The latest survey of Scotland wild beavers was published by the Scottish Government’s nature agency NatureScot today, together with the agency’s long-awaited 2020 beaver killing figures.
In response, Trees for Life’s Conservation Manager Alan McDonnell said:
“Any increase in Scotland’s overall numbers of beavers is a relief, but it is chilling to see this described as a ‘conservation success’ by NatureScot when beaver numbers have increased despite the continuing failure to make the killing of this protected species a genuine last resort when management is needed.
“The sad truth is NatureScot did not know the latest beaver population figures when it began issuing lethal control licenses, with no limits on the number of beavers that could be shot. We believe the agency’s approach bends the law well beyond its limits.
“This led to the needless deaths of a fifth of Scotland’s known beaver population in 2019 alone. Shockingly, we now know a further 115 beavers were shot in 2020. NatureScot has sat on this grim tally since December, refusing to confirm it until today’s bid to hide the figures behind a welcome turn of events for the overall beaver population. This is such a waste of life and opportunity when nature is in crisis.
“If the Scottish Government allowed beavers which have unwanted impacts on farmland to be relocated to suitable areas around Scotland instead of being shot, the Government could, and should, be achieving a win-win for nature and farmers.
“There has got to be a better way. We face a nature emergency, and as the UN’s report, just yesterday stated, climate breakdown is widespread, rapid and intensifying. By allowing beavers to be relocated to suitable areas around Scotland instead of being shot when they have unwanted impacts on farmland, the Scottish Government could support a genuine nature-based solution.”
Challenging the Scottish Government’s Policies
Trees for Life is currently awaiting the outcome of its court challenge to the Scottish Government’s policy on beaver killing – a policy which has tied NatureScot’s hands on this issue and prevented a more progressive approach from being adopted.
At Scotland’s Court of Session on 3 and 4 June, the charity presented detailed arguments that NatureScot is breaking the law by failing to make killing the protected species a genuine last resort when management is required.
The case aims to ensure a safer future for beavers – which build dams that create nature-rich, carbon-absorbing and flood-reducing wetlands – while benefitting farmers.
A ruling in the Trees for Life’s favour could allow new sites to be identified across Scotland, in consultation with local people, to which beavers can be moved rather than being shot. The charity wants farmers to have options that help them avoid being forced to shoot much-loved animals and to receive appropriate financial support when co-existing with beavers.
The Scottish Government’s current refusal to allow beavers beyond their current range – even though NatureScot has identified over 100,000 hectares of suitable habitat – limits the options for Tayside farmers whose land or crops are damaged by beavers.
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