The Scottish Government has announced a new approach to actively expand Scotland’s beaver population
It plans to relocate more of Scotland’s wild beavers outwith their current range instead of using lethal control – previously used to tackle problems faced by farmers and prime agricultural land.
“This is a rewilding win for Scotland’s wildlife, climate and farmers,” says Trees for Life’s chief executive, Steve Micklewright.
“After almost half a millennium, the country is set to welcome beavers back properly at last.
“Allowing these habitat-creating, biodiversity-boosting, flood-preventing animals to be relocated across Scotland – to where they are needed and wanted, away from prime agricultural land, and in a way that works for farmers – offers hope for tackling the nature and climate emergencies.
“It’s a wonderful result 16 months to the day that we launched our campaign for Scotland’s beavers, which has seen almost 17,000 people sign the most successful petition to the Scottish Parliament in over a decade, our successful court case in which a senior judge ruled that NatureScot’s beaver-killing licences have been unlawfully issued, and 66% of Scots say they back relocation not killing of beavers.”
Trees for Life says ministers now need to lay out clearly that the Government and NatureScot will ensure proper support for farms and communities wanting to reintroduce beavers to new sites of suitable habitat – including through a simplified process that doesn’t tangle applications up in needless red tape.
It suggests the Government should make sure there is practical and financial support for farmers – including a beaver relocation service, and access to timely and efficient advice and resources.
The Government’s announcement comes days before the Scottish Parliament’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee is due on 30 November to consider Trees for Life’s petition to the Scottish Parliament calling for the Government to relocate rather than shoot beavers.
The Government’s previous refusal to allow beavers to be relocated to new areas of Scotland, even though NatureScot has identified over 100,000 hectares of habitat, had left Tayside farmers whose crops are damaged by beavers with little option but to apply for a culling licence.
Since the Government legally protected beavers in 2019, its nature agency NatureScot has allowed over 200 beavers to be killed under license – despite laws under which beavers are a protected species which should not be killed unless there is no satisfactory alternative.
NatureScot’s failure to make licensed killing of beavers a last resort was challenged by Trees for Life’s judicial review, heard by the Court of Session in June.
The charity’s crowdfunder for the case was supported by over 1,500 people and raised over £60,000. Lady Carmichael ruled that NatureScot had ‘erred in law’ when issuing licences authorising the deaths of over 200 beavers.
Beavers create wetlands that benefit other wildlife, soak up carbon dioxide, purify water and reduce flooding, but the animals sometimes need managing if they cause damage to farmland.
Trees for Life is dedicated to rewilding the Scottish Highlands. Find out more here.
Picture credit: Scotland: The Big Picture