A Moray rewilding charity set to challenge NatureScot in court over licensed killings of wild beavers has raised thousands of pounds to cover its legal costs.
Trees for Life has criticised the national body of “failing in its duty” and breaking the law by allowing the killing of wild beavers on control licenses.
In 2019, almost 90 of the reintroduced mammals were culled which is equivalent to a fifth of the overall population – despite being a protected species.
Last month, the charity launched a crowdfunder in hopes to raise £40,000 to cover the costs of a judicial review.
The charity has received almost £60,000 in donations, which includes £5,000 from TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham’s group Wild Justice.
Trees for Life’s chief executive, Steve Micklewright, said: “It is brilliant to see so many people giving which shows beavers are animals that people really care about.”
The charity wants to ensure lethal control is a “genuine last resort”, with relocation a preferred option.
NatureScot has pinpointed more than 100,000 hectares of habitat suitable for beavers, but the Scottish Government says they cannot be relocated to new areas.
Mr Micklewright added: “We think in this situation everybody would win with farmers no longer being seen as people who shoot beavers and others seeing beavers widely across Scotland.
“We are disappointed that the Scottish Government and Nature Scot will not go down that road.
“We want to ensure that we have everyone behind beavers being reintroduced to places so this doesn’t cause a problem like at River Tay where not everyone agreed.
“Everything is lodged with the courts and we now wait to see what is decided about our legal opinion that the Scottish Government and NatureScot are breaking the law.”
While NatureScot’s Robbie Kernahan added: “We have been working for 25 years to bring back beavers to Scotland because of the benefits they provide to people and nature by improving water quality and flow and creating new habitats that support many other species, so this latest development is quite frustrating.
“We are confident that our approach to managing these impacts is robust and lawful and licences are only used if we are satisfied that there is no other solution.”