The publication in the past fortnight of two new reports, one by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and the other by the RSPB, in the Journal of Applied Ecology, has once again brought the potential conflicts of interests between hen harrier conservation and grouse moor management to the fore.
The GWCT study, entitled Hen harriers and red grouse: economic aspects of red grouse shooting and the implications for moorland conservation, published on 24 August, tested the suggestion that grouse estates should accept lower bag sizes, which would help to eradicate the conflicting elements in the management of the two species.
The GWCTs scientists concluded that allowing high density grouse moors to decline to low density ones could lead to the complete collapse of grouse shooting in England and parts of Scotland and could put heather habitat and waders at risk. However, the GWCT said that one way of resolving the conflict could be to introduce diversionary feeding of harriers to reduce their predation on grouse chicks. This is being tested at the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project (LMDP)in Dumfriesshire, but results are not yet conclusive. Another suggestion is to explore the use of a ceiling on harrier densities.
In a separate report by the RSPB, entitled Resolving the conflict between driven-grouse shooting and conservation of hen harriers,/em>, published on 20 August, the bird charity has questioned whether a sporting activity that relies on protected birds of prey being disturbed and killed is a sustainable land use.
Lead author, Dr Pat Thompson, the RSPBs uplands conservation officer said: We understand that many people involved in shooting are as appalled by [hen harrier persecution] as we are. The next step is for grouse moor managers to adopt techniques such as diversionary feeding more widely and demonstrate that driven grouse moor management is compatible with bird of prey conservation. If this turns out to be impossible, it may be time to consider other approaches to managing our uplands.
The rest of this article appears in 2nd September issue of Shooting Times.
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