Tayside beaver socio-economic impact study: Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report No. 805

Alistair Hamilton*, Dominic Moran

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/Report/Policy Brief/Technical BriefCommissioned reportpeer-review


The impacts of potential reintroduction of beavers to Scotland are currently being scrutinised in an independent trial at Knapdale in Argyll, for which the evaluation is being coordinated by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) on behalf of the Scottish Government. However, a further population of beavers exists in the Tay catchment. The Minister for Environment decided that these animals should be allowed to remain in place until the end of the official trial beaver reintroduction at Knapdale in 2015, at which time the Minister will take decisions on the future of all beavers in Scotland. This study was commissioned to improve evidence on
the socio-economic impacts of the Tay population. It reports survey evidence of current positive and negative impacts, and provides some key pointers to possible future impacts. Surveys took place from January to March 2014, and consisted of a paper questionnaire / online survey to land managers, an online survey to tourism businesses, and a survey by telephone and online of key stakeholder organisations.
Main findings
 Of the 111 land manager responses received, 46% said they had no beavers on their land, 17% said they had seen them, with the rest seeing signs or unsure. A minority (12%) had incurred quantifiable costs per annum. These ranged from £300 to £10,000 (mean £2,653, median £1,000), with the higher costs incurred for damaged flood defences and large trees being felled, in the lower (arable) part of the catchment.
 Less impact is evident so far in the upper catchment. Land managers perceived limited benefits from current or future beaver presence, but seemed willing to tolerate them pending appropriate control and potential compensation.
 The survey of businesses focused on tourism providers. These indicated a significant level of awareness of the beaver presence and a largely positive attitude. Few businesses were categorical in terms of employment potential that might be attached to the beavers, but 26% of providers that indicated positive impacts cited increased turnover amounts (sum of £5,080; mean of £1,016), with some noting the potential for future exploitation.
 Key stakeholder organisations were contacted for their views on costs and benefits of beaver presence. Organisations representing land managers expressed concern about the legality of the beaver presence in the Tay catchment, as well as noting current costs incurred by some land managers and concern about the magnitude of future impacts.
 Conservation organisations emphasised the possible benefits, although realising that management options need to be developed. Tourism bodies also thought that beaver presence would benefit local businesses through increased tourism draw. Some organisations noted that clarification of the legal position of beavers is needed, and the need for impact monitoring systems.
 There seems to be a modest appreciation of tangible or market benefit that is offsetting some appreciable location-specific costs, the latter being mostly endured by land managers. The modest benefits are not surprising given the lack of strategic exploitation of beaver presence, and indeed possible benefits may not be apparent for many reasons. In one case, the benefits from outreach activities (mainly education) can be valued conservatively at around £16,000. In addition to the above market value, we considered non-use value (NUV) associated with the existence of a reintroduced charismatic mammal. This can potentially generate very high NUV estimates; however issues in applying the available data and the implicit assumptions mean that the results should be
treated with care.
 Catchment-wide scaling of costs of future impacts is challenging due to the many assumptions in such an exercise. The current annual costs are estimated to be between £34,490 (the costs reported in the survey) and £179,900, which assumes catchment wide impacts equivalent to the survey sample, although with different impacts in the upper and lower catchment areas. Possible future impacts are estimated by scaling up the available data, with the results emphasising the lower-upper catchment divide, and the wide range of possible scenarios. It seems likely that future costs will be closer to the low estimates
than the high estimates. In summary, there is the potential for impacts and costs
primarily in the lower catchment. The relatively small market benefits currently being realised have the potential to increase, and the non-use value may be considerable. Taking these estimates in aggregate, the benefits of beaver tolerance are likely to outweigh the costs incurred, which can themselves be lowered by appropriate management and mitigation measures.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherScottish Natural Heritage
Commissioning bodyScottish Natural Heritage
ISBN (Print)978-1-78391-206-3
Publication statusPrint publication - 2015

Publication series

NameScottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report

Bibliographical note

© Scottish Natural Heritage 2015


  • Socio-economic
  • Economics
  • Wildlife
  • Scotland
  • Tayside


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