Scotland’s beaver population will be expanded to new areas of the country to help boost numbers of the animals after the Scottish Government announced its support for the plan.
Ministers said they will support translocation, which involves safely trapping and moving beavers to a more suitable area, which will help establish the animals’ presence outside their current range.
The announcement delivers a commitment made in the cooperation agreement between the Scottish Green Party and the SNP.
The Scottish Greens welcomed the move which they said means beavers will be translocated within Scotland rather than killed.
Biodiversity Minister, Lorna Slater, of the Scottish Greens, said: “Beavers were driven to extinction in Scotland but have now become an established part of our environment in some areas following their reintroduction, and today’s announcement will help them to continue to expand across the country.
“Restoring this lost species is important in its own right, but beavers will also contribute to restoring Scotland’s natural environment as they create wetland habitats that support a range of species, and their dams can also help filter sediment from watercourses and mitigate flooding.
“The Scottish Government recognises that through their modification of the environment, in some places beavers can produce negative impacts on some species, on agricultural land, forestry and on infrastructure.
“Since they were made a protected species in 2019, we have gained sufficient experience in managing beavers in Scotland to allow us to confidently support proactive steps to expand their population.
“We will continue to provide support and advice to land managers to mitigate any negative impacts, and the additional option of trapping and translocation will further enhance this package of support.”
Recent NatureScot figures estimate that the beaver population in Scotland was between 602 and 1381 animals, with a rough median estimate of 954 beavers across 254 territories, mainly in the Forth and Tay catchment areas.
Working with NatureScot and other partners, the Scottish Government will look for future beaver translocation release sites to include new areas of Scotland, to help increase beaver numbers.
Francesca Osowska, NatureScot’s chief executive, said: “This is a significant step to restore Scotland’s biodiversity and respond to the climate emergency.
“Up to now, our ability to move, or translocate, beavers to different areas across Scotland has been limited to moving animals within their current range where populations are already established.
“Being able to move beavers out of their current range gives us a much wider scope.”
Sarah Robinson, director of Conservation at Scottish Wildlife Trust, said there are more than 100,000 hectares of suitable woodland habitat around the country.
She said: “Beavers have a vital role to play in tackling the growing crisis facing nature. Achieving a thriving national population of beavers which is spread throughout Scotland’s lochs and rivers will unlock a huge range of benefits, including boosting biodiversity and creating new opportunities for wildlife tourism.”
Trees for Life welcomed the announcement as “a rewilding win for Scotland’s wildlife, climate and farmers.”
Figures published by NatureScot show that 115 beavers were killed and 31 relocated elsewhere in 2020.
Scottish Greens environment spokesman Mark Ruskell said: “The beaver is an endangered and protected species in Scotland, but that did not prevent the killing or exporting of more than a tenth of the population last year.
“The Scottish Greens have been clear that much more can be done to manage and resolve cases where conflict arises, especially through relocating animals in Scotland to areas where they can thrive, creating eco-tourism opportunities and helping restore wetlands.”
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