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Interim beaver management advice - March 2016


There are beavers living in the wild in Tayside and in Knapdale. A large proportion of these co-exist with people without issue. There are instances however where conflicts arise and there are many simple and effective actions that land managers can take to help resolve issues.

If you have questions about beavers that you have seen on land you manage there is a great deal of useful information available through the SNH 'Beavers in Scotland' Report to Scottish Government

We can also provide specialist advice on a case by case basis should the need arise. If you feel there may be issues developing that are not covered in the reports, or that some elaboration on techniques is needed then we can provide an advisory site visit. Please contact 01738 458597 or where queries can be answered.

If we find evidence of lethal control that is not in compliance with our advice, we will work with Scottish Ministers to consider the use of Nature Conservation Orders (NCO) on defined areas of land to render further killing illegal.


We strongly discourage lethal control as a solution to an issue. Practical mitigation is usually more successful than direct removal of animals. Removing a beaver simply leaves the territory open for another beaver to move in, so shooting tends to be a short-term solution.

All management should take account of animal welfare issues, in particular for female beavers between April and September when they may have dependent young. Management of beaver lodges and burrows may be conducted during this period but only after considering the welfare implications of the animals using them. If you plan to remove a lodge or block a burrow you should make every effort to ensure that there are no animals using it. Advice from SNH is particularly important in such circumstances.

Humane dispatch

If beavers are to be dispatched by shooting then certain factors should be considered to ensure dispatch is humane. Essential beaver control should usually be exercised between 1 September and 31 March to reduce the welfare risk to dependent young which may be present in a lodge but not seen. Anyone considering shooting during the breeding period is strongly advised to consult SNH to discuss alternative non-lethal management.

Where lethal control is carried out, landowner permission must be granted, and firearm and animal welfare laws must be complied with. Any killing must be swift and humane. SNH will arrange for dead animals to be removed (whether the animals have been shot or have died from other causes), please use the contact details given below.

Welfare laws are likely best met by following the advice below:

Beavers should only be shot by experienced individuals.

Details of firearms and munitions to be used

  • Centrefire rifle with a minimum bullet weight of 50 grains and a minimum muzzle velocity of 2,450ft/sec and a minimum muzzle energy of 1000 foot pounds (1356 joules) (i.e. a rifle legal for controlling roe deer)
  • 12, 16 or 20 bore shotgun with No. 3 shot or larger at a range of no more than 20m.
  • Small diameter shot (smaller than No. 3) is not a humane method of killing beavers unless being used at point blank range.
  • Non-lead shot is required for shooting on or over water with a shotgun, and larger shot sizes may be required to maintain the down-range energy of pellets of lighter material such as steel.

Experience suggests that controlling beavers as they repair dams that have been breached makes the likely position of the beaver more predictable and would allow anyone controlling beavers to be at an appropriate range with a stable firing position.

Legal situation

This information is based on legal advice received by SNH and current best practice in beaver management from Europe. It is not a definitive interpretation of the law, which only a Court can provide.

Beavers are not presently protected in Scotland and it remains an offence to allow beavers to escape from captivity or to release a beaver without a licence from SNH.

Possession of a beaver, alive or dead, which has been taken from the wild in a European Union Member State, is an offence without a licence from SNH.

Contact details

Telephone: 01738 458597 or 01738 444177


Last updated on Friday 1st April 2016 at 15:05 PM. Click here to comment on this page