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Beavers on the Rise across Tayside

LISTEN: Alan McDonnell talks about what this means for the future of beavers in the area – Photo credit: scotlandbigpicture.com

Scottish Highlands charity Trees for Life have responded to a new survey surrounding the beaver population in Scotland and how conservationists and farmers can better work together to allow the beaver population to thrive.

The recent survey published by NatureScot was carried out in the winter of 2020 and indicates that not only has beaver population in Scotland has tripled in recent years to around 1000 animals, but beavers have also expanded from Tayside with territories doubling to 251 across the country.

Conservation manager at Trees For Life, Alan McDonell, 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 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.

Trees for Life are currently awaiting a decision from a court challenge, urging the Scottish Government to change its policy on beaver killing.

A ruling in Trees for Life’s favour could allow new conservation sites to be identified across Scotland in consultation with local people where beavers could be safely moved to new locations rather than being culled.

Mr McDonnell concluded:

“We’re aware that in taking a judicial view it’s a big step – it’s quite a daunting step – and is perceived in some quarters as a challenge to farming and that is a perception that we regret.

“We hope in the future that farming and beavers can coexist together and the conservationists – the people interested in beaver conservation can work with farmers and actually establish a cooperative relationship and collaborate more and get away from some of the bad feeling that comes with these kinds of issues.

“There’s a human side to this story that I think is also an important element. If the relationships are better, if we can see more how we can collaborate and benefit each other I think that will definitely help us get a better future for our environment as well.”

NatureScots full report of beaver population the Tayside area can be found at: https://www.nature.scot/doc/naturescot-research-report-1274-survey-tayside-area-beaver-population-2020-2021

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