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Fi­nal re­port on man­ag­ing moor­land for game and wildlife con­ser­va­tion is pub­lished.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - CONTENTS -

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.

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