SCOTTISH beavers are being shipped to England as part of a “bizarre” trade sanctioned by the public body responsible for Scotland's natural heritage, the Greens have claimed. 

NatureScot is planning to move some of the animals south of the border to different conservation projects. They say that it's about avoiding the use of "lethal control".

Under current legislation beavers are a protected species, though farmers and landowners can apply for licenses to kill them if they're building dams which threaten to flood fields.

In 2019, 87 beavers were shot between 1 May 2019, when they gained protected status from the Scottish Government, and 31 December 2019. 

At least ten of the animals were kits, less than a year old. That prompted concerns from the members of the Scottish Beaver Forum. 

NatureScot say that concern has led to them “putting even greater” into trapping the animals for “translocation”.

Between 25 August and 5 September this year, 16 beavers have been trapped in Tayside.

One animal was re-released locally, while another 11 have been released at five different projects in England. A further four animals are currently at a holding facility until trapping of the family group is complete

In a parliamentary answer to Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell, the Environment Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham revealed that 16 other projects in England had requested a total of 112 beavers from Scotland. 

The Greens described it as a "bizarre illicit beaver trade." 

Ruskell said the sheer number involved was alarming. The last Scottish beaver survey estimated there were about 433 beavers in Tayside in 114 territories.

He said: “While exile is better than execution, this bizarre situation is what happens when a government wants to simultaneously protect and eradicate an animal from our country. 

“The fact is there are farmers and nature reserves in Scotland who would welcome beaver populations. Instead we are exporting these creatures en masse. Beavers are native to Scotland, we should be translocating them across the country so we can build a healthy population here. 

"Translocated beavers could bring eco-tourism to new areas of Scotland, while restoring the nature rich wetlands we need to protect against floods. Beavers are nature’s expert engineers, they are needed at home in Scotland and shouldn’t be shot or shipped to England.”

A NatureScot spokesperson said: “We continue to work with partners on a range of measures – including mitigation, trapping and translocation - to lessen the impact beavers are having and reduce the need for control measures.

“In 2019, 19 beavers were trapped and translocated to Knapdale and England. This year, in response to concerns expressed by some members of the Scottish Beaver Forum and others regarding the level of lethal control of beavers in 2019, we are putting even greater effort into trapping animals for translocation and moving them to conservation projects in England. 

“The quoted figure of 112 is incorrect. Since trapping started in August a total of 15 beavers have been successfully trapped and translocated.

“We continue to look into opportunities for conservation translocations within and on the edge of beavers’ existing range in the Tay and Forth catchments. These must be carefully planned, and local stakeholders consulted, as part of the Scottish Code for Conservation Translocations.”