A wildlife conservation charity is backing the reintroduction of beavers following a successful experiment in Argyll.
The Scottish Beaver Trial, run by Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland in Knapdale Forest, ended last month.
Now RSPB Scotland is urging the Scottish Government to approve further releases to help the species re-establish elsewhere.
Ministers will decide next year whether to allow further licensed re-introductions, let the present beavers remain, or remove them from Scotland altogether.
Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management at RSPB Scotland, said: “Beavers are incredible mammals that have an important role to play in our countryside. Thanks to the excellent work of the Scottish Beaver Trial we now have a comprehensive understanding of how beavers can thrive in Scottish ecosystems and there is no reason why this cannot be repeated in other areas of Scotland.
“RSPB Scotland would like to play a role in bringing beavers back across Scotland, including on our reserves, and we are keen to work with other stakeholders to explore where and how this can be done. We urge the Scottish Government to make way for further projects to bring this remarkable species back to our countryside.”
A recent YouGov poll commissioned by Scottish Beaver Trial partners suggests the public would also like to see beavers back with 60% of respondents supporting re-introduction.
Once widespread throughout Britain, the animals became extinct in the 16th century, primarily due to hunting for their pelts, meat and perceived medicinal properties.
Supporters say they help to stimulate new growth in woodland areas by coppicing trees and opening up forest structures. This can help boost the biodiversity of an area and benefit other species, including otters, water shrews, water voles, and birds.
It is thought the reintroduction of the beaver may also benefit rural economies with increased interest for ecotourism.