Beavers to become protected species under new legislation

Beavers are to be given legal protection in Scotland, it has been announced.

The Scottish Government confirmed that legislation will be brought in to add beavers to a European list for protected species of animals.

There have been calls, including from the Scottish Wildlife Trust, for the animals to be included on the list.

A consultation in October last year received more than 500 responses, with a majority (83%) supporting the move.

The law will mean that, from May, shooting will only be allowed under licence, which will be managed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

All licences will be issued in accordance with the law on European Protected Species.

Beavers became extinct in Britain in the 16th century, mainly due to over-hunting.

However, between 2009 and 2014, sixteen Eurasian beavers were successfully introduced to Knapdale Forest, Argyll and Bute, with the benefits and impacts being independently monitored by SNH.

Environment Secretary Roseanna 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.”

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.”

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