The reaction of wildlife groups to a Government plan to make money available for research into ways of reducing predation of pheasant poults by buzzards has been described as ?hysterical? by gamekeepers.

A £400,000 fund has been established by DEFRA for the three-year project, which will focus on non-lethal techniques, including destroying nests and taking birds into captivity on six shoots in Northumberland.

The RSPB, the Northern England Raptor Forum and the Hawk and Owl Trust all said they were ?shocked and stunned? at the news. The Wildlife Trusts said they were ?seriously concerned?.

Springwatch presenter Chris Packham told his 32,000 Twitter followers that the plans were ?pathetic, shameful and stupid?. The British Trust for Ornithology said it had not tendered for the work and that it had declined an invitation to be part of the project?s advisory group. ?We have also indicated we no longer wish to be part of the ongoing stakeholder group,? said director Andy Clements.

The British Trust for Ornithology said it had not tendered for the work and that it had declined an invitation to be part of the project?s advisory group. ?We have also indicated we no longer wish to be part of the ongoing stakeholder group,? said director Andy Clements.

However, the National Gamekeepers Organisation spokesman Charles Nodder said: ?This absurd over-reaction to a piece of scientific research simply designed to find out more reveals these organisations? true antishooting agendas.

?Pheasants have been here since Norman times and common buzzard numbers have increased six-fold in just 15 years and now number around half-a-million birds. On rare occasions buzzards can take significant numbers of young gamebirds, wild and reared, and this research is aimed at finding out how best to address that problem.

The rest of this article appears in the 30th May issue of Shooting Times.

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