Residential property
23 May 2019 News

Beavers - Protected Species Status Explained

The Beaver; to some a harmless woodland creature, to others a destructive menace. For those in the latter category it’s unlikely the recent announcement, that Beavers have received European Protected Species status, was welcomed with open arms. With a new Licencing Scheme and strict controls on what a landowner can do it would be easy to view things as flowing in one direction.  

Protected Status

As of May 1st, Beavers have been added to the list of species protected under Schedule 2 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c) Regulations 1994 (as amended) in accordance with the EU Habitats Directive. This new status makes it an offence for someone to deliberately capture, disturb or kill a Beaver.  It also makes it an offence to damage or destroy a breeding site of a Beaver.

While the status appears to be a blanket protection, there is opportunity for landowners to carry out actions to tackle a Beaver problem where they have obtained a Licence to do so. The Licencing scheme administered by Scottish Natural Heritage aims to monitor and manage actions by landowners which pose the highest risk to Beaver conservation. Licences are only granted in certain circumstances and are for a set time period dependant on the action that is going to be undertaken by the landowner.

When is a Licence Required?

A licence is only required if you intend to do the following;

  • Remove a dam which is more than 2 weeks old, notch or install flow devices to them
  • Destroy lodges or chambered burrows
  • Trap and relocate the beavers
  • Cull beavers on your land.

In circumstances where a dam is less than two weeks old a licence will not be required to remove it. Moreover, a licence will not be required when taking preventative measures including protecting the river bank from burrowing activity, infilling channels created by beavers, fitting tree protectors or fencing off areas to prevent access by Beavers.

The Licensing Test

In considering a Licence application, the following three stage test must be met;

  • There is a legitimate problem to be addressed such as preventing serious damage, public health reasons or social, economic and environmental purposes.
  • All other actions out with the Licence Scheme have been exhausted in attempting to resolve the problem.
  • The granting of a Licence will not have a negative impact on the Beavers conservation status. This does not preclude the granting of a licence to cull but in such circumstances restrictions will be put in place.

In the event that beavers are affecting land classed as Prime Agricultural Land then the tests will be deemed to have been met and a licence should be issued.

While the regulations and licensing may appear an additional difficulty from a land management point of view they need not be so. Scottish Natural Heritage have a dedicated help line set up to provide advice on when a Licence may be necessary and further information on Beaver Management Techniques. In some circumstances they are offering free site visits to advise on Licence applications.

This change in status may be a positives one for the beavers but if administered as planned it could be equally as positive for landowners. Going forward, taking preventative steps such as fence building and regularly checking land for signs of damage or dam building will be key to ensure early intervention before any action falls under the Licence Scheme or for ensuring you can show that a Licence is wholly necessary.  

For more information on this recent change in the law and how licencing provisions may affect you, please contact a member of the Land and Rural Business Team.

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