The government has now published policy and guidance on the management and licensing of beavers, alongside its response to the consultation on the reintroduction and management of beavers.
You will find full information about the laws protecting Eurasian beavers and their habitats, and the steps to follow to manage Eurasian beavers in England at: GOV UK | Beavers: protection and management
We've also produced a briefing for members, which expands on our summary and includes further information on the government's consultation on beaver management and our response.
Download: NFU briefing – Beaver management and licensing update (September 2022)
Legal protection of Eurasian beavers means that from the 1 October 2022, unless a licence is obtained, it will be a criminal offence to:
- deliberately injure, kill, capture, or disturb beavers
- damage or destroy a beaver breeding site or resting place such as a burrow, lodge or associated dam
- keep a beaver or parts of a beaver you have taken from the wild
- transport a beaver
- sell or exchange, or offer a beaver for sale or exchange
Land managers in areas where beaver populations are established in the wild should ensure that they are aware of what actions they can take and when licences are required to ensure that no offences are inadvertently committed.
The government’s beaver protection and management policy outlines the steps that should be followed when managing beavers.
This management hierarchy is supported by Natural England guidance which provides information on how to manage beavers, and when and what licence to apply for.
Some management actions can be undertaken without a beaver management licence.
This includes but is not limited to mitigation activities that prevent beaver damage to trees and crop such as fencing, and the removal or modification of dams less than two weeks old.
Our briefing outlines the management hierarchy and the full list of beaver management that can be undertaken without a licence. Download: NFU briefing – Beaver management and licensing update (September 2022)
To carry out licenced activities, there are three class licenses that can be obtained from Natural England.
The class licences can only be used where there are no other satisfactory solutions. It is important to first consider whether there are any other activities which could be taken to manage the problem, such as those outlined in the management hierarchy.
The three class licences are:
- CL52 – Licence to modify or remove beaver dams outside of the beaver breeding season (1 September and 28 February)
- CL51 - Licence to remove burrows, dams, or lodges
- CL50 - Licence to capture, transport and re-release beavers or modify or remove beaver dams, burrows, and lodges
Our briefing goes into more detail on the different licence categories. Read: NFU briefing – Beaver management and licensing update (September 2022)
To accommodate for some of the actions needed to mitigate against the impact of beavers, there are two capital items for beaver protection which are available through the Countryside Stewardship Protection and Infrastructure (CSPI) scheme.
The two new items are:
- BC3 - Crop protection mesh wire fencing for permanent crops
- BC4 - Tree guard post and wire
Full details for BC3 and BC4 can be found in the updated CSPI manual at GOV.UK | Protection and Infrastructure: Countryside Stewardship
There is currently no funding to cover any other actions or to compensate for impacts of beavers e.g., loss of land, damage to machinery/animals, flooding.
Beaver management consultation
Alongside the beaver protection and management policy and guidance, the government also released its response to the consultation on the reintroduction and management of beavers. Visit: GOV.UK | Beaver reintroduction and management consultation outcome – summary of responses and next steps
The NFU response to the consultation and our subsequent reaction to beavers becoming a protected species can be read in this article.
Beavers given legal protection without clear management plan
The government consultation received over 3000 responses, from a mix of individuals and organisations. The proposals lead to a wide range of views, some responses supported the release of beavers into the wild, while others reflected the NFU concerns about the negative impacts and costs to farmers and land managers of wild beaver reintroductions.
In the consultation response the Government outlined that it would continue to undertake further work to develop its approach to beaver reintroductions including the criteria for wild releases. Government confirmed that at present it is illegal to release a beaver into the wild or an enclosure without a licence. Natural England will not be considering applications for licences for any further releases of beavers into the wild until the national approach is finalised and there are a sufficient number of registered class licence users to facilitate an effective management approach. The NFU would like to see Government further engage with farmers and landowners before it finalises the national approach to the wild release of beavers.
Your questions answered
Does this mean that beavers can now be released into the wild without a licence?
No. At present it is illegal to release a beaver into the wild or an enclosure without a licence. Natural England will not be considering applications for licences for any further releases of beavers into the wild until the national approach is finalised and there are a sufficient number of registered class licence users to facilitate an effective management approach.
Who is responsible for managing wild beavers not part of a licenced release project?
Where beavers are wild (and not part of a licenced release project) the position is the same as for other wild animals, and landowners will be responsible for managing the population and the impacts on their land.
Will landowners or managers be compensated for the impacts of beavers on their land?
No. As with other species of wild animals, there is currently no compensation for the impacts of beaver activity on land. There are two capital items to help with the cost of protecting trees and crops from beaver damage – this is for mitigation not compensation. Landowners and managers may therefore wish to consider exploring whether there are any suitable insurance products available if there are areas which are likely to be susceptible to beaver damage.
What beaver management activities can be undertaken out without requiring a licence?
There are a number of actions outlined in the Natural England guidance which can be undertaken without a licence, but it will be important to select the right options for each specific situation. Visit: GOV.UK | Managing beaver activity and land without a licence
Advice from a suitable expert may be beneficial if you have limited knowledge of beaver management to ensure that the measures adopted are suitable, carried out safely and appropriately, and will not result in an offence being committed.