Skip to content

Beavers win legal protection: further debate

  • by JW

The NFU expresses disappointment.

Conservationists oppose the use of “lethal control”.


Earlier in the summer, the government announced its intentions to protect beavers:

Beavers win legal protection – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Last week, significant protections were announced:

New law gives beavers protection from harm | Sidmouth Herald

Since then, there has been further comment:

The NFU has expressed disappointment that government guidance on reintroducing beavers into England was released without prior consultation. Laws governing the release of Eurasian beavers were introduced in July, with guidance on management measures for the species published at the end of last week

Guidance on wild release of beavers in England sparks debate – Farmers Weekly (paywall)

Indeed in July, the NFU was not pleased:

NFU responds to beavers being given legal protection by government – NFUonline

NFU criticises ‘last minute’ legislation giving beavers legal protection – FarmingUK News

However, whilst the beaver will become a protected species, it will still be possible to get a licence to ‘manage’ them, as the government guidance makes clear:

The Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) is a European protected species from 1 October 2022.

This means you must have a licence to carry out certain actions when managing beavers. Further information is available in Beavers: how to manage them and when you need a licence.

This guidance provides information on the normal land management and beaver activity management actions you can take without a beaver management licence. It also provides information on how you can prevent or reduce negative effects of beaver activity, without deliberately disturbing beavers or damaging their breeding and resting sites.

Managing beaver activity and land without a licence – GOV.UK

The Guardian’s report on the new protections takes these different aspects into account:

Farmers in England will be allowed to shoot beavers if they threaten their crops, the government has revealed. Conservationists have opposed the move, saying the animals are an “ally to farmers”, helping conserve water in times of drought, and are an endangered species that should be treasured. The rodents became extinct in the UK 400 years ago after they were hunted for their pelts, but in recent years they have been reintroduced to England and Scotland.

After the wetland-creating creatures were found on the River Otter in Devon in 2013, the government allowed them to stay to test their impact on fish stocks and local landowners. A study in 2019 found the beavers had enhanced biodiversity in the area and increased fish stocks. Since then, the wheels have been set in motion for beavers to be recognised as a native English species and so be protected from harm. From 1 October, beavers in England will enjoy enhanced protection, paving the way for their repopulation of the country’s waterways.

However, until now it was unknown whether farmers and landowners would be allowed to kill, rather than simply remove, beavers that may chop down trees or flood farmland. Government guidance released this weekend said that, as a last resort, “lethal control” may be used.

Farmers in England to be allowed to use ‘lethal force’ on beavers | UK news | The Guardian