Peace for ptarmigans
I’m delighted that your editor has decided to become a Munro bagger [Welcome, November
2018]. Personally, I enjoy walking in the
Scottish hills and mountains for many reasons: scenery, being active in the fresh air, and enjoying the wildlife and natural world, although I have never felt the need to tick off a list of summits.
However, I was stunned by your editor's casual mention of shooting ptarmigan. In my naivety I did not know that wild ptarmigan is a recognised game bird.
On our walks, we have sometimes encountered ptarmigan and have always sought to cause them as little disturbance as possible. It is always a joy to see them; they will scurry away out of sight rather than take flight, in order to conserve energy.
Why on earth would anyone wish to stalk and shoot them? Are they particularly delicious?
According to the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, their numbers are difficult to monitor and there has been no national survey to accurately assess the population numbers of ptarmigan. The National Game Bag Census of 70 estates reported an 80% drop in ptarmigan bagged between 1901-2009. The most frequent reason given for not bagging ptarmigan was that numbers are too low to allow a sustainable harvest.
So, we don’t know ptarmigan numbers, but it’s unlikely they are increasing. If ptarmigan shooting was to become more popular, it’s likely numbers would decrease. These are wild birds and are not bred or managed for hunting. They are unique to the Highlands and live in a precarious zone where food is not plentiful, and disturbance can threaten their existence. A chance encounter can bring joy to our experience of our hills and mountains. We shouldn’t be killing them for pleasure.
Mrs Anne Smith, Burntisland