Beavers picked up by rescue workers are being released south of the Border after a rehoming site stopped accepting new arrivals.

The move has caused anger among conservationists, who campaigned to have the rodents reintroduced into the Scottish eco-system.

The dam-building mammals are usually given safe sanctuary in Argyll.

But the quango which manages the area is refusing to add to the numbers.

Scottish National Heritage (SNH) said the sprawling woodland now has its full beaver quota.

Campaigners have accused the Scottish Government of caving in to pressure from landowners, who say the animals cause problems for farmers.

It comes just a year after the species was given new legal protection.

Last month, a rare black beaver called Glen was rescued from a hydroelectric plant in Perthshire by the Scottish SPCA.

But the charity, which is caring for him at its wildlife hospital in Clackmannanshire, says it can’t release him in Scotland.

Derek Gow said he has moved about 10 beavers from Scotland to England in 12 months.

Derek Gow, who has worked on the animals’ reintroduction across the UK, said he has moved about 10 beavers from Scotland to England in 12 months.

He said: “It’s absolutely crazy. Why in the hell would you be sending them to England if Scotland was supportive about their reintroduction?

“There’s no reason apart from politics.

“All we have here is big farmers shouting loudly – and the Scottish Government backing down.”

Dr Roisin Campbell-Palmer, a beaver expert and environmental consultant, said: “It’s far from ideal as there is plenty of habitat in Scotland suitable to home beavers. However, these are beavers that have been trapped in a lot of cases and the alternative would be that they are killed.

“I prefer to see them being taken to England than killed.”

A Scottish SPCA spokesman said: “Due to current licencing restrictions, the beaver cannot be released anywhere legally in Scotland but the area it was picked up from.

“As there is a welfare issue with putting it back in the territory it was found, we would have to relocate the beaver and we cannot do this due to the restrictions.

“The beaver is going to be relocated, and released, in England.

“It would be preferable if we could release beavers in Scotland and would support this move should the necessary licensing be reviewed by the Scottish Government.”

The only official site to translocate beavers is in Knapdale Forest, Argyll.

SNH said the area may be able to accept more beavers – which can grow to the size of a large dog – in the future.

Beavers were hunted to extinction in the 16th century, mainly for fur and oil.

About 500 beavers live across Scotland, mainly around the River Tay, where they were introduced illegally, and in Knapdale Forest.

They are preserved by law as a European Protected
Species, which came into force in Scotland on May 1 last year.

But SNH can grant a licence to cull the animals.

A spokeswoman for SNH said: “As there are no conservation translocation projects up and running at the current time in Scotland other than Knapdale, any animals are going to England, where there are several licensed conservation
projects under way.”

A Scottish Government spokesman added: “Since May 2019, 15 beavers have been translocated under licence in Scotland.

“Those animals were moved to the original reintroduction site in Argyll as well as sites in England at the request of individual conservation projects.”