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Pheasants culled following avian influenza outbreak

A red warning sign at the side of a road warns that the reader is entering an avian flu control zone. Taken in winter sunshine with a blue sky in Derbyshire, UK.

On what should have been Saturday “the glorious” 12 August, gamekeeper John Goodenough noticed some unusual behaviour in his young pheasants. Mr Goodenough, who runs a sporting business across several estates near Kirkcudbright in Dumfries and Galloway, called the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) when he discovered large numbers of poults had died and further birds were ‘stargazing’, had cloudy eyes and purple legs.

Initially, APHA took some convincing to send team members and vets to check the cases. However, following tests the presence of avian influenza (AI) was confirmed.

The following day a Defra team was sent up to carry out the cull of all 3,800 penned pheasants with high-powered air rifles.

Mr Goodenough said while the culls were carried out competently, he urged shooting organisations and Defra to work together to form a more consistent set of protocols for dealing with AI outbreaks in gamebird populations. Mr Goodenough was also saddened at the lack of support he had been offered since the cull.

Temporary 3km protection and 10km surveillance zones were set up around the outbreak as precautionary measures.

This story first appeared in Shooting Times, Britain’s oldest and best-selling shooting magazine. Published every Wednesday, the 141-year title has long been at the coalface of the countryside, breaking the stories that matter to you. Subscribe here.