FARMERS are rushing to shoot as many beavers as possible before a new protection order comes into place, it has been claimed.
The Scottish government has been considering granting protected status to beavers since 2015 – but there are currently still no laws governing when or where they can be shot.
Now it has been claimed that gamekeepers and farmers are shooting as many of the animals as possible before the government makes a decision on their legal protection.
The claim has been revealed under a freedom of information request to the Scottish Government who have released internal communications about beavers since June last year.
On February 12 this year, an email to government officials stated that farmers in the Strathmore and Forfar areas of Angus were killing beavers ahead of the proposed new protective legislation.
The email read: “It was clear from discussions that farmers and gamekeepers are shooting as many beavers as possible just now before they become protected.
“I suspect they will be just shooting them in the water, which might result in injuries rather than death much of the time.
“Like seals that are shot in the water no doubt they will just float off downstream or die in their lodge.”
Beaver experts have called for the Scottish Government to push through new legislation to protect the large rodents.
Paul Ramsay from the The Scottish Wild Beaver Group said: “This callous approach has already hardened the differences of attitude between conservationists and these farmers in ways that will be hard to undo.
“An urgent response is needed by the Scottish government to protect these much-loved and beneficial animals and to provide farmers with an incentive to look for a better response to the situation.”
The National Farmers’ Union is opposed to the reintroduction of beavers because of the problems they can cause to farmer’s fields.
Landowners have said that beavers can cause damage to trees and cause flooding in fields from nearby burns and rivers where they have built dams.
Andrew Bauer, the union’s deputy policy director said: “It remains a huge source of frustration to farmers across Tayside and Strathmore that decisions about the beaver population, illegally released without any appropriate permissions or safeguards, remain outstanding.”
In March, the then Environment minister, Aileen McLeod, stated that no decision on the status of beavers would be released until later this year.
There are estimated to be 150 beavers living wild in the Tayside area where they have been since at least 2006.
Possessing and moving a dead beaver is illegal without a licence in the UK, however, a licence is not required to shoot them.