Official figures show that legal culls of ‘problem’ beavers fall under support for species expansion in Scotland

The animals are valued for their positive impact on the environment and their abilities as natural ‘ecosystem engineers’.

But they can also damage trees and agricultural land.

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The species was successfully reintroduced to Scotland in 2009 after being extinct for centuries, and the Scottish Government has announced that it will support its natural range.

A law was passed in 2019 giving the species protected status, meaning it is illegal to kill or disturb it.

But in places where dam construction and other beaver behavior is having a negative impact, animals can be removed or culled with special permission.

It is estimated that around 1,000 of them currently live in at least 250 areas across the country, mostly in Tayside, and the population is growing by around a third every year.

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Beavers are to be relocated across Scotland to help the species spread and avoid culling

Beavers were given legal protections in Scotland in 2019 after being successfully reintroduced into the wild – but animals can be killed or relocated with permission to remove them from areas where they are damaging agricultural land. Image: Lorne Gill/NatureScot

NatureScot license returns show a total of 120 beavers were trapped in Tayside in 2021 to prevent serious damage to agriculture.

Of those, 87 were killed – fewer than 115 last year but the same as in 2019.

The other 33 were moved to licensed projects elsewhere – a small increase from 2020.

A total of 47 dams were also removed.

Beaver culling has caused controversy in recent years, including public outrage following reports that pregnant females have been killed.

This year’s figures show the largest proportion of prisoners ever placed in more suitable homes – up from 15 percent in 2019 to 28 percent in 2021.

The agency said it was confident the killings would not have a negative impact on the species’ “favourable” conservation status.

Lorna Slater, Secretary of State for Biodiversity and co-leader of the Scottish Greens, said: “The restoration of this previously extinct species is an important milestone in restoring nature, but also important because beavers are helping to restore Scotland’s natural environment and help contain it contribute to flooding.” Following the Scottish Government Having decided last year to actively support the expansion of the beaver population, I would like to continue to see greater use of resettlement and other mitigation measures to ensure that people and beavers can live side by side .”

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