Pregnant beaver illegally shot dead in Scotland, weeks after species given protected status

Animal endured ‘significant unnecessary suffering’ before dying

An investigation has been launched after a pregnant beaver was found shot dead on a riverbank between Crieff and Comrie in Perthshire
An investigation has been launched after a pregnant beaver was found shot dead on a riverbank between Crieff and Comrie in Perthshire

A pregnant beaver has been illegally shot dead on a riverbank in Scotland, three weeks after the species was given protected status.

The Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) said the animal endured “significant unnecessary suffering” before its death.

Since 1 May it has been illegal to kill beavers or destroy established dams and lodges in Scotland without a licence as they now have European Protected Species status.

The animal’s body was discovered on a riverbank between Crieff and Comrie in Perthshire, central eastern Scotland, in late April.

A Scottish SPCA chief inspector, who cannot be named due to his undercover work, said: “We can confirm we are investigating a report of a deceased pregnant beaver which had been killed in a manner that caused significant unnecessary suffering.

“Legislation to protect beavers was put in place on 1 May and outlines that as a way of minimising the impact on land use in some areas, the culling of beavers can be carried out by licensed and trained persons using humane methods which avoid unnecessary suffering and gives due regard to animal welfare.

“The beaver was shot and could be proven to have suffered significantly before being killed.

“The legislation states that all attempts should be made to protect the entire family group and avoid lethal control during pregnancy or kit dependency period.

“We want to ensure the welfare of beavers in the wild and any dependent young they may have.”

The death comes days after wildlife campaigners warned Scottish beavers are being killed in “cruel and callous” ways despite full protection under European law.

The creatures are being “bludgeoned to death” during the breeding season on the River Tay, according to ecologists.

Beavers were first released in Tayside in 2006 and for 13 years they had no protected status. Farmers and landowners – who consider beavers a problem because their dams cause flooding and damage crops – have often been criticised for killing them in cruel ways.

Since 1 May farmers and landowners have had to apply for a licence which stipulates that killing must be “done in such a way so as to minimise welfare impacts”.

The Scottish government has already issued 28 licences to kill beavers and remove dams. Approximately 170 people have been accredited as beaver controllers so they too could also apply for licences. There are only 450 beavers on the Tay.

Sources have estimated 200 or more beavers have been killed on the Tay so far.

“The population simply cannot take this. I’m not sure where this will leave the species in Scotland,” ecologist Derek Gow told The Independent earlier this month.

The Scottish SPCA said beavers are a “fascinating species” capable of the intricate engineering of dams and they can have a positive impact on their surrounding environment and ecosystem.

The organisation said it will be investigating all reports of the killing of beavers where welfare has been compromised.

It urged anyone with information to phone the confidential animal helpline on 03000 999 999.

Beavers disappeared from the UK more than 400 years ago due to human persecution but a project to reintroduce them began in 2009.

The population of around 450 beavers in Scotland are in two separate populations, in Tayside and mid-Argyll.

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