Meet the beavers of Knapdale
In 2009, the area around Knapdale forest was chosen for a very special project. The plan was to reintroduce a beaver population into the wild in Scotland, and scientifically monitor their impact on the environment. Thus far, it has been a huge success, providing huge amounts of data about these industrious creatures.
The original beavers, brought in from Norway as part of the Scottish Beaver Trial have bred and expanded their territory over the past ten years, establishing a small colony around Loch Coille Bhar. While not yet a self-sustaining population, the project's helpers have supported this young colony, introducing new animals when necessary to diversify their genetics. While the colony might not survive without this support, it is continuing to grow and thrive.
400 years after being hunted to extinction, these hardy river-dwellers are back in Scotland, making good use of the native woodland for building their dams and lodges. Perfectly adapted for spending most of their time in the water, beavers have warm, waterproof coats and webbed back feet, with large, flat tails for swimming.
Barnluasgan re-opens for visitors
Recently, our local team closed the woodland trails at Barnluasgan, a protected ancient woodland site, to fell some exotic conifer and non-native trees. This will allow the restoration of the native broadleaf woodland that will both help stabilise the steep slopes of the area and provide new habitats for wildlife.
This work is now complete, with the finishing touch being some upgrades to the car park and the Wildlife Trail. An easy access trail with great views over the loch, this is the best place to catch a glimpse of the industrious beaver colony at work. We have a small Visitor Centre there with information about the beavers, the history of the project, and our plans for the future.
If you want to find out even more about the beavers here, visit our friends at the Argyll Beaver Centre. The knowledgeable experts who work here provide guided walks around the loch (see our Events page), and operate the facilities at the centre just north of Loch Barnluasgan.
Where and when to catch a glimpse
The best time to try and see the beavers at work is in the morning and evenings, from Spring to late Autumn. If you are lucky, you will see original beaver power couple Bjornar and Millie or their 4 kits, nibbling and gathering bark and twigs. Everywhere in the forest, you’ll find signs of their presence, from footprints in sandbanks to gnawed and felled trees.
Felling trees and gnawing tree stems encourages new growth in the forest, while building lodges and dams and forming ponds creates wetland environments that benefit other wildlife, all of which breathes new life naturally into the forest. The reintroduction of the beavers is all part and parcel of Forestry and Land Scotland’s approach to managing forests naturally and sustainably.
Along with our other dedicated wildlife viewing centres, Barnluasgan is one of the most enchanting spots to get up close and personal with nature. An early start, patience, quiet and a keen eye are all you need to spot Bjorn and Millie and family. Best of luck, and let us know if you manage to see them!