The RSPB?s director of conservation, Mark Avery, last week raised the issue of the environmental impact of releasing ?non-native? pheasants for shooting, questioning whether predator numbers are increased by what he called a meat bonanza.

In his blog posted on the RSPB website to coincide with the start of the pheasant season, Dr Avery wrote: The numbers of pheasants released into the UK countryside is enormous ? about 35million birds a year. Only 15million of hem are shot each year, which means that ?many of them must end up inside atural predators rather than in people?s freezers, ovens and tummies. That?s an awful lot of bird meat that is feeding crows and foxes and a range of other species isn?t it? I wonder how much the increase in some predator numbers is fuelled by this meat bonanza?

Later in the article he suggested that releasing pheasants could be causing declines in farmland birds: The most mischievous might suggest that live pheasants are eating food that native species such as finches and buntings should eat ?But the increasing (I think it?s increasing) trend for big-shoot days, where huge numbers of pheasants are released, worries many in the shooting community as well as seeming to me to be at the more worrying end of the spectrum from an ecological point of view.

He also indicated that the RSPB is undertaking research to discover whether shooting is impacting negatively on wildlife: We?ve given this a bit of thought but it is definitely work in progress.

The rest of this article appears in 20th October issue of Shooting Times.

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