If you want to release beavers in Wales, even if they will be kept in an enclosure, you will need a licence from NRW.

Beavers and the law

Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) is listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This means that it is an offence to release them into the wild without a licence.

Our interpretation of guidance issued jointly by Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government in 2011 means that releases into enclosures are also considered to be “into the wild” for licensing purposes in Wales. The only exceptions are artificial enclosures in zoos or similar highly controlled environments that are isolated from the natural environment.

Applying for a licence to release beavers into the wild or into an enclosure in Wales

You must ensure that your proposal is developed in line with the IUCN Guidelines for Reintroductions and other Conservation Translocations. An assessment of your proposal against these guidelines will be part of the licensing process. Because enclosure releases are considered to be “into the wild” they will also need to be assessed against these guidelines, including an assessment of the potential consequences of escapes.

You will need to submit the following. Each should be separate documents or separate sections of a document:

Application form for the release of a schedule 9 species

This is available here

Project proposal and method statement

This must set out the objectives and aims of the proposal, key milestones, detailed descriptions of the methods that will be used including how the beavers will be sourced and transported and how their welfare will be ensured.

Summary of prior stakeholder engagement

Early engagement with potentially affected landholders, local communities, and other stakeholders, such as those with fishing interests or utility companies with infrastructure in the area, is vital. Explain how you have identified stakeholders, worked with them to understand any concerns and agreed mitigation where required.

Also include any discussions you have had with local environment officers or species specialists from NRW.

General risk assessment

This should identify and consider potential impacts, including on:

  • local ecosystems
  • hydrology and flood risk
  • migratory and other fish
  • the spread of disease
  • neighbouring land
  • nearby infrastructure such as roads, railways, or utilities
  • water quality and private water supplies
  • any protected sites or species that may be affected

If specific concerns have been raised by neighbouring landowners or other stakeholders, you should ensure they are considered in the risk assessment.

Veterinary risk assessment

This should use the following format and must be signed-off by a qualified vet:

  1. Risk assessment
  2. Risk pathways
  3. Summary of risk factors
  4. Summary of mitigation factors
  5. Summary of key uncertainties/assumptions
  6. Final risk/likelihood estimation
  7. Conclusions of the risk assessment
  8. Summary of veterinary impact/consequences
  9. Summary of the likelihood
  10. Veterinary advice and options
  11. Recommendations
  12. Executive summary

We will share this with the Welsh Government Office of the Chief Veterinary Officer and ask for their advice as part of the application process.

Enclosure specifications and maintenance plan (enclosure releases only)

This must include details of the design and materials of the proposed enclosure and include plans and drawings as necessary. The maintenance plan should set out the inspection and maintenance regime that will be followed for the lifetime of the structure and provide details of any additional security and monitoring measures, such as CCTV.

Escape and recapture plan (enclosure releases only)

You must set out how you will respond if beavers escape the enclosure. You will need to confirm that the necessary procedures, personnel, and resources will be in place to promptly locate and recapture any escaped animals. Although this is marked as “enclosure releases only” it may also be relevant for wild releases where there is a need to manage dispersal.

Impact mitigation plan (wild release only)

If you are proposing a wild release, you will need to set out a long-term plan for managing any negative impacts on neighbouring land or infrastructure, for instance from damming, tree felling, or burrowing.

Exit strategy

This must provide a detailed explanation of what will happen at the close of the project as well as what will happen if the project needs to be ended early. The exit strategy should also set out circumstances that might require early closure and explain how key decisions will be made and by whom.

Following best practice

Applications are more likely to be successful if they follow current best practice guidelines.

The 2013 Captive Management Guidelines for Eurasian Beaver, published by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, provides a useful reference for enclosure proposals, although some elements such as the use of ear tags or electric ‘hotwires’ are no longer considered best practice.

NatureScot have published case studies and guidance for Scotland that should also be essential reading for anyone developing a proposal to release beavers in Wales. There have also been a number of useful case studies in England.

When you will know if your application has been successful

We aim to determine most species licences within 40 working days of receiving all the necessary information. However, because beaver releases are relatively novel in Wales, they may be considered of high public interest and be subject to public consultation. They also need to be considered under the IUCN Guidelines on Reintroductions and other Conservation Translocations. This means we may need longer to make a decision.

You can help us to consider your application quickly by ensuring you have submitted all the information we ask for. We will keep you informed as the determination progresses.

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