Petition calls for more Scottish Government protection for beavers
A coalition is calling or public support to help Scotland’s beaver population to thrive – and to prevent them from being shot.
The Scottish Rewilding Alliance has launched a petition on the Scottish Parliament website calling on the Scottish Government to allow beavers – which currently can be legally killed by farmers – to be moved to new areas where landowners would welcome them and where there is plenty of suitable habitat.
It’s the work of a coalition of 24 environmental charities, countryside access organisations, businesses and community groups.
Scottish Nature Heritage (SNH) has already identified over 100,000 hectares of “core beaver woodland” in Scotland where the animals can thrive. In areas of the Highlands, for example, SNH has identified many beaver-friendly locations, often surrounded by land with low sensitivity to beaver impacts.
Beavers are native to the UK but were driven to extinction through hunting and habitat loss.
They have returned through a series of reintroductions – but have already suffered persecution from farmers and landowners.
Last month, a report from SNH – which grants cull licenses - revealed the scale of the killings, which left a fifth of Scotland’s beaver population dead.
In total, 87 animals were killed in the space of a year, with landowners claiming they are detrimental to farmland.
However, beavers are recognised for the range of environmental benefits they can bring, including helping to create precious and vital habitats.
Steve Micklewright, convener of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance and chief executive of conservation charity Trees for Life, said: “A recent YouGov poll showed that a large majority of people want more beavers in Britain – yet the Scottish Government allowed the shooting of around one-in-five of Scotland’s wild beavers last year.
“Beavers can help in a post-Covid green recovery by creating nature-rich wetlands that help tackle the climate and nature crises. It’s unacceptable that these habitat-creating, biodiversity-boosting, flood-preventing animals are at risk because the Government allows their killing. A simple and positive solution is to relocate beavers from where they’re not wanted to where they are.”
Although the Scottish Government made beavers a protected species last year, it says they can only spread naturally from their existing ranges in Knapdale in Argyll and on the River Tay.
This political decision leads Tayside farmers whose crops are sometimes damaged by the animals to apply to SNH for a licence to kill them.
The alliance says current Holyrood policy also denies enthusiastic conservation bodies and landowners of the opportunity of introducing beavers to their land.
Beavers build small dams, creating nature-rich wetlands that support all sorts of wildlife and soak up carbon dioxide. Their dams help reduce flooding by regulating water flow, retain water which helps during droughts, and improve water quality by trapping sediment. Beavers can also become a tourist attraction that can benefit local communities and economies.
James Nairne, trustee of Scottish Wild Beaver Group, added: “Every beaver shot is a wasted life that could have done so much to help rewild Scotland. So we are asking everyone who cares about beavers to sign the petition to show the government that there is popular support for a better approach to dealing with the localised and manageable problems these animals sometimes cause.”
The alliance’s petition can be supported here.