New laws to protect Scottish beavers

Scotland’s beaver population has been awarded European Protected Species status in a move welcomed by conservationists.

As of 1 May 2019 it is illegal to carry out a range of activities that harm the Eurasian beaver in Scotland, including lethal control of beavers and destroying established dams and lodges without a licence.

The lead partners in the Scottish Beaver Trial – the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) have praised the new legislation as an important step in affording the species a degree of legal protection that should enable it to expand its range within Scotland.

The Trust and RZSS have urged land managers to show restraint in controlling beavers while young kits are dependent on their parents. This period runs from 1 April until 16 August.

“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,” said Jo Pike, Chief Executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

“Granting beavers protected status is an important milestone for the return of the species to Scotland’s lochs and rivers. It follows decades of work by countless organisations and individuals to demonstrate the positive impacts that beavers can have.

“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.”

There are currently around 450 beavers in Scotland in two separate populations in Tayside and mid-Argyll. Beavers offer widespread ecological and social benefits, including increasing biodiversity, reducing flood risk and new opportunities for wildlife tourism.

“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,” said Barbara Smith, RZSS Chief Executive.

“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.”