Grouse Moors

Dave Windle

The gamekeepers continue to go about their illegal activities with, seemingly no thought for the law. The Press and Journal on the 4th April, noted that the head keeper on the Tillypronie estate had been banned for three years by SNH for illegally trapping a bird of prey. This is a welcome development. SNH is starting to take action, using a civil burden of proof rather than the criminal burden of proof required for prosecution by Police Scotland. This is clearly a response to the dressing down it received from its political masters last year over its failure to use its existing powers. We need to see further such action until gamekeepers appreciate that even they must obey the law.

As we go to press, publication of a scientific paper by Adam Watson and Jeremy Wilson of the RSPB has sparked some controversy, as reported in both the BBC News and the Press & Journal on 14/8/18. The paper was published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

The data show dramatic declines in the number of mountain hares on intensively managed grouse moors. This is the same data that was submitted to the earlier review of sustainable moorland management, but has now been written up and analysed more thoroughly in a reputable scientific paper. Now that it has been published in an independent journal it will be more difficult for disbelievers to ignore and will hopefully help the current moorland review group reach a more substantial recommendation.

Unsurprisingly, the Scottish Moorland Group has adopted one of Donald Trump's tactics; if you don’t like the truth, simply rubbish it and call it "fake news". NEMT and other conservation groups believe that the conclusions clearly support the need for licensing and regulation of intensive grouse shooting.

The Grouse Moor Management Group has now met four times. See reports on the meetings. The group is currently gathering evidence. One item of interest is that the group agrees that "the evidence linking raptor persecution to some areas managed as grouse moors appears both compelling and shocking".

The next phase will be to consult with key stakeholders and to also make some estate visits. Next year, the group will review the evidence that it has gathered and make recommendations on matters such as the need for licensing.

The familiar and anodyne Welcome to the Moor sign - welcome, as long as you're a grouse?

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