Beaver fever

Updated: Apr 27

Forestry and Land Scotland is not a good guardian.
Thoughtlessly removed forest in Glencoe

This is not a new strain of Covid. Instead it is a subject that I feel is symptomatic of the way Scotland's ecological guardians are inept in their respective roles.

Beavers are having a hard time of it at the moment. They are being 'lethally controlled' (i.e. killed) for a variety of reasons, usually by what is termed Land Managers (Estates, Farmers and anyone else who takes umbrage to these animals). There is no particular beaver-killing season, so they can be shot pretty-much anytime of the year. This is not to take a 'pot-shot' at these people (no pun intended!) because they themselves have much to fear from their already marginal profits and one cannot blame them for taking every precaution against adversity. The problem is that Scotland needs a fully-integrated and thoughtful solution and it is just not geared up for that.

NatureScot takes centre-stage when it comes to slaughtering beavers because the organisation freely gives out the licences to people to kill them. It has even provided workshops on how to do this, as reported regularly in the Ferret, and has lately taken to telling anyone who is interested how tasty beavers can be (Beavers Make Good Eating).

Ever since beavers were given 'protected' status, the Scottish government's nature agency has enthusiastically promoted their demise, occasionally with imaginative images of dead animals held aloft by beaming kids (Read Article).

So what are we to make of a government-funded organisation, whose CEO Francesca Osowska incidentally is paid around £119,000 a year, that actively seeks to kill as much wildlife as it can? Because it is not only beavers that it hopes to remove from Scotland. The list of species that it continues to target is quite staggering, as an recent article pointed out:

Since 2014 Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has issued almost 4,000 licences to farmers, landowners and others to kill 97,500 geese, 11,400 hares, 10,000 gannets and 6,000 ravens. Hundreds of goosanders, cormorants, jackdaws, starlings, gulls, magpies and pigeons were also allowed to be killed.

The licences covered a total 63 animal species, 51 of which were birds including many familiar species such as sparrows, robins, tits, blackbirds, thrushes, skylarks, swallows, swifts, swans and herons. Other animals on the hit list were beavers, shrews, moths, fish, lizards and toads.

Source: The Ferret (Jamie Mann/ Rob Edwards).

63 animal species are on the hit list
NatureScot licences bird killings

I don't wish to sound disparaging here, but I kind of get the feeling that NatureScot really is at the forefront of the war against nature. It is especially poignant because the same CEO responsible also railed against wildlife degradation in 2019, warning of a climate 'apocalypse' in Scotland within 10 years. This is not just madness but blundering inefficiency. I say this because the alternative, which is that NatureScot really does want to harm the environment, is too awful to think about.

The evidence is against them. Alongside its' partner agency, Forestry and Land Scotland, these two organisations are really making a concerted attempt to damage Scotland's landscape and ecology. Evidence of damaged and polluted forestry tracks as well as a self-declared desire to issue licences to kill wildlife mean that these agencies really are not fit for purpose. Their activities have even recently attracted legal moves to try and stop them (Read blog article by Mark Avery).

But they are not alone in their damaging ambitions. Other authorities are also doing their bit to ensure a once beautiful landscape is buried under concrete, as when the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority decided to allow a large development on the shores of the loch without overburdening itself with an Environmental Impact Assessment (Read blog article by Nick Kempe).

These organisations have had their chance to prove worthy of our trust and have not only failed to win it but have actively sought to damage our land. Whether by mis-management, ignorance or by design, it matters not. In the age of extinction we have no time spare for them to create more of the same.

Ten years, Ms Osowska?

We'll be lucky to reach that milestone.