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Interim Beaver Management Advice – February 2019

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

Beavers are living wild in Tayside and in Knapdale and from 1 May 2019 they will be afforded protection as European Protected Species.

In most cases beavers will co-exist with people without issue. However where conflicts arise there are many actions that can be taken to help resolve issues.

From 1 May onwards some actions will require a licence which will ensure that actions are only taken when necessary and with due regard to animal welfare.  In the intervening period (i.e. before protection comes into force) we recommend that anyone experiencing or anticipating problems from beavers should proceed as if legal protection is in place and to get in touch with us for advice.  Our Management Framework describes our approach to managing beavers and their impacts once they receive legal protection.

Interim Guidance

We strongly discourage intervention, either manipulation of dams or lethal control unless it is absolutely necessary.  These actions should only be undertaken as a last resort.  SNH can provide advice to anyone who is experiencing problems in order to find appropriate solutions.

If management activities are undertaken they should take account of animal welfare. In particular, care must be taken between April and mid-August when female beavers may have dependent young that are still in the lodge or natal burrow. Any actions affecting lodges or chambered burrows, including removal of dams, which may often protect breeding sites, should aim to avoid this period wherever possible. Lethal control should only be employed as a last resort and where there is no other satisfactory solution. There are a range of other measures that may be applicable to help alleviate any particular problems that are being experienced and that can provide a long-term solution and we would be happy to provide advice in this respect.

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 17 August 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, again we strongly advise you to consult us.

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.

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 to come into force in 2019 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, please read our Management Framework. The SNH 'Beavers in Scotland' Report to Scottish Government also provides useful information.

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.


Telephone: 01463 725364


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