Politicians in Scotland have agreed to give beavers in Argyll and Tayside the right to stay.
The Scottish Government have ruled that the mammals can remain, despite the controversy they have generated from some land owners who believe they pose a threat to water courses and may damage fish stocks.
Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the beavers will have to be “actively managed, in line with practices in other European countries”. But she announced work had begun to ensure beavers can be added to Scotland’s list of protected species as soon as possible. It will be the first time a mammal has been officially reintroduced to the UK.
“The decision had been awaited for more than a year following the conclusion of the five year Scottish beaver trial that was based in Knapdale,”.
“For the wild populations of beavers in Scotland this is great news, because there has until now been nothing to stop anyone disturbing or killing the animals.
In Scotland, they have agreed the following rules:
Legal protection, in accordance with the EU Habitats Directive
Beavers allowed to expand their range naturally
Active management to minimise adverse impacts on farmers and other land owners
Central to the arguments in Scotland is the fact that most animal experts agree beavers were present in the UK in the past and so should be be treated as a reintroduction rather than a foreign invader.
The Scottish Government reports: “Research has shown beavers, which were native to Scotland before being hunted to extinction in the 16th century, provide important biodiversity benefits.
“However, the animals can also cause significant difficulties for farmers and land managers in vital agricultural areas.”
The impacts of beavers in Scotland have been closely monitored by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) at both the official Scottish Beaver Trial site in Knapdale in Argyll and also on Tayside, where the species has become established after being released illegally.
Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “I have been determined to find a pragmatic approach, which balances the biodiversity benefits of reintroducing beavers with the obvious need to limit difficulties for our farmers.
“I want to put on record my appreciation of the efforts of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, NFU Scotland, the Royal Scottish Zoological Society, and Scottish Land and Estates who have worked in partnership to set out a way forward.
“Beavers promote biodiversity by creating new ponds and wetlands, which in turn provide valuable habitats for a wide range of other species.
“We want to realise these biodiversity benefits while limiting adverse impacts on farmers and other land users. This will require careful management.
“Today’s announcement represents a major milestone in our work to protect and enhance Scotland’s world renowned biodiversity.
“But I want to be absolutely clear that while the species will be permitted to extend its range naturally, further unauthorised releases of beavers will be a criminal act.
“Swift action will be taken in such circumstances to prevent a repeat of the experience on Tayside.”