Scottish farmers express concerns over beaver protection

Beavers will soon be given protected status in Scotland, making it illegal to kill, injure or capture the animals – but farmers have raised concerns about the decision.

The Eurasian or European beaver will be added to the list of European Protected Species of Animals, protected under Scottish law. 

This means that from 1 May 2019, shooting will only be allowed under licence, which will be managed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

See also: Scottish sheep farmers to battle lynx proposals

NFU Scotland has given a mixed reaction to the announcement by the Scottish Government.

In a letter sent to the government, NFUS president Andrew McCornick acknowledged the value that beavers can potentially add to Scotland’s biodiversity.

But he said the population of beavers had grown rapidly in recent years and this “will have an effect on an increasing number of farmers in the years to come”.

‘Proper management’ needed

NFUS says “proper management” of the species is fundamental to avoid their impact on agriculture.

Some farmers have spoken of considerable damage to farmland attributed to beavers.

Adrian Ivory, a livestock and arable farmer, told The Telegraph in October it was costing him up to £5,000/year to remove dams from his land in Strathmore.

He said: “In the past six years there’s been far more damage being created, more bank erosion, more trees coming down, more dams being built, more and more evidence of them causing issues.”

Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the Scottish Government “recognises” that beavers can have a significant impact on farming, particularly in areas such as Strathmore.

But she added: “[This] is why we have been working closely with farmers and partner agencies to establish management plans, as well as a licensing system for culling when there is no other alternative.”

430 beavers in Tayside

An SNH report published last October estimated that about 430 beavers live in more than 100 active beaver territories on Tayside.

SNH chief executive Francesca Osowska said: “Beavers benefit nature, creating habitats such as ponds and wetlands where other species thrive, as well as alleviating flooding and improving water quality.

“But it will sometimes be necessary to minimise or prevent beavers’ impacts on farming, and other interests.

“In readiness for beavers’ protected species status, SNH has been working with a range of partners, including Scottish Government, farmer and conservation bodies, to produce a strategy for beavers’ sustainable future.”