Beavers given added protection against lethal control measures

An adult Eurasian beaver at the Knapdale Forest colony, Argyll and Bute Credit: Steve Gardner

Land managers have been urged to only use deadly control measures on beavers as a last resort as new legislation comes into force to protect them.

It is now illegal to kill the animals or destroy established dams and lodges in Scotland without licence due to them now having European Protected Species status.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) – lead partners in the Scottish Beaver Trial – have welcomed the move.

They have urged land managers to show restraint while young kits are dependent on their parents, a period from April 1 until August 16.

Jo Pike, chief executive of the SWT, said: “Beavers are unrivalled as ecosystem engineers.

“They have the potential to greatly increase the health and resilience of our natural environment by creating new habitats.

“Granting beavers protected status is an important milestone for the return of the species to Scotland’s lochs and rivers.

“We accept that land managers need to have the ability to deal with localised negative impacts caused by beavers.

“However, it is equally important to ensure lethal control is only used as a last resort and this does not threaten the successful spread of beavers into other areas of Scotland.”

Barbara Smith, chief executive of the RZSS, said: “This is an historic day for Scotland and a milestone for the many of us who have worked together for years on the return of this species.

“The granting of European Protected Status is a vital step in welcoming beavers back as a natural part of our ecosystem and a most welcome success as part of wider and continued efforts to protect and enhance our natural heritage.”

There are currently around 450 beavers in Scotland in two separate populations, in Tayside and mid-Argyll.

Beavers offer ecological and social benefits, including increasing biodiversity, reducing flood risk and new opportunities for wildlife tourism.

They disappeared from Scotland’s landscape more than 400 years ago due to human persecution.

Protective legislation for the Eurasian beaver in Scotland came into force on Wednesday.

Licences to use lethal control measures can be granted by government body Scottish Natural Heritage.

Karen Ramoo, policy adviser at Scottish Land and Estates, said: “Our focus is now on working with members and partners on implementing the management framework, ensuring it works for all land managers.

“We have a year in which to learn from experience and evidence before the review takes place, and we will try to make the most of that opportunity.

“We accept that beavers should have European Protected Species status but it is important that the management framework operates in a way that supports land managers.”