The shooting community has reacted with dismay after the RSPB issued a statement blaming game shooting interests for rising numbers of peregrine deaths in 2009.

In the statement, the RSPB?s Mark Thomas wrote: Peregrines have taken 30 years to recover from the devastating effects of pesticide poisoning, and still we find them targeted by people who hold a grudge against them.

This has included rogue elements within the pigeon racing and game shooting communities who blame them for the loss of their birds.

According to the RSPB, there have already been more than 50 reported incidents of possible persecution in 2009, with more waiting to be processed.

By comparison, there were only 79 incidents reported for the whole of 2007.

As a result, the RSPB is urging the government to add peregrines to its list of priority species for wildlife crime enforcement.

However, shooting organisations have pointed out that gamekeepers actually contribute to the conservation of the raptors by managing their habitat.

The Countryside Alliance?s Tim Bonner explained: ?The recovery of the peregrine population has been a great conservation victory helped in no small part by the management for shooting of two thirds of the UK?s rural land.?

He added that the RSPB seems increasingly desperate to alienate rural communities by making blanket unsubstantiated allegations against shooters and falconers.

?Of course we are all appalled by the pointless persecution of peregrines, but throwing allegations around like confetti is not a solution,? Mr Bonner said.

The National Gamekeepers? Organisation?s Charles Nodder pointed out peregrine numbers are at their highest level for at least 50 years and have increased fourfold since 1963 with the population now near the point of saturation.

He added: ?To imply that game shooting interests are having an adverse effect on this species is clearly absurd. Why is the RSPB basing this story on its own ?reported incidents? list rather than on the national wildlife crime statistics available from the police??

Reacting to the shooting community?s anger, an RSPB spokesman commented: ?No-one is disputing the very welcome recovery in peregrine numbers from the effects of pesticide poisoning and past persecution. Their recovery from such adversity makes these current crimes all the more shocking.?

Is the RSPB alienating the shooting community by issuing statements such as this?

Let us know what you think about this!