Natural England (NE) unveiled its long-awaited draft General Licences on 30 September, which have seen shooters welcome the addition of non-native parakeets, condemn the removal of two native gull species and castigate the proposed ban on selling for human consumption birds shot under licence.

The controversial news is the outcome of NE’s public consultation into the 30 General Licences. The licences authorise the control of pest birds under section 16 of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act and are reviewed periodically.

The addition of monk parakeets and ring-necked parakeets has been praised by shooters and conservationists, who are concerned about the impact that the foreign species have on native birds, such as woodpeckers, robins and owls, as they compete for food and nesting space. By 2010, it is estimated that the birds, which have been living wild in the UK for four decades, could number as many as 50,000.

NE’s Dr Matthew Heydon, who was instrumental in revising the General Licences, has warned shooters that the addition of parakeets to the licences was not a “call to arms”. He said: “Any indiscriminate killing would be unlawful. By adding the birds to the licences we are simply removing red tape to allow people, mostly expected to be fruit farmers, to take action in a timely fashion.”

Another source of contention is NE’s proposed removal of the great black- backed gull and the herring gull from the General Licences. The Countryside Alliance’s chief executive Simon Hart told Shooting Times: “Both of these gull species can pose a significant threat to some of our most rare and vulnerable ground-nesting birds, so it is vital that farmers and land managers are able to respond swiftly to such threats.” Mr Hart added: “NE has ignored the significant level of support that was in favour of maintaining the status quo, so I am at a loss to understand this decision, which has little basis in either conservation or common sense.”

The rest of this article appears in 7th October issue of Shooting Times.

What is YOUR opinion?

Join other ST readers in our forums to discuss your views.

Like this article? Mark this page on a social bookmarking website…

What are social bookmarking sites?