The “best available scientific evidence” meant a Scottish Government agency could be sure the conservation status of beavers would not be impacted by authorising their killing, a court has been told.
Trees for Life sought a judicial review claiming NatureScot is breaking the law by failing to make the practice against the protected species a last resort when land management is required.
Ruth Crawford QC, representing the agency, told a virtual hearing of the Court of Session on Friday that data available to her clients meant they could be certain the population would not be too negatively impacted.
She said: “The evidence relied upon by [NatureScot] did afford [them] with reasonable certainty that the favourable conservation status tests would be met.
Ms Crawford added: “They were entitled to be certain on the best scientific evidence available before them that the three licensing tests set out in [regulations] were met.”
The lawyer told the court that moving the beavers to a different location was not a “simple process”, as there were a number of risks including them dying in the trapping process or not settling their new environment.
It was heard a draft report showed population numbers and the area colonised by beavers in the River Tay catchment area had grown since 2017/2018 levels.
This is despite lethal control being authorised by the government agency.
James Findlay QC, representing Scottish Ministers and NFU Scotland, reiterated this point in his argument.
He said: “They are not even declining, they are increasing in both population and territory – notwithstanding the licensing regime that has been in place.”
The lawyer added: “There are very real issues that go well beyond inconvenience for those who I represent and a need for speedy efficient action to deal with problems caused by beavers where they will impact on prime agricultural land.”
Aidan O’Neill QC, presenting Trees for Life, argued that moving the beavers to different locations as an alternative means of dealing with problems of land damage had a good success rate.
He told the court of figures he had been shown that 37 of the species had been trapped and all had survived after 30 days of capture and translocation.
Mr O’Neill added: “We have just had a quick check on that and the latest information that we have received is that survival rates of beavers since 2019 are being scientifically assessed with professional vet input.
“The survival rates are said to be very high for those translocated and the results will be published very shortly.”
Judge Lady Carmichael told the court she would produce a ruling “as soon as reasonably possible”.