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Call to remove deer fences

New research shows deer fences could cause the Scottish capercaillie to go extinct in the next century.

With as few as 304 birds remaining in 2020, compared to 580 in 2010, capercaillie are heading towards extinction unless major changes take place. During the 10-year long Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) study, numbers declined by 48 percent, with the biggest decline in the last five years of the study. Dr David Baines, head of uplands research at GWCT, linked the decreasing numbers to poor weather over hatching periods, the increase in predators such as pine martens and deer fencing.

Dr Baines explained: “By 2020, the risk of capercaillie extinction in Scotland was 95 per cent after 50 years and 100 per cent after 100 years.

“When we removed deaths caused by fences from our analysis, the likelihood of extinction went right down to 3 per cent after 50 and 40 per cent after 100 years, highlighting that fence removal must be an immediate and high priority to help save the capercaillie.” The GWCT says conservation efforts should be focused on Badenoch and Strathspey where 83 per cent of the remaining males are located.