A beaver has been found dead on a wildlife reserve in Tayside having been shot in the chest.

The female is thought to have been shot elsewhere while foraging and then died from its wounds.

An examination shows it is likely to have died from an infection.

The most recent survey estimates there are around 430 beavers in the Tayside area and reports cited by Scottish National Heritage show anywhere between 50 to 240 have been culled since their reintroduction.

Jonny Hughes, Scottish Wildlife Trust chief executive, said: “We believe this animal was shot elsewhere while foraging and then died from its wounds after returning to its home territory.

“Sadly this beaver is likely to have suffered a slow and painful death, and the loss of the resident female may mean that the complex network of dams and lodges that have developed on the reserve will be abandoned.”

The trust is now calling on the Scottish Government to give beavers European Protected Species in an effort to ensure the dams and lodges are not at risk in future.

Beavers were absent from the wild in Scotland for more than 400 years and the Scottish Beaver Trial in 2016 was the first official reintroduction of a mammal to the UK.

A Government consultation in October last year received more than 500 responses with the majority (83%) supporting the move.

Mr Hughes added: “Without legal protection beavers are subject to unregulated culling. There is no clear picture of how many beavers are being culled or whether this is being done humanely.

“In addition to the significant positive effects that beavers can have on the natural environment, we realise that there some localised negative impacts that need to be managed.

“However, lethal control should be used as an absolute last resort and must be carried out humanely.

“To ensure that beavers are allowed to spread throughout Scotland and any negative impacts are properly managed, the Scottish Government needs to begin the overdue process of giving beavers European Protected Species status as quickly as possible.”

Scottish Greens environment spokesman Mark Ruskell was also critical of the time taken to introduce the protection.

The MSP said: “This persecution continues to be an utter disgrace and is as much a part of Scotland’s shame as the deliberate killing of birds of prey.

“Ministers have failed to introduce the protections and management schemes for beavers they committed to deliver years ago, it’s quite clear that whenever a conservative farming lobby speaks, this Government jumps.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The return of beavers to Scotland’s countryside demonstrates our commitment to protect and enhance biodiversity.

“We have now completed the technical assessments required and expect to bring forward European Protected Status legislation shortly, along with a management system that protects agriculture and other land uses.”