As is regenerating them!
I thought that my project to regenerate an area of dilapidated moorland was difficult, but when I started to look around at what others are doing to conserve black grouse, I realised that I have one of the easiest jobs going.
Releasing hand-reared grouse into the wild is an extremely difficult task.
The chicks have a complex digestive system which is forced into efficiency by low quality foodstuffs.
If they don’t have access to their natural diet from the age of a few weeks, their guts will never grow sufficiently and any attempt to release them into the wild will end in starvation and disaster.
Having heard that a reintroduction project for black grouse is currently taking place on the Isle of Arran, I couldn’t resist travelling over to have a look in person.
Black grouse started to disappear from Arran in the late 1950s, and a dwindling population was finally declared wholly extinct in 2001.
As an island lying three miles off the coast of Kintyre, the chances of natural repopulation from mainland stock is an extremely remote possibility, so locals were left with no other option than to introduce new stock.
Throughout the Victorian period, black grouse were relocated across the country but the projects were never very successful.
On Arran, setbacks have been huge and although there is light at the end of the tunnel, the community funded group still has a tremendous amount of work to do before the birds can be described as resident again.
One of the most surprising obstacles to the success of the project has been the refused cooperation of the RSPB, which is said to be actively opposing black grouse reintroduction schemes by withdrawing funding and support for groups which attempt the task.
If this is true, it needs to be sorted out as soon as possible.
The views expressed on Patrick Laurie’s blog are the author’s and not the views of Shooting Gazette, ShootingUK, IPC Media or its employees.