Beaver Mitigation Scheme

Beavers will bring lots of benefits, but sometimes we will need to manage their impacts.

If you require licensing specific advice you can find out more on our licensing pages or contact [email protected]

Beaver Mitigation

Beavers build dams and lodges; fell trees; and dig burrows and canals; and in many cases these activities will deliver a wide range of biodiversity and ecosystem benefits. Hence although beaver restoration may bring changes in the environment, in general, beaver signs should not be viewed as a negative impact.

However, not all beaver activity is welcome so how do we manage their impacts when it’s not? There will be times when these actions damage property or infrastructure, or cause problems for land management.

The Beaver Management Framework includes our approach to species licensing and to mitigation. Where impacts are serious and there is no alternative; some interventions such as removing established dams, can take place under licence. See our guidance on beaver licensing.  Beaver mitigation seeks to minimise beaver impacts where necessary, thereby promoting co-existence with beavers.

Many mitigation techniques have been developed across Europe and North America to manage these actions. Examples include:

  • Use of tree guards and deterrent paint to protect individual specimen trees from being felled.
  • Use of pipes to regulate water levels through dams (also called ‘flow devices’ or ‘pond levellers’).
  • Use of in-stream fencing to prevent dam building activity at culverts.

Aims of the Scottish Beaver Mitigation Scheme

In the medium to long-term, we expect to see beavers restored to many parts of Scotland and that beavers will once again be recognised as part of our native fauna, with management approaches aligned with those of other protected species. We recognise there will be a transition period as beavers return and as we collectively develop the skills and knowledge to get to this point. Hence the mitigation scheme seeks to work towards this ethos and will focus on:

  • The provision of advice and developing guidance
  • Promoting greater understanding of living with beavers
  • Demonstration of techniques, building skills and knowledge
  • Delivering alternatives to licenced intervention
  • Approaches that promote living-with beavers rather than excluding beavers
  • Trialling innovative solutions appropriate to the situation

What help can I get?

NatureScot will provide free expert advice to all, with regards living with beavers and where appropriate, how to manage beaver activity.

The financial costs of delivering mitigation works will be supported by NatureScot where they meet scheme aims. This support is available to all land owners and managers. Use of public funds will be directed to protecting public rather than solely private interests[1] and in addition will need to demonstrate good value for money. Public bodies that have an existing biodiversity duty under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 will not be eligible for financial support under the scheme however can request advice (for free) at any time.

[1] Public interest meaning an issue related to public health or safety; environmental, economic, or community well-being.

While the detail of what mitigation will be appropriate on each site will vary, NatureScot and the Scottish Government are committed to expanding the scheme into new areas and to provide support to land managers experiencing negative impacts from beavers.

How does it work?

The scheme has been set up to be as flexible and simple as possible, as below:

1. In some cases NatureScot may be able to provide advice by telephone. If however, a site visit is required to better understand the issues, one of NatureScot’s expert beaver advisers will visit the site, discuss the problems experienced, and identify potential solutions.

2. NatureScot will put together a simple ‘Management Agreement’ for the land manager. This will contain a map, a brief description of the proposed mitigation works and an agreement allowing the work to go ahead.

4. NatureScot will arrange all necessary permissions where required (e.g. CAR licence from SEPA) and either install the materials/equipment or arrange for contractors to do this on NatureScot’s behalf. NatureScot will manage the contractors and pay them direct.

5. NatureScot, with help from the land manager, will monitor the success of the work as set out in the Management Agreement.

6. Following the end of the agreement period there is an expectation that the responsibility for the installed mitigation will revert to the land manager.

How do I get help / take part in the scheme?

You can email us at [email protected] to arrange to speak to someone about managing beaver activity.

For more details of actions supported and exclusion under the scheme see Table 1.

Other support for land managers

Other sources of information

The Eurasian Beaver Handbook: Ecology and Management of Castor Fiber;  Campbell-Palmer, R., Gow, D., Campbell, R., Dickinson, H., Girling, S., Gurnell, J., Halley, D., Jones, S., Lisle, S., Parker, H., Schwab, G. & Rosell, F. Year: 2016 Source: Exeter: Pelagic Publishing, UK.

The Beaver Restoration Guidebook – Working with beaver to restore streams, wetlands and floodplains. Pollock, M.M., G.M. Lewallen, K. Woodruff, C.E. Jordan and J.M. Castro (Editors) 2018. Version 2.01. United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Oregon. 189 pp.

Table 1 Beaver mitigation approaches and support available through the Scottish Beaver Mitigation Scheme

A: Mitigation techniques for dam building activity
Technique  Use of techniqueCommentary on approach and fit with Scottish Beaver Mitigation Scheme

Dam notching

Used regularly to alleviate immediate issues, sometimes in combination with trapping and removal, or as a precursor to flow device installation.

Carried out under licence normally by land manager or beaver specialist contractors. Short term benefit. Can be effective in bringing the water back into channel rather than over-spilling onto surrounding land. Beavers are likely to seek to maintain the dam.

Dam removal

Removal of dams less than two weeks old does not require a licence. Removal of older dams requires a licence and may require specialist input to ensure beaver welfare.

Carried out under licence normally by land manager at own expense. Removal can be effective in alleviating immediate issues or in combination with the installation of mitigation such as flow devices, but where the motivation to rebuild dams is high, removal may need to be repeated.

Deterrent fencing (in stream)

This exclusion approach has been proposed where long-term conflicts are anticipated. NatureScot has been exploring the use of in-stream fencing combined with wing fencing as a limited trial of this approach.

NatureScot is supporting limited trials. It is not anticipated this approach will be widely used as it seeks to exclude rather than live with beavers. The approach is not straightforward and may require statutory consents, flood risk assessment and a maintenance plan. Key considerations have been the design which would allow migratory fish passage and at the same time exclude beavers and the defend-ability of the exclusion area. As yet none have been installed although a number of sites continue to be investigated.

Piped dam with mesh filter/ flow devices.

Flow devices have been supported by NatureScot under the mitigation scheme. To date these have not been in situations where beaver dams are considered to be an obstacle for fish passage. There may be a need to install flow devices that incorporate fish passage going forward which will need to be trialled and monitored.

Carried out under licence by NatureScot under the Mitigation Scheme or directly by public bodies. Most have been successful at resolving the impacts from the land manager’s perspective and in terms of maintaining beaver presence. On the whole this technique is regarded as successful as a medium-long term solution. This solution requires maintenance.

Culvert protection/ grilles

Several examples installed by local authorities and Network Rail.

May be supported by NatureScot where there is a public interest to protect; as a trial under the Mitigation Scheme; or may be carried out directly by public bodies.

Technique considered to be effective. This solution requires maintenance.

Water level monitors

NatureScot have installed water level monitors and these are proving to be an effective means of alerting staff and land managers (via email or txt message) to raised water levels in locations prone to dam building. This can reduce the time required to check water courses for dams.

Installation currently supported by the Mitigation Scheme.

Relatively quick to establish a pattern of rise and fall following rainfall as opposed to the signature of levels when a dam has been built. Requires sensors to be located in prone locations.  Potential for wider use of similar systems.

Trail/ video cameras

Used at dam locations. Some cameras can be used to monitor dam building activity remotely or to establish the status of animals present (single, pair, family). Cameras can also be used to monitor fish passage.

Carried out by NatureScot/ specialist contractors.

Regularly deployed for a variety of monitoring purposes.


B - Techniques used to manage beaver burrowing and digging activity
TechniqueUse of techniqueCommentary with regard to fit with Scottish Beaver Mitigation Scheme 

Infilling of channels/burrows

Infilling largely confined to where collapsed burrows present a risk to recreational users or farm machinery. Guidance currently in preparation.

Normally carried out by land manager at own expense. Viewed as repair rather than mitigation.

Destruction of burrow or lodge

A couple of examples have been licenced in relation to damage to a flood embankment, and lodge exclusion adjacent to a railway culvert.

Carried out under licence. Rare and requires specialist advice.

Preventing burrowing (hard engineering)

Commonly used in Europe to protect flood defences and infrastructure. To date has not been used extensively in Scotland.

Unlikely to be supported by Mitigation Scheme.

Burrowing risks in an agricultural setting are currently largely addressed through protected species licensing, due to the significant costs (at the landowners expense) of undertaking such measures. The appropriateness of hard engineering approaches is likely to preclude such approaches on rivers, but they may be required to protect specific infrastructure.

Riparian planting

Planting is proposed to enhance the resilience of banks. Established riparian woodland can usefully demonstrate the benefits.

Limited planting may be supported by the Mitigation Scheme as trial or demonstration. However riparian planting is more suited to other public and private funding streams.


Flood bank realignment

Existing agri-environment measure, but to date no uptake specifically to address beaver conflicts. Has been recommended by specialist river restoration advisors.

Unlikely to be supported by Mitigation Scheme due to high capital costs. Other sources of public and private finances for supporting these measures may be applicable.  

Root wads/willow spilling, etc.

Established river restoration techniques, but as yet not used in Scotland for beaver impacts. Trials are proposed. Existing funding support through agri-environment.

Mitigation scheme may support some trials/ demonstration sites. Currently, funding is available under the Agri-Environment Scheme.


C - Techniques used to manage beaver foraging activity
TechniqueUse of techniqueCommentary  

Individual tree protection

Established methods for tree wrapping using wire mesh and for using WOBRA deterrent paint. Both have been used to protect trees of high value for amenity, landscape or cultural value. Found to be effective.

Limited protection of high value trees will be supported by Mitigation Scheme largely as a demonstration of techniques. This excludes private gardens. It is rarely appropriate to protect a large number of trees in this way. However, there is published guidance and found to be effective.

Beaver impacts on woodland creation schemes should be discussed with Scottish Forestry.

Deterrent fencing (on land)

Beaver specific exclusion fencing is available consisting of an upright and skirted section. This approach seeks to exclude beavers and hence limited use is expected to protect high value public interests.

Unlikely to be widely supported through Mitigation Scheme. Will likely be a limited set of circumstances where exclusion fencing is considered appropriate other than as a trial or demonstration. Effectiveness in excluding beavers will depend on the specific location and beaver motivation. High costs is likely to preclude on value for money assessments in many cases, combined with wider consideration of environmental impacts of fencing.

Deterrent fencing (crops)

The use of electric fencing is being trialled to reduce crop damage on particularly high value crops for a short period. The effectiveness and costs benefits remain to be ascertained. Requires careful attention to guidance for beaver welfare.

Mitigation scheme may support some trials/ demonstration sites. Likely to be limited to short-term use.


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