Protecting Riverside Woodlands
By Jock Monteith 31st December 2019
For those of you who know your salmon fly reels you'll understand that the Hardy 'Perfect' is only really perfect when it's singing its favourite song while unwinding rapidly! A comparable scenario exists when salmon anglers are fishing on a Scottish river made perfect by its beautiful natural native woodlands.
An Official 'Death Sentence' For Riverbank Woodlands
I've no idea what the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland where thinking about when they spent millions of pounds to reintroduce a handful of Eurasian beavers under so called 'controlled' conditions at Knapdale, Argyll in 2009 which was the first formal mammal reintroduction in UK history. What they weren't planning at something ridiculous like £500k per beaver was that these animals are particularly 'camera shy' & mainly nocturnal rendering them completely 'useless' for the planned tourism attraction unless tartan bunnets & ice cream was the real sales objective and also that a wild beaver could of taught Steve McQueen a few tricks during the making of his movie 'The Great Escape'!
Loving The Scottish River Woodlands
They say the huge & 'rapidly expanding' population of beavers that have now taken over the Tay were illegally introduced but I'm not convinced or ready to swallow that one. I'm not buying that story given the fact that the Tay's head waters start at Ben Lui in Argyll which is close enough to Knapdale for any beaver that fancied a holiday! If anyone was tough enough to just stroll up to a wild beaver and pick it up like a cat then they should really consider a career in the UFC!! A beaver will take your hand off let alone a few fingers so never get too close to one would be my advice. I do get the basic concept that the reducing wetland areas of Scotland (through improved farmland drainage systems) are hurting rare species of plant and our water vole populations but these toothy tree bashers are as welcome on the beautiful wooded riverbanks of the Tay as a terrorist would be at Glasgow airport!
Everything Else Seems To Attracts Big Funding Except Salmon
Look at the flashing pictures above and ask yourself the question what would you rather see as a visitor to bonnie Scotland! Well myself and many other professional Scottish ghillies can guarantee a very good chance of seeing that fine looking silvery creation in a fish friendly landing net bag but you'd need to find Davie Crockett to be able to guarantee a look at a beaver and even the 'King of the Wild Frontier' would have produced a dead beaver and certainly not an alive returnable one! Why on earth can we not see more salmon rehab projects for funding of that nature which would go a long way to attract even more salmon fishers to Scotland each year who are of 'dead cert' value to the 'entire' Scottish economy. Surely we should be focussed more on what we have as a nation than trying to re-introduce species from a by-gone era that 'mysteriously' disappeared!
What About Riverbank Woodland Protection Law
Because these animals were here in Scotland some 400 years ago they are regarded as native wildlife which means beavers are afforded protection under the Conservation (Natural Habitats Regulations etc.) Regulations 1994. The Scottish Government have advised that the beaver population will be closely controlled and monitored which is impossible as I've already been asked by officials who've turned up on the Tay wondering where the beaver lodges are!! Farmers are naturally not keen on their fields getting flooded unnecessarily and will remove any otter dam constructions so beavers have now gone underground which has also without doubt put pressure on our native otter populations as old or current otter holts have been hi-jacked. I don't see any mention of the 'intense' battles that have been video'd on the Scottish rivers between otters & beavers which I also find very strange given the significant importance of our native and highly protected otter populations.
Beavers And Resting A Salmon Pool
Apart from the serious & systematic destruction of the Tay's riverbank woodlands these beavers from a salmon fishing point of view are not good news. We don't mind the old otter who's always been there over the last 400 years and a very occasional sighting is very much a treasured experience even though we know the otter will completely terrorise salmon but no more than we do on a daily basis! Salmon get edgy or move on when a predator is lurking and the shape of any creature (fish eating or not) resembling an otter or seal will unsettle a salmon pool and make no mistake about that fact. We rest our salmon pools at night which settles salmon and if the old otter needs fed then crack on old friend but to allow an otter 'simulator' to zig zag across the river all night long couldn't be more detrimental to any salmon pool if salmon stock retention in your beat is to be achieved for the benefit of visiting salmon fishing visitors and the 'guaranteed' £100 million plus they still bring to the Scottish economy each year.
Lessons Learned By Trying To Play God
Whoever masterminded the reintroduction of wild beavers into the beautiful Scottish landscapes I understand they probably meant well however there were millions of pounds invested for what's basically been a very poorly thought out tourism & indirect wetland recreation project with little or no thoughts about 'inevitable' escapee scenario. I recently learned that more money has been recently granted to 'reinforce' the Argyll beaver populations but the word needed is more than likely 'replace' and not 'reinforce'. Just like the destruction of our West coat sea loch ecology from salmon farming and the subsequent destruction of the once 'massively prolific' salmon & sea trout runs that have now been completely decimated by 'blundering in' without due care & attention to the long term collateral ecological damage these floating 'toxic garbage' producing sea cages produce via pollution and sea lice swarms. My advice from what I've seen of rivers, trees and the delicate ecologies of Scotland is leave it all 'well alone' as anything our apparent 'do good' species has interfered with usually ends up completely destroyed!