IT HAS been one month since beavers were added to the list of European Protected Species of Animals and protected under Scottish law – and Scottish Natural Heritage this week issued a statement clarifying the practical implications of this for farmers and land managers.

From May 1, 2019, shooting or moving – known as translocation – of beavers is only allowed under licence, managed by SNH, which will only allow lethal control as a last resort when beavers are having a serious impact and there is no other satisfactory solution.

SNH reported that, so far, licenses and proposals for translocation were underway for up to 50 beavers to be moved from Tayside to new homes elsewhere in the UK, while twelve beavers have already been successfully translocated. Some of those beavers have been moved to Knapdale in Argyll while others have moved to England – Devon and Yorkshire.

"Beavers can create incredibly diverse and rich habitats, particularly wetlands," said SNH. "Under certain conditions, these changes may help regulate water flow, reduce flooding and sediments and improve water quality. But this incredible ability of beavers to significantly change the environment they live in can occasionally cause problems on farmland, in forests and gardens and even occasionally to infrastructure such as roads and culverts.

"To date we have issued 29 licences to permit dam removal – with lethal control of beavers included as a last resort. However, we are working with those license holders to identify opportunities where animals which might otherwise be killed can be translocated. No beavers have been shot under licence to our knowledge to date since protection was afforded on May 1."

A question mark remains over the case of a pregnant beaver found shot dead on a Perthshire riverbank last month – wildlife crime officers are investigating, but no further details have been released. There have been suggestions on social media that the carcase was not fresh, and the shooting may therefore have happened ahead of the May 1 commencement of protection.

SNH’s Tayside and Grampian area manager Denise Reed, said: “We will continue working with farmers, landowners and managers, conservation bodies and a range of interests to ensure that we all learn from experience and realise the benefits that beavers will bring to Scotland, while providing support to those who are experiencing problems with the effects of beavers on their property.

“There are a number of ways SNH helps farmers and others affected by beavers and their dams," said Ms Reed. "Firstly, we can look at whether work can be done on the ground to minimise any problems. This includes measures such as installing specially designed water gates, beaver deterrent fencing, soft engineering on river banks, flood bank protection, piped dams and monitoring water levels in farm ditches. We are currently working on a range of these kinds of projects and increasing our understanding of how they can be applied more widely.

“We have also made sure that any lethal control is done as humanely as possible by requiring that it is only carried out by individuals who have received SNH training. Licences are also very clear that lethal control should be avoided during the kit dependency period, except in exceptional circumstances, and that we must be notified straight away. We have not had any such notification to date," she stressed.

“We take any suggestion of unlawful shooting very seriously and we will work with the police and other agencies to help investigate these. If anyone suspects suspicious practice, please report this to Police Scotland.

“Taken together, we are confident that our approach will not affect the continued expansion of the Scottish beaver population and the positive impacts they can bring to other areas. We will continue to carefully monitor both the use of licences and of the Scottish beaver population to ensure we achieve this aim.”