Scottish beavers “illegally culled”
Leading conservationists have claimed that beavers on rivers in Scotland are being shot and trapped
Scotland’s rapidly growing beaver population has been subject to shooting and trapping, it is alleged.
Scotland has two distinct populations of European beavers. An official trial population was released in Argyll’s Knapdale forest in 2009. A larger population became established in Tayside after series of illegal releases and escapes. This population has now reached the Forth valley and it is government policy to allow it to spread.
The Tayside population, which is estimated to number 430 individuals, has been the centre of significant conflict over damage to trees and riverbanks. A recent study found that the beavers had built 72 lodges,
339 burrows and 86 dams.
A 2015 report by specialists to the Scottish government found that “beaver damming activity, and the associated potential hindrance to fish passage, is of particular conservation concern to spring salmon, which utilise upland nutrient-poor streams”.
Spring salmon have experienced particularly serious declines in recent years. However, studies conducted in the US have found that salmon benefit from the presence of beavers.
The Tayside beaver population has no formal legal protection and in a recent open letter, a group of leading conservationists claimed that beavers were subject to “unregulated culling, which can take place any time, anywhere”.
Well-informed sources have told Shooting Times that legal culling of beavers has taken place recently on Tayside, as has destruction of beaver lodges. Reports from post-mortems on some of the animals that were found dead showed that shotguns were commonly being used to kill them.
The veterinary surgeons noted that some of the beavers had been shot at excessive range and, sadly, had probably died slowly as a result.
In 2017 the Scottish government announced that it was going to introduce legal protection for Scottish beavers by making them a “European protected species”. This would make killing beavers without a licence an offence.
Ministers proposed to allow Scottish Natural Heritage to grant licences for lethal control of beavers for certain limited reasons. Scottish ministers have also indicated that, if significant culling is suspected, they may introduce a nature conservation order to protect beavers.
This could result in anyone shooting a beaver receiving a fine of up to £40,000 and would not allow any licensed shooting.
“The Tayside beavers have no formal legal protection and are subject to unregulated culling”
A beaver foraging at duskin the Argyll, Scotland