A BEAVER named Fig is recovering in the care of the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) after a member of the public found him on a roadside with shocking bullet injuries from a botched shooting.

The distressed animal had been shot in the face, damaging his vital upper incisors – which beavers use to gnaw down the tree stems they eat – and peppering him with shrapnel.

Fresh calls have been made by conservationists to tighten up the rules around the culling of beavers, as a result of Fig’s ordeal.

The SSPCA has not revealed exactly where Fig was found but said the dazed animal was found wandering on a Perthshire roadside.

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The River Tay catchment has a growing population of beavers descended from animals unlawfully released or escaped, and more than 1000 of them live in the wild in Scotland.

Fig has been recovering at the animal rescue charity’s National Wildlife Centre near Alloa in Clackmannanshire, and his teeth have grown back as their roots were undamaged – beaver teeth continually renew as they are worn down. A new home in the wild, safe from shooting, is being organised for him.

The centre’s manager, Chris Hogsden, said: “This beaver, who we have named Fig, came into our care a couple of months ago after he was sadly shot in the Perthshire area. He was found wandering at the side of the road by a member of the public.

“Due to the injuries he sustained, he has undergone extensive rehabilitation at our wildlife hospital. He was shot in the face, taking out his top two incisors and wounding his face.

“There are some small fragments of shrapnel that have been left in situ on welfare grounds after our expert veterinary team concluded that trying to remove them could have posed a greater risk to Fig.

“It’s quite rare for a beaver to come to us, and we’re pleased to report that Fig’s rehab has been a success, and he is doing really well.

“We plan to release him under licence in conjunction with the Beaver Trust to a suitable location as soon as he is ready.”

Animals such as Fig can be shot under licence from the government’s wildlife agency NatureScot, where their dams are causing flooding in farmers’ fields. Some are trapped and “translocated” instead to safe havens, mainly in England.

Beaver advocates – who value the biodiversity their dams create, and say they provide a buffer against flooding – want more translocations to places where beavers are less likely to cause problems, to avoid shootings. Around 280 beavers have been shot under licence since the Scottish Government made them a protected species in 2019.

James Nairne from the Scottish Wild Beaver Group said: “Horrific incidents like this highlight the negative welfare impact of poor firearm use and of a botched lethal control policy.

“To end unnecessary suffering, the Scottish Government urgently needs to implement the recommendations of their own Animal Welfare Report, which specifically called for banning the shooting of beavers in the water, and the recovery of every carcase so that welfare implications can be properly assessed.”

Richard Bunting, spokesperson for the Scottish Rewilding Alliance and the pro-beaver charity Trees for Life, said: “This appalling case is yet another example of why lethal control of beavers needs to be avoided wherever possible.

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“Far more urgency needs to be given to replacing beaver culling with relocating these biodiversity-boosting, habitat-creating, flood-preventing animals from where they are unwanted due to impacts on farmland to areas where they are welcome. Scotland’s public agencies especially need to be stepping up to return beavers to suitable habitat on their land.

“As well as helping Scotland achieve its commitments on bold action for biodiversity and climate, this would help to almost eliminate the licensed killing – some would say needless slaughter – of 10% of Scotland’s beaver population each year, and the associated animal suffering that can go with that, while benefiting farmers at the same time.”

Scottish animal welfare charity OneKind opposes the killing of animals for wildlife management, but its policy officer, Kirsty Jenkins, said: “In situations where shooting is deemed necessary OneKind believes that proficiency tests should be required for any person shooting any species.

“This would reduce the risk of animals being wounded rather than killed instantly, as seems to have been the case here. Such wounding is a serious welfare concern, which in beavers is compounded if they are shot while in the water.

“We are very relieved to hear that the beaver is recovering thanks to the brilliant work of [the] Scottish SPCA. However, he shouldn’t have been in such a grave condition in the first place.”

Since translocation of beavers was made possible by the Scottish Government 18 months ago, only two sites have been licensed by NatureScot to take them.

Government woodland agency Forestry and Land Scotland is working on a number of beaver proposals, including a plan to bring them to its woodlands in Glen Affric.