Beavers are being killed in Tayside in an “atrocious free-for-all” because of SNP delays in giving them legal protection in Scotland, say the Scottish Greens.
At least 21 beavers have been shot dead since the end of 2012, with the Scottish Government admitting they are aware of reports of further deaths, according to a minister’s response to a Holyrood question.
Mark Ruskell, the Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said the failure of the SNP to make a decision on their formal reintroduction to the wild and to offer them proper legal protection has led to unregulated culling.
“Without a clear decision from the Scottish Government on the status of the Tay’s wild beavers, there remains an atrocious free-for-all, where even pregnant and nursing beavers are being shot,” he said.
“European experience shows that beavers can be managed in a way that benefits the wider environment, but that means landowners must be brought on-board by government rather than being left without regulation, guidance and support.”
There is a dispute about the impact of beavers, with some saying they play a positive role in biodiversity and flood relief and others regarding them an agricultural pest, who damage drainage systems and restrict salmon migrations.
The Eurasian species, whose Scottish population is centred in Tayside, are believed to have emerged from private owners releasing the animals into the wild.
Separately, beavers were released under controlled conditions in Argyll in 2009 in an official trial.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “There are complex issues to be resolved around the management and legal status of beavers in Scotland and in particular the beaver population on Tayside, which has significant impacts on some of the most productive agricultural land in Scotland.
“A decision on the future of beavers in Scotland will be announced before the end of the year.”
Among the options available to the Government is removing the beavers, allowing them to remain as they are or reintroducing more to the wild to increase the gene pool.