Final report on managing moorland for game and wildlife conservation is published.
Report on managing moorland for game and wildlife conservation
Adecade-long project established to resolve the conflict between grouse shooting and birds of prey has revealed its results in a report released in October. Though numbers of hen harriers and merlin on Langholm Moor, in the Scottish Borders, increased thanks to gamekeepers controlling ground predators such as foxes and corvids, grouse productivity did not rise enough for shooting to take place. When predator control was removed towards the end of the project, hen harrier numbers declined. “If there’s no moorland management, there are no birds of prey either,” says Adam Smith, policy director for the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) in
Scotland, one of the partners in the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project.
Moorland owners say predator control can only be funded if there are sufficient numbers of grouse to be shot by paying clients. This is where the conflict kicks in.
“Mortality associated with raptor signs was the most important factor determining adult grouse survival and was closely linked, possibly alongside weather, to low rates of chick survival,” the report states.
Grouse shooting supporters say they need to be able to reduce this impact. Brood management – whereby chicks are removed from their parents and raised in captivity, to be released later on – is being trialled in England, but Smith believes other interventions may be necessary.
“The next stage may be nest management to influence the number of breeding sites or the ability of birds of prey to hatch eggs,” he says.
But Jeremy Wilson, head of conservation science for RSPB Scotland, which was also a project partner, says targets for grouse bags – the number of grouse shot in a season – are becoming unsustainable.
“In the history of grouse bags at Langholm since World War II, shooting 2,000 grouse – the target set for the estate – has been the exception rather than the rule,” Wilson says, “so perhaps this target was too ambitious in retrospect.”
Moorland owners, he says, need to lower their sights. The report itself acknowledges this. “Driven grouse shooting may have to charge more for fewer brace of grouse shot to maintain management that is both effective and socially acceptable,” it says. James Fair
FIND OUT MORE The Demonstration Project www.langholmproject.com and the report bit.ly/2q7eSDC
Moorland management report assesses whether breeding raptors can co-exist with commercial driven grouse shooting.