European Beaver (Castor fiber) swimming. ©Lorne Gill/SNH. For information on reproduction rights contact the Scottish Natural Heritage Image Library on Tel. 01738 444177 or www.nature.scot

Beavers’ Protection

31 May 2019

It has been one month since beavers were added to the list of European Protected Species of Animals and protected under Scottish law. 

This means that from 1 May 2019 shooting or moving (known as translocation) of beavers is only allowed under licence, managed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). Lethal control is a last resort when beavers are having a serious impact and there is no other satisfactory solution.   

So far, licenses and proposals for translocation are underway for up to 50 beavers to be moved from Tayside to new homes elsewhere in the UK. Twelve beavers have already been successfully translocated. Some of the beavers have been moved to Knapdale in Argyll while others have moved to England - Devon and Yorkshire – where they are to help with flood prevention and creating new habitats. 

Beavers can create incredibly diverse and rich habitats, particularly wetlands. Under certain conditions, these changes may help regulate water flow, reduce flooding and sediments and improve water quality. But this incredible ability of beavers to significantly change the environment they live in can occasionally cause problems on farmland, in forests and gardens and even occasionally to infrastructure such as roads and culverts. 

To date we have issued 29 licences to permit dam removal – with lethal control of beavers included as a last resort.   However, we are working with those license holders to identify opportunities where animals which might otherwise be killed can be translocated. No beavers have been shot under licence to our knowledge to date since protection was afforded on May 1. 

Translocation is not without its own risks and has to be very carefully planned and undertaken, however we are working with farmers to identify sites where animals can be humanely trapped to support translocations and remove the need for lethal control.  

Denise Reed, SNH’s Tayside and Grampian Area Manager said: 

“We will continue working with farmers, landowners and managers, conservation bodies and a range of interests to ensure that we all learn from experience and realise the benefits that beavers will bring to Scotland, while providing support to those who are experiencing problems with the effects of beavers on their property.

“There are a number of ways SNH helps farmers and others affected by beavers and their dams. Firstly, we can look at whether work can be done on the ground to minimise any problems. This includes measures such as installing specially designed water gates, beaver deterrent fencing, soft engineering on river banks, flood bank protection, piped dams and monitoring water levels in farm ditches. We are currently working on a range of these kinds of projects and increasing our understanding of how they can be applied more widely.  

“We have also made sure that any lethal control is done as humanely as possible by requiring that it is only carried out by individuals who have received SNH training. Licences are also very clear that lethal control should be avoided during the kit dependency period, except in exceptional circumstances, and that we must be notified straight away. We have not had any such notification to date.

“We take any suggestion of unlawful shooting very seriously and we will work with the police and other agencies to help investigate these. If anyone suspects suspicious practice, please report this to Police Scotland. 

“Taken together, we are confident that our approach will not affect the continued expansion of the Scottish beaver population and the positive impacts they can bring to other areas. We will continue to carefully monitor both the use of licences and of the Scottish beaver population to ensure we achieve this aim.”