How can we pro­tect our poults from birds of prey?

Sporting Shooter - - Ask The Experts -

Q Last year we had a lot of prob­lems with birds of prey killing our newly re­leased pheas­ant poults. Can you pro­vide any ad­vice on what we can do this year to pre­vent this?

A THE SPARSHOLT TEAM replies: I don’t think you will ever pre­vent it com­pletely and will have to ac­cept a cer­tain amount of losses to birds of prey, just as you do to roads, dis­eases and over the bound­ary to your neigh­bours. How­ever, there are cer­tain things that will help lower the im­pact that birds of prey have. Which tech­niques are most ef­fec­tive will, in a large part, de­pend on which rap­tors you’re deal­ing with – so the first thing to be clear on is ex­actly which species are caus­ing the prob­lem. This re­quires some care­ful field­craft to ex­am­ine the signs at the kills, or you may even see the cul­prit flee­ing the scene.

Tawny owls and spar­rowhawks are only an is­sue ini­tially un­til the poults grow be­yond them, so some form of de­ter­rent to keep them away from the re­lease pen at this vul­ner­a­ble stage may work. There is a vast range of vis­ual and acous­tic de­ter­rents that will scare preda­tors for a short while, how­ever if used for too long they will just get used to them (ha­bit­u­ated) and they will no longer be ef­fec­tive. How many times have you seen CDs and eye bags hang­ing in re­lease pens in Novem­ber? All the in­hab­i­tants of that wood will just ig­nore them now! The trick with all de­ter­rents is to use them for as short a time as pos­si­ble – when your poults are most vul­ner­a­ble – and keep mov­ing and swap­ping them around.

An­other, of­ten over­looked, tech­nique is to make sure that your poults have plenty of re­ally good es­cape cover in and around the pen that is too thick for most rap­tors to ven­ture into.

Di­ver­sion­ary feed­ing is of­ten mentioned as a tech­nique but I have yet to see any real ev­i­dence of its ef­fec­tive­ness. Even then it’s prob­a­bly only of real value when deal­ing with car­rion eaters, such as buz­zards and kites, as most other rap­tors pre­fer a fresh kill. One thing’s for sure: it will in­crease the num­ber of rap­tors in the area.

The fi­nal so­lu­tion may be to ap­ply for a li­cence to con­trol prob­lem birds but for any chance of this be­ing granted you will need ev­i­dence of the losses and that you have al­ready tried all the above and more.

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