Scottish environment minister Mike Russell has announced that four beaver families will be captured in Norway and released in Knapdale, Argyll, on a trial basis in spring 2009.

Mr Russell said: ‘I’m delighted that these charismatic, resourceful little mammals will be making a comeback. The beaver is a part of our natural heritage that was destroyed by man.

‘In a project such as this, we can learn from others and make a contribution to restoring Scotland’s biodiversity.’

The plans have received positive reaction from wildlife experts. Allan Bantick, chair of the Scottish Beaver Trial Steering Group, said it was a ‘historic moment’ for wildlife conservation, and David Windmill, chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, recognised this as ‘a visible sign of the Government’s commitment to rebuilding our depleted biodiversity’.

However, the National Farmers’ Union Scotland expressed concerns that beavers, once released, would be difficult to control.

The trial will be run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland over the next five years, with monitoring from Scottish Natural Heritage.

The latter originally applied for a trial reintroduction in 2000, but, after a series of delays, was turned down by ministers in 2005.