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RSPB recognise value of predator control

RSPB policymakers are increasingly recognising the value of predation control and wildlife management on the Society?s reserves, despite opposition from members, writes Graham Downing.

Speaking at the annual BASC Wildfowling Conference on 24 March at Sutton Coldfield, the RSPB?s head of reserves, Gwyn Williams, told delegates that reserve wardens were now tackling fox predation.

He also said that the RSPB had stuck to its guns over its support for the elimination of ruddy duck ? now believed to number fewer than 100 following a Government backed control scheme.

Mr Williams said: ?It was difficult for us to get right. We didn?t duck the problem or ignore it; we had to recognise the need for control, and the need to remove those birds.

?We?ve lost quite a lot of members over it, and I?ve lost count of the number of letters I?ve written on the subject. The chief executive of Animal Aid even called me a fascist, but we?ve stuck to our policy.?

BASC had been ?fantastic? in joining with the RSPB to help stamp out illegal killing of hen harriers, he said: ?One of the easiest ways of dealing with this would be to play the animal welfare card,? Mr Williams said.

?But if that adds to the unwillingness of the public to accept predator control in the wider countryside, that could backfire on us in the long term.?

He also defended the RSPB?s reserves acquisition policy, which has repeatedly come into conflict with wildfowling clubs.

RSPB land acquisition would concentrate on farmland outside designated sites rather than prime wetlands, Mr Williams said, but he accepted that there would be occasions when the RSPB would ?rub up against? wildfowlers.

He concluded: ?It would be foolish of me to say we will not acquire land with wildfowling rights on it. There may be the odd field in a reserve area where it is very important to us, but in general we are not going to be chasing wildfowling rights.?

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