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How predator control is being affected by political correctness

Endangered birds in the UK are not being protected adequately, with predator control being held back by political correctness

Pine martins are a contributing factor to the disappearance of the capercaillie in Scotland

I am watching the Frozen Planet II series at the moment and the quality of filmwork is outstanding. The one thing which I do find puzzling, though, is that it appears OK to show just about anything being killed on television — as long as it’s not in this country. You can show penguins, young geese, seals, whales, indeed just about anything being predated, but nothing from these shores. Similar series have been no better, with a whole range of animals being hunted, pulled down and killed.

On the other hand, I can only presume that all our predators over here have become vegetarians, as when yet another so-called expert is wheeled out on any subject, they eat everything except other living things. The latest was a presenter talking about that loveable animal the pine marten. Its diet covered the whole spectrum, except birds, eggs or chicks, and yet they are one of the main reasons the capercaillie is vanishing from Scotland. 


Predator control and political correctness

We may move eggs around in the case of the curlew, and yet predator control which would save so many more is not being practised in many breeding sites, due to political correctness. Eagles, we’re told, don’t carry off helpless lambs, and foxes don’t go in for small fawns. But I have seen the sad sight of tiny fawn legs scattered around fox earths; the aftermath of a badger which has simply crunched its way into a hen house; the disembowelled hen which a hedgehog has eaten. It all happens, just not on telly.

I read the other day of work to protect nests, which was simply to fence the ground predators out. They seem to have forgotten that a good number of predators will fly in, so the fence is redundant when it comes to predator control — as someone trying to protect a stone curlew found out when the local crows ate the eggs. Interestingly, Natural England had declined to use a licence on the site under their control. So a breeding attempt, of a highly endangered species, was eaten.

Currently Scottish gamekeepers are lobbying the Scottish parliament and I really wish them well. Holyrood, along with their Welsh equivalent, seem determined to remove fieldsports from the landscape by simply removing various management tools. From snaring to heather burning, we are being eaten way bit by bit. 

They say every day is a school day, and the other day – while crossing an area of one of the sites I am a trustee for – I spotted an unusual piece of matter at the end of a mustelid-sized hole. 

Examining it, initially I thought it was the remains of a frog but, as I turned the skin the right way out, it turned out to be a toad, or what was left of it. The body plus skeleton, or what passes for one in a toad, had all been carefully eaten down to the four feet and into the skull, leaving what would have been a good specimen ready for stuffing by a taxidermist. I found it hard to believe but I was looking right at it, and I had a friend with me as witness. It was very fresh and I have no doubt the hapless toad was simply killed and eaten by a rather hungry weasel. 

If anyone has any knowledge of amphibians being predated by mustelids I would be interested, as it’s the first one I have seen, though I did once find the remnants of an otter having had a great time in one of our drain blocks which contained a lot of frogs. A couple of buckets of sphagnum scattered around along with the remains of scores of frogs was the evidence. Wouldn’t happen in The Wind in the Willows.