Beavers will become a legally protected species in May, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has announced.
This means that from 1 May 2019 shooting will only be allowed under licence, which will be managed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). All licenses will be issued in accordance with the law on European Protected Species.
Ms Cunningham said: “The Scottish Government believes in the highest standards of animal welfare – for both wild and domestic animals – and we felt it was high time that beavers enjoyed the same legal protection as other species like bats, dolphins, wildcats and otters.
“There are few species that have such a significant and, largely positive, influence on the health and function of our ecosystems. The importance of beavers to Scotland’s biodiversity is huge.
“However, we recognise that beavers can have a significant impact on farming, particularly in areas like Strathmore, which 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.”
Jonny Hughes, Chief Executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “We are delighted that the Scottish Government has finally given the green light to granting beavers European Protected Status. Legal protection, alongside a suitable management framework, is necessary to ensure we benefit fully from their return and also ensure land managers can deal with localised negative impacts.
“The return of beavers to Scotland’s lochs and rivers offers widespread ecological benefits. Beavers are well-known for their engineering prowess, creating wetland havens that provide homes for many other species including fish, insects and waterbirds, while also helping humans by reducing the risk of floods down river. They are also providing a boost to Scotland’s rural economy by increasing wildlife tourism.”
SNH Chief Executive Francesca Osowska said: “We welcome this news from the Scottish Government. 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.”