Legal challenge to beaver trapping

Evidence of Beavers in Perthshire

An order to trap escaped beavers in Tayside may be challenged in the courts by a newly-formed campaign group. The Scottish Wild Beaver Group, formed in January 2011 to lobby for the survival in the wild of beavers in East Perthshire, said the order by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to re-capture the beavers could breach EU law.

SNH ordered the trapping of beavers in the Tay river system last November after up to 20 beavers were believed to have escaped from private collections in Angus and Perthshire and have been living and breeding in the wild. SNH told the BBC it was not aware of a legal case against the trapping and wanted the official trial reintroduction at Knapdale in Argyll to run its course before the future of beavers in the wild in the rest of Scotland was considered.

SNH chief executive Ian Jardine told the BBC: “I’m afraid the presence of beavers on the Tay undermines our credibility as a country in handling these things properly, legally and democratically,”

“You have to believe in upholding wildlife law or not. You can’t say we’ll follow it when it suits us and not follow it when it doesn’t suit us.”

Beaver kit at Knapdale (Photo: SWT)

However the Scottish Wild Beaver Group, set up by locals to protect the feral beavers, believe that the current legal position is “a muddle” and needs clarifying. In the meantime the group, which has the support of local landowners, Paul and Louise Ramsay of Banff House, where captive beavers have long been an attraction to passing walkers on the Cateran Trail, is asking for a halt to the current trapping activities. The Group believes that SNH’s order has given tacit approval to some landowner’s efforts to get rid of the beavers with local reports suggesting that up to three beavers may have been short or caught in snares recently.

SNH told the BBC that it had told landowners it was not illegal to shoot the beavers but said it was not encouraging it. SNH says it is advising landowners is to contact the organisation so that SNH can trap them.

SNH has already trapped one mail beaver, nicknamed Eric, by supporters. He is currently being kept at Edinburgh Zoo. “Save Eric” signs have been seen in pubs in Blairgowrie and the local newspaper has been supporting the campaign and providing T Shirts.

Beaver dam in Perthshire

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