8. Conclusions and recommendations
In relation to the further development and implementation of the National Beaver Strategy 2022-2045, SAWC makes the following recommendations based on current evidence:
1. There is an urgent need for comprehensive guidance for landowners and fishery organisations for non-lethal mitigation which does not require licensing, Funding from Scottish Government to support the cost of these measures is required to encourage the use of mitigations.
2. No licences should be issued in the kit dependency period. The lethal control or live trapping of beavers during the period when kits are dependent on parents will inevitably compromise the welfare of those kits. The opportunity to implement licensed control of beavers in anticipation of likely damage to economic interests and public safety should in any case obviate the need for exceptional licensing. However, compensation should be offered to those landowners and river users who might in rare cases be affected.
3. Banning the shooting of beavers in the water would eliminate the problem of poor or difficult marksmanship, which can significantly affect the welfare of beavers. There is a high risk of bullets ricocheting or being slowed down by hitting water, which can result in non-fatal injuries. There may be similar risks when shooting unconstrained beavers on land at distance. Instead, beavers should be trapped alive and released into small transportable enclosures, in which they can be shot safely and humanely. This approach is carried out in Bavaria. Lethal control in this way would allow for recovery of all animals for post-mortem examinations and archiving of samples for research. The data generated from these animals would inform future management strategies and help in monitoring health and welfare in all beaver populations, where lethal control is required.
4. While translocations are welcome as an alternative to lethal control, where possible, it is important that robust protocols are followed by trained operators, release areas are assessed properly, and translocated individuals are monitored effectively to ensure that high standards of welfare are maintained during and after the translocations of individuals.
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