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Why we need predator control

How much more evidence will they have to amass before countryside saviours GWCT are listened to by the Government asks Editor-at-Large, Robin Scott.

GWCT Loddington shoot

I have said before now that shooting and the countryside would be in a dreadful mess were it not for the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), or Game Conservancy as it once was.

All sorts of cock-eyed legislation to control – or kill off – the sport would have been foisted on us long ago were it not for the continuing quality of the GWCT’s research work on everything from bug counts to blackgame conservation. In fact I sometimes wonder if there’s actually anything its scientists haven’t yet looked at, or into.

Their work invariably unearths all sorts of fascinating facts. However, time and time again the one overriding message to emerge from all this scientific research is that our countryside and cherished wildlife would be in a real pickle if we didn’t control predators. Time and time again the findings have proved true, such as this study that showed predator control aids hen harrier recovery.

It’s a message even the antis understand, but stupidly won’t accept. They continually demand further research into the subject, refusing point blank to believe the mountain of evidence already gathered and stacked against them. And each time they make a demand, it ends up costing the sport small fortunes funding work that invariably comes to the same conclusions and solutions as before.

Thanks to the ostriches out there, predator control is again under the spotlight. Nick Sotherton, GWCT’s Director of Research, Advisory and Education, says now that consultation has started again on the General Licence, “many lobbying groups are pushing for an end to several country practices used to control predator numbers – practices that give game and farmland birds their best chance of survival.” What a surprise!

He has now launched an appeal – yes, you’ve guessed it – to help fund more research to show the real impact of predator control. “Legislation can have a positive influence on the running of the countryside” says Nick, “but without robust evidence to ensure the facts are heard, it can become a straightjacket stopping you from undertaking practical conservation.”

Doubtless, like you, I object to having to yet again put my hand in my pocket just because a few empty vessels out there are making the most noise, and getting the attention from the regulating authorities that they most certainly don’t deserve.

Of course, I wish the GWCT well in its push for funds and will be making a small donation of my own in due time.

But is it too much to ask, this time, that the ‘poke it up a predator’ message gets through once and for all, with no need to revisit old ground again? I doubt it.

In fact, what’s the betting we will be back to fundraising again five years from now when this whole General Licence debate kicks off once more? Watch this space!