Shooting organisations have reacted with anger after a new study conducted for Natural England cited persecution by gamekeepers as one of the causes behind the decline of key bird species.

Without quoting evidence, the North Pennine Moors Special Protection Area Breeding Bird Survey 2005-2007, undertaken by consultant ornithologist Kevin Shepherd, states that persecution is a major reason for the flagging numbers of kestrels and buzzards.

The research also reports that black-headed gulls, lesser black-blacked gulls and short-eared owls were subject to persecution. However, the report overlooks the fact that both lesser black-backed gulls and carrion crows may be legally taken under General Licence.

The Countryside Alliance’s moorland policy officer, Adrian Blackmore, reacted by telling Shooting Times: “Reference to these birds is unacceptable and totally inappropriate in a breeding bird survey, when the survey team had no evidence that any persecution had taken place. It is merely speculation as to why these species might have been prevented from becoming more common.”

The rest of this article appears in 17 April issue of Shooting Times.

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