Peace for ptarmi­gans

Scottish Field - - LETTERS -

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

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