Farmers are rushing to shoot as many beavers as possible before a new protection order comes into place, it is claimed.
The Scottish Government has been considering granting protected status to beavers since 2015 but there are currently no laws governing when or where they can be shot.
Now it has been claimed 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, an email to government officials stated 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 before they become protected. I suspect they will be just shooting them in the water, which might result in injuries rather than death.”
Beaver experts have called for the government to push through new legislation to protect the large rodents.
Paul Ramsay of The Scottish Wild Beaver Group said: “This callous approach has already hardened the differences of attitude between conservationists and these farmers.
“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 fields. Landowners say 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 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 no decision on the status of beavers would be released until later this year.