five-year-long trial reintroduction of Eurasian beavers to Knapdale concluded in 2014. The Scottish Beaver Trial was a five year partnership project between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust, hosted on Forestry Commission Scotland land.
Scottish ministers also agreed that a separate beaver population in Tayside can stay.
Research has shown that beavers, which were native to Scotland before being hunted to extinction in the 16th century, provide important biodiversity benefits.
The animals can, however, also cause significant difficulties for farmers and land managers in vital agricultural areas.
The impacts of beavers in Scotland have been closely monitored by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) at both the official Scottish Beaver Trial site in Knapdale and also on Tayside, where the species has become established after being released illegally.
Roseanna Cunningham said: ‘I have been determined to find a pragmatic approach, which balances the biodiversity benefits of reintroducing beavers with the obvious need to limit difficulties for our farmers.
‘Today’s announcement represents a major milestone in our work to protect and enhance Scotland’s world renowned biodiversity.
‘But I want to be absolutely clear that while the species will be permitted to extend its range naturally, further unauthorised releases of beavers will be a criminal act. Swift action will be taken in such circumstances to prevent a repeat of the experience on Tayside.’