Beavers could be declared native animal
Beavers could be declared a native British animal for the first time in four centuries, pending the result of a UK Government study.
Three different populations are being monitored, with one in the Knapdale area of Argyll & Bute and another in the River Tay.
Westminster was poised to classify beavers as non-native animals, under the pending Infrastructure Bill, and in doing so would deny them legislative protection.
However, the environment ministry Defra will now look at the Knapdale population and its integration with other land uses before deciding whether or not to change the status of beavers in the UK.
Protection of beavers is a contentious issue for conservationists who argue the presence of the animal helps to sustain previously lost wetlands and will attract other species.
Land owners near beaver-infested rivers want to see their population limited as they destroy trees and damn salmon fishing spots.
MP John Hayes, the UK minister for transport and maritime issues, said that he would "consider listing the European beaver alongside other former native species, effectively turning it back into a native protected animal".