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Tayside farmers shooting German beavers

At least 21 invading German beavers have been killed in Scotland after they built dozens of dams on farmers’ land.

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The animals, a species that originates in Bavaria, have been thriving since escaping captivity and around 150 are living in the wild in Tayside.

Now it has emerged that the bodies of 21 beavers have been discovered with gunshot wounds since the end of 2012. Farmers and other landowners are suspected of being responsible for the killings and have been urged by conservationists to adopt non-lethal methods to control the species.

Farmers are angry over damage caused on their land, with one landowner claiming 35 beaver dams have been removed from his property.

Beavers were hunted to extinction in Scotland around 500 years ago. The Scottish Government is conducting a beaver reintroduction trial, costing £2 million, in Knapdale, Argyll.

But while the Norwegian beavers have struggled to thrive in Argyll, the Bavarian beavers have taken off in Tayside.

The cost of removing dams, fixing pipe blockages and repairing flood defences is described by the National Farmers’ Union Scotland (NFUS) as “significant”.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has examined the bodies of 23 beavers in the Tayside area and concluded that while two died in road accidents, the rest were shot dead.

At present, a licence is not needed to shoot beavers as they have no legal protection in the UK. However, possessing and moving a dead beaver is illegal without a licence.

David Bale, Scottish Natural Heritage Tayside & Grampian unit manager and former Tayside Beaver Study Group chairman, said: “We don’t encourage lethal control. Instead, we advocate other solutions, such as protecting trees and discouraging dam building. Removing a beaver simply leaves the territory open for another beaver to move in, so shooting tends to be a short-term solution.”

NFUS said that farmers fear the animals’ impact on productive farmland reliant on complex drainage systems.

A spokesman said: “We have a number of members who are affected by the illegal reintroduction, with one member whose flood bank collapsed due to burrowing of beavers, and another who has had to remove 35 dams from his farm.”

An official scientific trial saw 16 beavers introduced into Knapdale Forest between 2009-2011.

Article taken from: http://www.scotsman.com/news/environment/tayside-farmers-shooting-german-beavers-1-3958204#ixzz3sc7ZUael

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Residents describe horror of hare coursing blight on their community

The blood-thirsty sport of hare coursing takes place across Tayside, it has been claimed.

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Residents of Emmock Farm, north of Dundee, who did not wish to be identified, described multiple instances of hare coursing, and the gruesome remains.

Gangs of criminals engaging in the cruel act have repeatedly been spotted in the area. One local said he thought the culprits had walked their dogs from Kirkton and other areas to attack hares and other wildlife.

He said: “We know it’s happening because we see them; I saw someone out with binoculars the other day looking for hares with his dog. We find the bodies too, absolutely mutilated, it’s horrible. They course mainly for hares but once they were depleted they started going after roe deer and other wildlife.”

Practitioners of the brutal and banned bloodsport threaten local people who confront them.

Another resident said: “We’re scared to speak to them in case they find out where we live. A local farmer was told that if he called the police there would be repurcussions, and he recently had a quadbike stolen, we don’t know that it’s connected though. The police say unless they catch someone in the act there’s not much they can do.”

The Emmock Farm sightings follow similar reports of coursing taking place around Longforgan at the beginning of the month. PC Mark Stewart issued a warning after signs were found that the sport had taken place.

A van containing three dogs was seen on farmland near Invergowrie and police are appealing for witnesses.

The shocking sport involves training whippets and other sighthounds by getting them to chase, mutilate and, ultimately, kill hares. Banned since 2002, the practice is considered one of the most serious wildlife crimes.

Nonetheless, it continues to be a problem in Perthshire and Angus.

Groups travel from all over the country to the area’s farmland to send their greyhound and lurcher-type dogs hunting for a kill. Bets are taken, and any hares caught are torn apart before those responsible disappear, with the whole practice often lasting no more than 10 minutes.

Police wildlife and environmental crime officer Alan Stewart said, “Our message to those who are determined to ignore the law and chase hares with dogs is that police officers will use all powers at their disposal to tackle this illegal practice.

“The very fact that they are out searching for hares to course is sufficient evidence to prosecute. They are likely to be arrested and can expect a court appearance.”

As of earlier this year, anyone who is detected hare coursing can face a fine of £10,000 and also six months’ imprisonment.

Anyone with information about hare coursing should contact police.

Article taken from: http://www.thecourier.co.uk/news/local/dundee/residents-describe-horror-of-hare-coursing-blight-on-their-community-1.885445

 

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Immigrant beavers adapting well to life in Tayside

They were introduced illegally and threatened with being eradicated but now they are thriving.

More than 150 European beavers, which have lived in Tayside for at least nine years, are “well adapted” to modern Scotland and free of harmful diseases, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) revealed yesterday.

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However, it said a new study also showed beavers building dams and burrowing into flood banks could drench farmland, a situation which would have to be tackled if the beavers were to be allowed to stay.

The success of the mammals, which were hunted to extinction in Scotland 400 years ago, could signal their official reintroduction. This is because SNH said ministers will have to decide either to keep them or remove them.

The Tayside beavers could force the Scottish Government’s hand because appeasing farmers with damage mitigation work is likely to be more politically ­acceptable than a likely public outcry if they were to be eradicated once more.

The Tayside animals, originally from Germany, are believed to have escaped or been released from private collections.

They are found in rivers ranging from Kinloch Rannoch, Kenmore and Crieff to Bridge of Earn, Perth and Forfar. The thriving colonies have also overshadowed an official beaver trial, at Knapdale, west of Lochgilphead in Argyll, which was launched with 16 arrivals from Norway in 2009.

That got off to a faltering start, with only half surviving, but numbers have since remained stable despite a high number of young beavers dying. However, experts said the project was not intended to be self-sustaining.

Ministers gave the Tayside beavers a stay of execution three years ago pending the Knapdale trial but will have to decide their fate after SNH submits a final report next month. SNH said the biggest concern among farmers had been on the lower River Isla flood plain where it meets the River Tay, south of Blairgowrie.

It said: “Any beaver dams left in place here could cause the extensive network of drainage ditches to fail, causing flooding and interfering with cultivation of productive land.

“Beaver burrows in earth flood banks also increased the risk of a breach and flooding of the farm land behind.

“A number of methods to protect trees from being gnawed and felled and to reduce water levels behind dams were trialled successfully.

“The impacts of burrowing in flood banks and regular damming of drainage networks were more challenging to manage.”

SNH Tayside and Grampian area manager David Bale, who chaired the Tayside Beaver Study Group, said: “Our work documenting the impacts of beavers on land management interests has shown that in many situations, beavers are likely to cause few concerns.

“But if they were to be permanently reintroduced, efficient, effective and affordable ways of managing and reducing potentially significant impacts on intensively farmed land and other interests would have to be found.”

Farmers’ leaders said beavers should not be given protected status. NFU Scotland spokesman Andrew Bauer said: “We believe that already-stretched SNH ­species management budgets cannot cope with the high costs of managing what many call ­‘nature’s engineer’.

“Beaver reintroduction would divert resources and attention away from helping indigenous species, such as the wildcat and capercaille that are under threat.”