Researchers at Aberdeen University have proved that hen harrier chicks could be reared in captivity and released into the wild elsewhere, protecting both bird numbers and grouse shooting

Scientists have shown that hen harriers and grouse shooting can successfully co-exist by rearing the chicks in captivity and releasing them in areas where they won’t pose a significant impact to shoots.

Grouse and hen harriers can live harmoniously

The research, led by Professor Steve Redpath of the Aberdeen University, proved that at certain population densities, hen harriers and grouse could live harmoniously.

“The model suggested that across the grouse moors of England there was room for 70 pairs of hen harriers at relatively low cost for grouse shooting,” said Professor Redpath.

“Any decision about how to use this model depends as much on politics as on science. However, if both sides are interested in pursuing the idea, this model provides a framework for this dialogue to take place.

“Ecology has a vital role to play in understanding and tackling these conflicts by providing impartial evidence and exploring various technical solutions. However, this must be done with those involved in the conflict so that science addresses the issues people are most concerned about, and that they therefore have ownership of the results.”

The next step is for all stakeholders to use the model to agree on an acceptable number of hen harriers and test this in a field trial.