Beavers given protected status

Mitigation measures introduced for farms.

The Eurasian or European beaver will be added to the list of European Protected Species of Animals, protected under Scottish law.

This means that from 1 May 2019 shooting will only be allowed under licence, which will be managed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). All licenses will be issued in accordance with the law on European Protected Species.

Announcing the news, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said:

“The Scottish Government believes in the highest standards of animal welfare – for both wild and domestic animals - and we felt it was high time that beavers enjoyed the same legal protection as other species like bats, dolphins, wildcats and otters. 

 “There are few species that have such a significant and, largely positive, influence on the health and function of our ecosystems. The importance of beavers to Scotland’s biodiversity is huge.

 “However, we recognise that beavers can have a significant impact on farming, particularly in areas like Strathmore, which is why we have been working closely with farmers and partner agencies to establish management plans, as well as a licensing system for culling when there is no other alternative.”

SNH Chief Executive Francesca Osowska said:

“We welcome this news from the Scottish Government. Beavers benefit nature, creating habitats such as ponds and wetlands where other species thrive, as well as alleviating flooding and improving water quality. But it will sometimes be necessary to minimise or prevent beavers’ impacts on farming, and other interests.

“In readiness for beavers’ protected species status, SNH has been working with a range of partners, including Scottish Government, farmer and conservation bodies, to produce a strategy for beavers’ sustainable future.”


·         Beavers became extinct in Britain in the 16th century, mainly due to over-hunting. However, between 2009 and 2014, sixteen Eurasian beavers were successfully introduced to Knapdale Forest, Argyll and Bute, with the benefits and impacts being independently monitored by SNH

·         It was the first successful reintroduction of any wild mammal to the UK. Further, unregulated releases of beavers were made in Tayside, where the population now stands at around 500

·         Since the Scottish Government announced in 2016 that beavers would be allowed to remain in Scotland, a Habitats Regulations Assessment of the potential impacts of beavers on protected sites has been completed

·         A Strategic Environmental Assessment was also completed, including a public consultation in early 2018  

·         These assessments complete the legal requirements necessary before bringing forward legislation to protect beavers

·         An SNH report published on 12 October 2018  estimated that around 430 beavers live in over 100 active beaver territories on Tayside. A 2012 survey estimated beaver numbers across the region at about 150 beavers in 40 territories

·         Scottish Natural Heritage can provide advice on non-lethal options available


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