Natural England has reassured people that licences issued for buzzard control were not licenses to shoot the popular bird of prey.
The license – the first issued to protect gamebirds – was granted to a small shoot that had extensively trialled other methods of preventing buzzard predation on both pheasants and wild grey partridges, but that have been found unsuccessful. Other licenses to control adult buzzards have previously been issued to airfields, though in this case the license was only for the removal of four buzzard nests in the area. Diversionary feeding and habitat mitigation measures had been put in place, as well as other measures suggested by Natural England, but hadn’t prevented the predation. The applicant stated, “The main effect of the diversionary feeding was to concentrate and keep raptors in the areas where the pheasants were, making matters worse.”
The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation has said, “We believe the longstanding licensing process was correctly used in this case. A few buzzards had been consistently killing a large number of pheasants and all available non-lethal means to dissuade them had failed. A small business was threatened as a result. The licensing route available under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 exists for exceptional circumstances just such as these. Most birds of prey are now at or near record levels in the UK, so conflicts with game management, farming and wildlife conservation are bound to occur from time to time. Illegal persecution, which the NGO utterly condemns, can never be the solution. The licensing process, backed by law, is the correct way to resolve these conflicts.”
The RSPB stated at the Standing Conference on Countryside Sports that the bird licensing system was ‘robust’ and ‘good’, and that it accepts licensed killing of cormorants to protect fisheries. However Martin Harper, conservation director for the RSPB, has commented on this case that, “I think that it is wrong for NE to issue buzzard control licences to protect commercial interests.”
Read Natural England’s full response here: http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/regulation/wildlife/species/mythbusterfulldetailsofbuzzardnestcontrollicence.aspx