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Only five beavers relocated in Scotland last year despite Scottish Government promise

Beavers have been a contentious issue in Scotland.

Land managers killed 87 beavers last year despite a Scottish Government promise to move them to a new home instead.

Conservationists managed to move five beavers to a location in Scotland and 26 to sites in England and Wales.

Two beavers died while trapped due to “pre-existing injuries”.

The 120 beavers either killed or moved make up around 10% of the total estimated beaver population in Scotland.

Fewer beavers killed than in 2020

Land managers killed 115 animals in 2020, meaning 28 fewer deaths in 2021.

The SNP and the Greens pledged to move beavers, rather than allow them to be killed, in August last year.

Biodiversity Minister Lorna Slater said reintroducing beavers to Scotland is a “major nature restoration milestone”.

“Following the Scottish Government’s decision last year to actively support the expansion of the beaver population, I want to continue to see greater use of translocation and other mitigation measures to ensure that people and beavers can live side-by-side.

“We will therefore continue to encourage conversations between land managers and NatureScot to facilitate translocation and help to expand beaver numbers across the country.”

Ministers granted beavers protection status in 2019. Land managers, therefore, need a licence to remove or destroy them.

NatureScot typically grants that if beavers are shown to be damaging farm land or protected trees.

Conservationists moved some of the beavers from Tayside to London.

Conservationists targeting ‘new catchments’ for beavers

Robbie Kernahan is green economy director at NatureScot.

He said the proportion of beavers trapped and moved last year increased to 28% from 15% in 2019.

“Beavers can play an important role in helping to restore biodiversity and respond to the climate emergency in Scotland.

“We aim to see further releases into new catchments in Scotland this year.”

The SNP and Scottish Greens published their coalition deal in August last year.

Ministers pledged in the deal to make more use of translocation, “including considering other locations in Scotland” as opposed to killing beavers.

Biodiversity minister Lorna Slater, left, with Sara Rasmussen of the Scottish Wildlife Trust and NatureScot chief executive Francesca Osowska next to a tree gnawed by a beaver.

Biodiversity minister Lorna Slater went on to officially announce the policy in November 2021 during a visit to Loch of the Lowes near Dunkeld.

NatureScot said in a statement that the figures for 2021 do not reflect its relocation policy, as that comes into effect this summer.

A spokesperson said the agency is “accelerating preparations”.

Officials are also developing a National Beaver Strategy to set out a “long-term vision” for the animal’s future.

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