Shooting organisations have accused raptor groups of leaking a controversial new report on UK hen harriers to the press. The report, commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), was not due to be released until later in the year but was made public last week in the Sunday Herald. Shooting groups believe the study, which claims raptor numbers are being suppressed due to persecution, was leaked in an attempt to influence MSPs who are currently considering the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill.

The groups, including BASC Scotland, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, the Scottish Rural Property and Business Association, the Scottish Countryside Alliance and the Scottish Estates Business Group, were given the report last November and were still in the process of preparing their response when the study was leaked.

The study blames persecution for the gap between theoretical projections of the number of hen harriers that the UK might be able to support and actual numbers. On this basis, the report claims that there would be 2,300 more harriers in Scotland were it not for persecution. Shooting groups argue that it fails to consider other reasons for the size of the UK?s hen harrier population, such as disturbance, habitat loss and predation. They also claim that it failed to include other highly relevant evidence and used out-of-date figures on populations.

The rest of this article appears in 26th January issue of Shooting Times.

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