Beavers given protected status in Scotland

After being reintroduced a decade ago the thriving beaver populations in Scotland have been given protected status.

European beaver. © Alasdair Sargent/Getty

Wildlife organisations have welcomed the news that it is now illegal to kill beavers or destroy established dams or lodges without a license.

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The Scottish Wildlife Trust said legal protection for beavers was “an important step” to enable the species to “expand its range.”

The animals were part of a successful reintroduction program which started with the release of 16 beavers between 2009 and 2014, and now number about 450 individuals.

However, there were previous fears that the beavers were not able to spread as far as wildlife organisation had hoped due to conflict with humans.

A beaver swimming towards his lodge. © Sandra Standbridge/Getty
A beaver swimming towards his lodge. © Sandra Standbridge/Getty

“It is alarming that there are a number of areas where beavers are absent due to unregulated culls,” commented Susan Davies, Director of conservation for Scottish Wildlife Trust in 2018.

The presence of beavers in Scotland has had an extraordinary impact on local wildlife, as they are ecosystem engineers and their dams have helped create important wetland habitat.

However, the beavers have caused some problems for local famers when they construct dams near agricultural land.

“The big problem for us with the dams is that it costs me as a business £4,000-£5,000 a year, pulling dams out of watercourses, trying to sort banks out,” said Adrian Ivory, a farm manager in Perthshire, to BBC News.

“We are trying to produce quality food for the population to eat and this is just causing real problems and a cost to my business.”

In 2018 Scottish National Heritage set a mitigation scheme for farmland affected by the species.

“By building dams, beavers improve local water quality and help nurture other wildlife, and it’s wonderful that people now have a chance to see these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat,” said Nick Halfhide, Scottish National Heritage director of sustainable growth in 2018.

“But in some parts of Scotland, beavers can cause problems, particularly in areas with prime agricultural land. So we are setting up a mitigation scheme to develop and trial techniques to help farmers deal with any problems they encounter.”

The wildlife benefits of having beavers have been seen in other reintroductions in Yorkshire and Sweden, their protected status in Scotland can only mean good things for both the future of Scottish beavers and local wildlife.

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Main image: European beaver. © Alasdair Sargent/Getty