Not a bad office (Photo by F Cochrane)
The following blog by our wonderful guest Danièle Muir from Perthshire Wildlife explains how beavers have played a steering role in her life and provided an incredibly important source of income through their ecotourism benefits.
“As a lifelong lover of nature and wildlife, I have worked as a Countryside Ranger and Wildlife Guide for over twenty years and now run Perthshire Wildlife, with the most popular tours by far being the safaris to see the wild European Beavers in Perthshire.
I set up Perthshire Wildlife in 2013 as a means of primarily delivering conservation projects. I was working as a Ranger with a local authority at the time and due to changes in management and budget cuts, the job had changed considerably and I was no longer able to do the work that I loved so much, including wildlife projects and guided walks. Initially working on the Carse of Gowrie Swift Conservation Project in spring ‘13, I started to run a small number of guided walks in the evenings including Batty Super-senses, Bloomin’ Beautiful Bluebells, Fantastic Foraging and Brilliant Beaver walks. Coming up with catchy titles may not be my forte but the beaver walks were especially popular and they grew year on year so that eight years on, beavers bring in about 90% of my self-employed income and I also employ a member of staff on a part-time basis to help deliver the tours.”
Eye to eye with the star of the show (Photo by Chris Charlton)
“The first tours were essentially walking along the river. We looked at beaver coppiced trees and the food that they eat, with an emphasis on what we can make use of too. Beavers on the River Ericht manage to chomp their way through a lot of Sweet Cicely which was once used widely by us to sweeten apple and rhubarb when cooked, a great favourite of liquorice-loving children. They also love Butterbur, which we once used as packaging for butter – hence the name. Comfrey, another favourite – also loved by bumblebees (we frequently see them ‘nectar robbing’ from the flowers) was once used to help heal wounds and broken bones (one of its other names is Knitbone). Along with ground elder and Himalayan Balsam, the list goes on.
The majority of a trip is spent watching the wildlife of the river, especially the Beavers. Kingfishers, Otters, Sandpipers, Dippers, Herons, Ospreys and Goosanders sometimes make an appearance too. We run these trips at dawn and dusk, with the dawn trips being especially popular with people keen to get good photos, as the light is better in the morning.”
Foraging for sweet cicely (Photos by Pete Short)
“Understandably, people did ask to see beaver dams and wanted to understand the mechanics behind their engineering. However, the beaver family we watch on the Ericht hasn’t built a dam, so I looked elsewhere for another good site. As a Ranger I had been involved in the management of the Cateran Trail, Scotland’s only circular long distance footpath. The Trail goes through Bamff Estate which is well known for its beaver families, introduced about twenty years ago to start rewilding. I can remember when what is now a beautiful, wildlife-rich wetland, was a ditch, taking water quickly from one end of the estate to the other. Now, after the arrival of the beavers and a series of dams on the ditch, it supports a whole host of wildlife including dragonflies, frogs, toads, bird life and much more. It has truly been a spectacular transformation. We now hold a half-day beaver tour, including a visit to Bamff to have a close look at the dams and how the beavers have changed the landscape. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that everybody who visits has been amazed by the beavers’ skill in building and maintaining the dams. This season has been especially interesting as we have had such a dry summer that the beavers have been extra busy maintaining the dams (and putting in a new one) to keep the water levels up.”
“We have also been running Beaver Canoe Safaris for the past five years. Being in the canoe we get a completely different feel for the beavers and their habitat and it’s an ideal way to get close to wildlife with minimal disturbance. We usually see a variety of bird life, as well as two lodges, beaver trails, evidence of feeding and the beavers themselves and we run these on the Tay near Aberfeldy with Beyond Adventure. These trips are a fun combination of easy paddling and wildlife-watching, and we have had almost all of the trips fully booked this summer. Though we do have a few spaces left on our late September & early October canoe safaris!”
“People have been visiting from further and further afield, including a couple from Reading who came here for the weekend especially to see the beavers as a fiftieth birthday present. Many book their beaver safari and then build their holiday around it, providing a once unavailable economic opportunity to local accommodation providers, restaurants and shops etc.
With an emphasis on the benefits that connecting with nature can bring to our wellbeing, gathering awareness of the positive role beavers play with regards to the climate and nature emergencies, along with an increasing interest in rewilding and the return of native species; I can see the growth in beaver tourism continuing in years to come. I can only hope that the value of the beavers to the local economy is recognised by our government and taken into account when it comes to reviewing the numbers of beavers killed by licenses issued by NatureScot. I have no doubt that some of these will be the kits and yearlings that have brought many people so much joy when out on Beaver Safari.”
Want to experience your very own wild Scottish beaver encounter? Check out our page on beaver promoted ecotourism and figure out if you want to join an experienced guide, or try your own luck at beaver spotting by staying in one of many fantastic getaways around Scotland.