(Current Advocacy Priorities – July 2023)
Since 2019, beavers have been a protected species in Scotland. Their dams provide many environmental benefits (water quality improvement, downstream flood reduction, biodiversity enhancement, drought resilience). However, these dams can also cause problems for farmers in some low-lying arable areas.
SWBG remains deeply concerned at the number of beavers being killed each year relative to the number being accommodated, with or without mitigation, or trapped and moved (translocated) to new sites in Scotland where the risk of conflict is low. With gunshot-wounded beavers being found by members of the public and presented to animal rescue organisations, SWBG is also concerned that current lethal control practices fall well short of acceptable animal welfare standards. This is why we still advocate for beaver conservation and welfare in Scotland, and our current advocacy priorities are outlined below.
1. Reduce the number of beavers being killed.
The Scottish Government and its nature agency Nature Scot should take affirmative steps to significantly decrease the number of beavers being killed each year under licence by increasing the number being accommodated or translocated to new sites within Scotland.
Nature Scot should Increase the number of beavers being translocated by:
1. Encouraging landowners within existing beaver range to become recipients of translocated beavers.
2. Minimizing the bureaucratic barriers faced by landowners in designating their land as beaver translocation recipient sites.
- Accelerating the rate at which Strategic Environmental Assessments are conducted for new river catchments across Scotland so that more catchments become available for beaver translocation.
3. Support public bodies to show leadership.
Public bodies (eg Forestry Land Scotland, Scottish Water, Crown Estates Scotland) should be encouraged to follow RSPBs example and show leadership by translocating beavers from conflict zones to suitable release sites.They should be supported by Government/NS, not hampered by excessive regulation. . The process should be kept as simple and affordable as possible to enable wide participation.
4. Improve animal welfare by prohibiting shooting beavers in the water.
Prohibit shooting beavers in the water – as recommended by the government’s own Scottish Animal Welfare Report (November 2022).
5. Improve welfare compliance.
Ensure that lethal control licences are not renewed for those licence-holders who fail to demonstrate sufficient regard for animal welfare, including failing to submit carcasses for welfare inspection or failing to submit timely annual license returns.
6. Incentivise farmers to welcome and accommodate beavers on their land.
Financially support farmers to live with beavers by ensuring that future agricultural subsidy schemes provide support payments for maintaining-nature rich waterside buffers and wetlands on farmland, to support biodiversity, slow the flow of floodwaters, retain water in times of drought and absorb pollutants. Such a policy should also reduce the need for both licensed and unlicensed beaver killings.
We call on the Scottish Government to prioritise and help to fund education of the public in relation to the science of beavers and all the issues surrounding them – such as land use, food security & the biodiveristy crisis. This is urgently needed to counter mis-information..
Want to experience your very own wild Scottish beaver encounter? Check out our page on beaver promoted ecotourism and figure out if you want to join an experienced guide, or try your own luck at beaver spotting by staying in one of many fantastic getaways around Scotland.