Response to beaver reports published today by NatureScot

The latest survey of Scotland’s wild beavers was published by the Scottish Government’s nature agency NatureScot today, together with the agency’s long-awaited 2020 beaver killing figures.

In response, Conservation Manager at Trees for Life, Alan McDonnell said:

“Any increase in Scotland’s overall numbers of beavers is a relief, but it is chilling to see this described as a ‘conservation success’ by NatureScot when beaver numbers have increased despite the continuing failure to make the killing of this protected species a genuine last resort when management is needed.

“The sad truth is NatureScot did not know the latest beaver population figures when it began issuing lethal control licenses, with no limits on the number of beavers that could be shot. We believe the agency’s approach bends the law well beyond its limits.

“This led to the needless deaths of a fifth of Scotland’s known beaver population in 2019 alone. Shockingly, we now know a further 115 beavers were shot in 2020. NatureScot has sat on this grim tally since December, refusing to confirm it until today’s bid to hide the figures behind a welcome turn of events for the overall beaver population. This is such a waste of life and opportunity when nature is in crisis.

“If the Scottish Government allowed beavers which have unwanted impacts on farmland to be relocated to suitable areas around Scotland instead of being shot, the Government could, and should, be achieving a win-win for nature and farmers.

“There has got to be a better way. We face a nature emergency, and as UN’s report just yesterday stated, climate breakdown is widespread, rapid and intensifying. By allowing beavers to be relocated to suitable areas around Scotland instead of being shot when they have unwanted impacts on farmland, the Scottish Government could support a genuine nature-based solution.”

For a summary of Trees for Life’s arguments to the Court of Session, see