SIR, – Re beaver deaths: No-one should condone the killing of pregnant animals or pretend that the current arrangements for dealing with beavers are working, but why is this happening? – 'Beaver shot in Perthshire', on the The SF website, May 23.

There has been a spate of such incidents recently. They are generating plenty of heat, but precious little light.

If we step back from things a bit and look at the timeline leading up to this point, we can see that on Tayside, beaver numbers have increased from a few escapees 20 years ago to more than 450 today – despite them never having had legal protection and a proportion of animals always being culled. What this suggests is that while some people may be hostile towards beavers, the majority of farmers and landowners are prepared to take a more proportionate response and this has allowed the population to increase to levels where, arguably, they are starting to become self-sustaining and secure, capable of withstanding some losses.

The recent spate of beaver culling in the last few years has been caused directly by the threat and subsequent decision taken by Roseanna Cunningham MSP to give them full EU protection, reinforcing what many people already know. That is, namely, that it isn’t the beavers that farmers are worried about, but more the bureaucracy that might go along with them.

It is not now farmers who are deciding whether they should retain beavers or not on their land, but the government. Many have judged that they are not going to chance it and have taken decisions that they would probably not have taken before EU protection.

The 'protection' is totally counter productive. The only reason we have it is that conservation groups have this attitude that farmers cannot be trusted to manage their land and that they must do it themselves.

They are trying to maximise their own position and influence, and the beavers are just the football in the middle of this ongoing battle about who should manage our land.

Lethal control is possible under authorisation, but, almost certainly, the dead beavers recovered have been culled without permission. Who in their right mind, though, would kill animals like this and allow them to float downstream where others can find them and be disgusted by it?

The current legislation is driving activity underground. We know this happens in Europe as well and should not be surprised by it. The answer is to remove the EU legislation and replace it with a system of authorisations more akin to the Deer (Scotland) Act 1996, which provides for seasons and helps ensure welfare of the animals, but allows people the flexibility they need to deal with situations when these arise.

If we had something like that, farmers would then make decisions on the merits of the situation and government agency staff could then be better employed in establishing core populations in other parts of the country to give a more resilient population which could withstand some localised or regional culling if required.

At the moment, resource is just being sucked up administering a process that is not achieving very much at all, beyond fuelling the cruelty that we currently see.

The EU 'protection' should be rescinded immediately if we really want to see an end to this and we could then focus on what most people really want, or can at least live with – namely beavers in places where they can do no damage and might be an asset. Plus there should be options for control in areas where they are likely to be a problem.

Victor Clements

Native Woodland Advice,

Mamie’s Cottage,