The fortunes of Scotland small beaver population has fluctuated in recent years as political appointees have come and gone. In the decade after the discovery of a free-living population in the River Tay catchment, the population was subject to unregulated persecution by farmers and landowners who were unfamiliar with or unwilling to use the various non-lethal mitigation options available. Only in May 2019, after many years of campaigning by SWBG and other conservation organisations, was the beaver population granted recognition as ‘European Protected Species’ by the Scottish Government. This was a landmark moment from a legislative perspective, but it provided little respite as unregulated killing was replaced by regulated killing, and a ban was imposed on translocating beavers to new areas outside their existing range.
Nature Scot held training sessions in shooting beavers, and issued a slew of lethal control licences to landowners, often based simply on land categorisation. In the course of 2019 alone, 87 beavers were shot under licence – equating to one fifth of the total population. Another 115 were shot under licence in 2020, and other 87 in 2021. And these shocking numbers do not take into account any unauthorised killing that has been occurring.
Given the proven role that beavers have in tackling biodiversity loss and building climate resilience, and that Scotland has one of the smallest beaver populations in Europe, SWBG believes that every beaver shot is a potentially wasted resource that could be bringing ecosystem benefits elsewhere. Tolerance, mitigation, and translocation should each be explored and ruled out before resorting to lethal control.
Although the Scottish government has now lifted the ban on trapping and ‘translocating’ beavers to new areas, Scotland’s beavers remains subject to excessive and unjustifiable levels of lethal control.
· Introduce firm guidelines that mandate a ‘hierarchy of mitigation’ to ensure that all non-lethal options (specifically including translocation) are explored and ruled out on each individual site before any lethal control licences are issued or renewed.
· Accelerate and streamline the process of translocating beavers from conflict areas in Tayside to suitable habitat in new river catchments across Scotland (in particular to land that is managed by public bodies such Forestry & Land Scotland and NatureScot).
· Design future farm subsidy payments to reward farmers for increased biodiversity created by beaver presence.
· Review all lethal control licences annually to ensure the reasons for their issue remain valid and the conditions of each licence are being met. (Withdraw any licences that have not been used or where the conditions have not been met)
· Implement the recommendations of the Scottish Animal Welfare Commission report, including that no beaver-related licences should be issued in the ‘kit dependency period’, and that the shooting of beavers in the water should be banned given the unacceptable risk of non-fatal injuries.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
JOIN A CALL FOR ACTION
Scottish Wild Beaver Group is part of The Scottish Rewilding Alliance. As a member we are calling on Scotland to become the first rewilding nation. With beavers as a vital part of achieving this goal.
WRITE TO YOUR MSP’S
Contact your MSPs to let them know that you want The Scottish Government to change their approach to beaver management. Use the bullet points above to outline the changes you want to see.
REPORT A SIGHTING
Reporting sightings and evidence of beaver activity can be one of the most important and easy things you can do. With more data, and a more accurate census of beavers in Scotland, we can push for better and more secure protection. Check out the Mammal Mapper App below!