A report published by the University of Aberdeen outlines a model of management that supports the provision of hen harriers on grouse moors.
The study, which involved grouse moor managers, ecologists, and conservationists, was led by Dr Steve Redpath, and showed that across the grouse moors of England, there was room for 70 pairs of hen harriers before they started to affect the viability of shooting on the moors too severely. When harriers reached a number that adversely impacted the moor’s overall grouse population, the chicks could be taken and reared elsewhere before being released into the wild at a new location.
A similar procedure is used in Europe, where harrier chicks are removed from crops to avoid them coming to harm during harvesting,
A spokesman for the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association said, “This study identifies and cements what was found during the Joint Raptor Study at Langholm Moor in the Scottish Borders, where a build-up of protected raptors, including hen harrier, made grouse shooting commercially unviable and led to the loss of gamekeepers’ jobs.
The paper’s central premise is likely to be supported by those within our industry because we all seek workable resolutions to conflicts which will benefit both rural businesses and all wildlife, including hen harriers. Such models have been successful in other European countries, particularly France and Spain, and the starting premise is not dissimilar to the approach being advocated with Defra’s Hen Harrier Action Plan in England which includes a brood management scheme.
“Here, harrier chicks could be removed from a grouse moor and relocated elsewhere once they had reached a number that would adversely affect the viability of a moor. This solution would benefit businesses and hen harriers very quickly and is a common sense approach.
“Unfortunately, despite being one of the founding partners in the Defra plan (partners include bodies from both the conservation and shooting side) RSPB are yet to sign it off because of the brood management scheme.
The will and solutions, being identified in this paper and Defra’s Hen Harrier Action Plan, are there to help hen harriers and it is being viewed as a golden opportunity but it will take those on the conservation side to come round to attempting new ways of conservation thinking.”
The RSPB also welcomes the findings, saying the study could play a ‘major role’ in hen harrier recovery, and supported the possibility of a field trial once harrier levels were higher.