Reintroducing the beaver (Castor fiber) to Scotland: A protocol for identifying and assessing suitable release sites
Macdonald DW., Tattersall FH., Rushton S., South AB., Shaila R., Maitland P., Strachan R.
The general problem of evaluating the potential success of mammalian reintroduction plans has been tackled by a case study illustrating a four-phase approach to finding and assessing potential sites for the reintroduction of European beavers, Castor fiber, to Scotland, combining the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), fieldwork and population modelling. Phase 1 used GIS to investigate the wider availability of habitat for beavers in Scotland, and predicted that there is the capacity to support in the order of 180 to 390 beaver families. Phase 2 involved the preliminary assessment of nine sites using brief field surveys. Phase 3 focused further on the three most suitable sites, where a thorough habitat survey was used as a basis for calculating carrying capacities of between three and five families. Finally, phase 4 used population modelling to assess the viability and likely spread of beavers following release at these three best sites. High, medium and low parameters were derived from the literature, and populations were predicted to persist and spread as long as at least the medium parameters were used. This exercise illustrates the power of combining field surveys and GIS-based population modelling as a tool for planning reintroductions in general, and as a foundation for planning the reintroduction of beavers in particular.