Scot­tish beavers “il­le­gally culled”

Lead­ing con­ser­va­tion­ists have claimed that beavers on rivers in Scot­land are be­ing shot and trapped

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - NEWS - Matt Cross

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

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