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Interim Beaver Management Advice – October 2017

We provide advice to land managers in the event of conflicts with beavers.

Beavers are living wild in Tayside and in Knapdale. A large proportion co-exist with people without issue. However where conflicts arise there are many simple and effective actions that land managers can take to help resolve issues. (See: Find out more at the bottom of the page)

Management

We strongly discourage lethal control as a solution to an issue. Practical mitigation is usually more successful. Removing a beaver tends to be a stopgap solution as it leaves the territory open for another beaver to move into, so shooting would likely be a short term solution and on-going operation.

All management should take account of animal welfare, in particular between April and September when female beavers may have dependent young. Management of lodges and burrows may be take place during this time but if you plan to remove a lodge or block a burrow you should make every effort to ensure that it is not being used.

Advice from us is particularly important in such circumstances.

Humane dispatch

If beavers are to be dispatched by shooting then certain factors should be considered to make sure it is humane. Essential control should usually take place between 1 September and 31 March to reduce the welfare risk to dependent young which may be present in a lodge but not seen. If you are considering shooting during the breeding period, we advise you to consult us to discuss non-lethal alternatives, which can be more effective in the long-term.

Where lethal control is carried out, landowner permission must be granted, and firearm and animal welfare laws must be complied with. Any killing must be swift and humane. We will arrange for dead animals to be removed (whether shot or from other causes).

If we find evidence of lethal control that is not in compliance with our advice, we will work with Scottish Ministers to consider the use of Nature Conservation Orders (NCO) on defined areas of land to render further killing illegal.

Dispatch advice

Beavers should only be shot by experienced individuals, using the following firearms and munitions:

  • Centrefire rifle with a minimum bullet weight of 50 grains and a minimum muzzle velocity of 2,450ft/sec and a minimum muzzle energy of 1000 foot pounds (1356 joules) (i.e. a rifle legal for controlling roe deer) is recommended.
  • 12, 16 or 20 bore shotgun with No. 3 shot or larger at a range of no more than 20m.
  • Non-lead shot is required for shooting on or over water with a shotgun, and larger shot sizes may be required to maintain the down-range energy of pellets of lighter material such as steel.

Experience suggests that controlling beavers as they repair dams that have been breached makes the position of the beaver more predictable and allows for a stable firing position at an appropriate range.

Legal situation

This information is based on legal advice and current best practice in beaver management from Europe. It is not a definitive interpretation of the law, which only a Court can provide.

Laws protecting beavers are expected in 2018 but currently beavers are not protected in Scotland. It remains an offence to allow beavers to escape from captivity or to release a beaver without a licence from SNH.

Possession of a beaver, alive or dead, which has been taken from the wild in a European Union Member State, is also an offence without a licence.

Find out more

If you want more information about beavers that you have seen on land you manage, read the SNH 'Beavers in Scotland' Report to Scottish Government.

We can also provide specialist advice on a case-by-case basis should the need arise. If you feel there may be issues not covered in the reports, or that some additional advice on techniques is needed, we can provide an advisory site visit.

Contact

Telephone: 0131 316 2693 or 01463 725364
Email: beavers@nature.scot