Protected Status for Beaver in Scotland Becomes Law

Big changes to how we can manage beaver in Scotland took place on the 1st May, this is a short summary on beaver and what measures are now in place.

After a reintroduction trial in Knapdale and an unplanned influx in Angus, beaver are now prevalent throughout some areas of Scotland. We’ve had little reason to understand this once native animal since it became extinct around the 16th Century so here are some key facts about their ecology:

  • They live for up to 14 years with a litter of between 2-4 kits each year.
  • Beaver are territorial, living in tight family groups and are most active in their modifications in autumn as they prepare for winter.

As of the 1st May 2019, beaver have been given protected status in Scotland. This means that in order to control them by certain measures you will require a licence granted by the Scottish Governmental outfit Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). It is likely that licences will only be granted as a last resort when beaver are causing direct damage to agricultural crops or public health and safety is at risk, and the licence will last for 2 years (with a renewal option). Where lethal control measures would affect conservation areas a licence would not be granted. The table below details what actions will continue to be acceptable without a licence and which ones will need to be granted by SNH.



Lethal control: killing + trapping

Manipulating/removing dams (<12 mths)

Manipulating/removing dams (>12 mths)

Destruction of simple burrows

Destroying lodges/burrows



The land owner on being granted the licence must appoint an accredited controller to undertake the work. This accredited controller may be themselves, but it is paramount that they have accredited controller status. The conditions of the licence will lay out best practice, firearm preference and instructions on how to provide evidence in your report back to SNH. Notification must be given to SNH within 7 days if lethal control is taking place, otherwise the report will be in the form of annual returns.

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