The Scottish Government’s decision yesterday to formally recognise the Eurasian beaver as a native species has been given a frosty reception by NFU Scotland.
The union said it will insist upon proper management of the species to avoid an unacceptable impact on agriculture and called for ‘monitoring and pragmatic interventions’ to prevent future issues.
Beavers cause problems on low-lying agricultural land because they increase water levels by damming drainage channels, felling trees and burrowing into flood banks.
Rob Livesey, NFU Scotland’s vice president, said: “NFU Scotland believes the release of beavers into Tayside was illegal, should never have happened, and should not have been allowed to lead to the situation we have today. We expect any future illegal activity of this type to be dealt with as a wildlife crime.”
It is thought the beavers escaped or were deliberately – and illegally – released between Loch Tay and the Fife coast in around 2002. There are estimated to be around 150 now living in the area.
In 2010, when there were thought to be just 20 beavers, Scottish Natural Heritage said it would capture the animals but failed to do so.
Farmers have been attempting to deal with the problem on their own since then, but one who removed dozens of dams received hate mail and was abused online.
Mr Livesey added: “In the announcement by the environment secretary, she acknowledged the impacts beavers can have on agriculture, and accepts the need for a fit-for-purpose management regime.
“It is essential that Scottish agriculture is not negatively affected by this decision and its implementation, and NFU Scotland will continue to work with its members who are concerned and whose land has been impacted by beavers.”
Set the standard
Environmental groups such as the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) and Rewilding Britain have celebrated the move to recognise the beaver, with SWT saying in a statement: “The Scottish Beaver Trial has set the standard for species reintroductions in the UK.
“The announcement from the Scottish Government underlines the widespread benefits both to habitats, other species and the local economy beavers can bring.”