Legal Protection for Beavers

In Scotland there is a large and expanding population of beavers in the Tay catchment since an unlicenced release in 2001. Sixteen beavers were then reintroduced into Knapdale under licence as part of a five year trial in 2009. Following a review of findings from this trial by Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Government made an announcement in 2016 that beavers were to remain in Scotland and be allowed to expand their range naturally and are therefore a protected species. This is the first time that a mammal has been formally reintroduced into the UK.

Beavers were part of our wildlife for thousands of years before being hunted to extinction in the UK in 1789.

Beavers are ‘ecosystem engineers’, with the dams they build benefitting biodiversity by creating new habitats, increasing habitat diversity and slowing flows, which can help the development of natural flood defences.

However, their dams can impact on forestry by creating localised flooding, potentially resulting in the death of trees or affecting tracks, culverts and access. There may also be deer management impacts as the increased resprouting of beaver-felled trees can attract heavy deer browsing.

Scottish Natural Heritage has set up a beaver mitigation scheme to provide free expert advice to help manage their impacts where they cause problems for land managers. We will also be providing our Managers with advice in a Guidance Note coming soon.

In February this year the Scottish Government announced that the beaver will receive legal protection as a protected species and today that legal protection is now in place.

Beavers live on watercourses and lochs, where the bankside has broadleaf woodland and scrub.

They like shallow gradient streams, less than 6 metres wide. They build dams which can be from 0.2 to 3 metres in height and 0.3 to 100 metres in length.

The protection given to them makes it an offence to:
• Kill, injure or capture a beaver.
• Harass a beaver.
• Disturb a beaver when they are occupying a dam, lodge or burrow at any time of year.
• Destroy, damage or obstruct access to a dam, lodge or burrow at any time of the year (these places are protected even when the animal is not present). Note that dams are only protected when they are more than two weeks old.

If you think you have beavers on site or see chiselled stumps close to what could be a potential
dam or lodge structure on the site, STOP work and inform the harvesting or forestry manager.

Damage or destroy any dams or lodges. Continue with operations until appropriate advice is

Our Ecology team has produced a Toolbox Talk for briefing on site where Beavers may be found which you can read here.