Fewer beavers destroyed as efforts to expand population continue

Beavers create wetland habitats that help wildlife thrive and reduce flood risks (PA)
Beavers create wetland habitats that help wildlife thrive and reduce flood risks (PA)

Scotland’s natural heritage agency has reported a decrease in the number of beavers being destroyed as efforts to expand their population while controlling negative impacts gain momentum.

NatureScot published figures this week suggesting fewer beavers were removed under licence last year from conflict areas in Tayside to prevent serious damage to agriculture – down to 108 compared to 120 in 2021.

The Scottish Government body also reported 45 animals were trapped and translocated to licensed projects last year – 12 more than in 2021 – out of which a third were released into the wild in Scotland.

A total of 63 beavers were killed under licence, a decrease from 87 in 2021. In addition, 108 dams were cleared under licence.

The reduction reflects the Scottish Government’s recently adopted policy to support expansion of the population, alongside efforts to promote trapping as an alternative to lethal control.

An expanded NatureScot beaver team has stepped up work with land managers to mitigate beaver impacts where they are believed to be causing problems, helping more people live alongside the protected species.

The report published this week states the beaver population in Scotland is expanding rapidly, with around 1,500 believed to be living within 424 territories.

If this trajectory continues there could be as many as 10,000 beavers in Scotland by 2030, helping to improve biodiversity in more areas.

Scottish Green MSP and biodiversity minister Lorna Slater said: “It is welcome news to see the increase in the proportion of beavers being translocated and that numbers in Scotland are increasing, but more work is required. It is vital that we continue to protect and value these iconic animals.

“The report indicates that not only are beaver population numbers increasing at a healthy rate, but that alternative forms of management are being actively used by land managers to reduce their impact. This is a direct result of our commitment to promote the expansion of beavers to all parts of Scotland.

“Beavers help re-engineer and restore rivers and can create wetlands. Their introduction is a vital part of our wider commitment to protect and restore Scotland’s natural environment.”

Donald Fraser, NatureScot’s head of wildlife management, said: “We’re pleased to report a significant increase in trapping last year, with NatureScot staff working hard with land managers, the Beaver Trust and the Five Sisters Zoo to enable this wherever possible. As this work continues, we expect to see a further shift away from lethal control.

“Alongside this, a huge amount of effort has also been going on behind the scenes to put in place the support and resources to enable others to take forward well-considered translocations in Scotland.

“The release of beavers at a new site at Loch Lomond earlier this year marked a significant milestone in the restoration of the species, with two other proposals for the River Spey and Glen Affric/Beauly areas currently being explored.

“NatureScot has carried out environmental assessments of these catchments, and we are now inviting views on these. This will ensure we fully understand the likely effect of beaver translocations.”