Goose management policy in Scotland: 2010 review

Review of goose management policy in Scotland conducted in 2010.

5 Areas not currently subject to management regimes

5.1 Principal areas affected

The project remit did not include the undertaking of a comprehensive survey of goose damage and related issues across Scotland. However, we were made aware of damage issues in many areas not covered by current schemes. A number of the stakeholders (including NFUS, SCF and SNH) advised us of locations where farmers/crofters had recently raised concerns about increased goose damage. These mainly, but not exclusively, related to resident species on silage and crops (Table 5.1). In some of these areas, the damage was reported as limited but the concern was that numbers of geese were increasing with the prospect of severe damage in the future unless measures to control damage were implemented. The preferred action by farmers in areas where damage is caused by Greylags is population reduction rather than a scheme that provides feeding areas (and associated payments). This also reflects the aspirations of crofters in the Western Isles.

Table 5.1 Some locations not covered by current LGMGs where concerns about agricultural damage by geese have been raised in recent years.


Species causing damage


Greylag (breeding resident and Icelandic)
(see Sections 5.2 and Appendix H Section 17.2)

Lochaber, Spean and Roy Bridge

Greylag (breeding resident) and Canada
(see Sections 5.4 and Appendix H Section 17.4)


Greylag (breeding resident and Icelandic) and Greenland Whitefront
(see Sections 5.3 and Appendix H Section 17.3)

Loch Lomond (south shore)

Canada (resident, non-native)

Black Isle and Easter Ross

Greylag (breeding resident and Icelandic?)

Moray Firth to Fochabers

Greylag (breeding resident and Icelandic?)


Greylag (probably breeding resident)


Greylag (probably breeding resident)


Greylag (probably breeding resident and Icelandic)

The locations indicated in Table 5.1 do not include numerous areas in Scotland where geese typically graze and cause some damage to agriculture (e.g. Loch Leven, Ythan Estuary). Since such areas were not raised as significant problems by stakeholders, we assume that damage has been contained through scaring and shooting. In some such areas, it is understood that commercial shooting is important and here geese may confer financial benefits to farms and estates.

It was agreed with the contract Steering Group that the remit of the current study would include investigation of three areas that typified wider problems (Orkney, Caithness and Lochaber). In each of these areas, interviews were held with local stakeholders in order to elicit the nature of the issue and progress (if any) towards its resolution.

5.2 Orkney

5.2.1 Situation

Orkney is currently an extreme example of wider concern (Table 5.1) about agricultural damage by increasing numbers of Greylag Geese. It is the area not included in current goose schemes where issues need to be addressed most urgently in our opinion. In Orkney both migratory Icelandic and resident (breeding) Greylags are involved. The situation is further described in Appendix H. The wintering population of Greylags has increased rapidly over the last 20 years from almost none in 1980 to reach 80,538 in 2009/2010 ( RSPB data; count includes both wintering Icelandic and resident breeding birds). The resident population was estimated at ca 10,000 individuals present on Orkney in 2008 (no estimate for 2009 was available).

Whilst the average goose density is low, there is evidence for significant damage on a minority of farms and considerable concern amongst farmers with regard to what they see as a deteriorating situation that requires intervention.

5.2.2 Policy development

No local group exists that represents all interests but an approach was made to the NGMRG to voice concern at the situation in 2008. NGMRG recommended more self- help through scaring, and considered there was insufficient evidence on which to act beyond that. This is in line with Recommendation 19 of the National Policy Framework (see Appendix A). It is understood that NGMRG offered no further assistance to clarify the level of damage and what farmers could do about it.

An SNH (2008) one-year pilot scheme on seven farms concluded that "due to the wide dispersal and high mobility of wintering greylags and the apparent variation in fields' attractiveness to geese, it would be premature to consider a standardised scheme across Orkney" (Churchill et al. 2009).

The farmers consulted as part of our interviews were mainly concerned to contain damage resulting from increasing population size through increased shooting and egg oiling. Amendments to the licensing system have been called for to allow summer shooting of resident Greylags (e.g. via the addition of Greylag Goose to a general licence or changes in the dates of the open season). Detailed density information and damage monitoring is not available. It is not clear how much more shooting would take place were regulations to be relaxed.

5.3 Caithess

5.3.1 Situation

The issue in Caithness is goose damage (Icelandic Greylags and Greenland Whitefronts) on a small number of farms near the Caithness Lochs SPA. Damage in spring is reported to be getting worse as the population of migratory Icelandic Greylags increases and stays longer in the area (see Appendix G). There are no estimates of the impact of the damage on farm incomes.

5.3.2 Policy development

A local group approached NGMRG in 2006 with a request for a goose management scheme. The Greenland Whitefront issues were referred by NGMRG to SNH (and NGMRG suggested that local Management Agreements under the SNH Natural Care Scheme were the appropriate route to deal with the issues for this species; NGMRG Minutes Dec 2006). The Greylag issue were considered analogous with those on Orkney (above; and geese may move between the two areas). The presumption against schemes for goose species not requiring special protection except in exceptional circumstances (Recommendation 19 of the 2005 review) was applied and used as a basis for no further action at that stage. Further evidence of: high levels of damage (presumably meaning the need for counts); and non-lethal scaring being tried; and evidence that the scale of impact was unmanageable without additional support was requested.

Policy formulation is severely hampered by a lack of accurate count and damage information from this area. Local farmers feel that the cost of obtaining this to support their case is prohibitive. Whilst there would be clear benefits from obtaining better data, the costs need to be researched.

5.4 Lochaber, Spean and Roy Bridge

Here the issue is one of increasing (but small) numbers of resident Greylags and Canada Geese, with damage to spring grass and silage crops. Information is sparse but we understand that no formal approach has been made to SNH or NGMRG and that shooting is containing the situation at present (since numbers are low). More information is given in Appendix H.

5.5 Conclusions

Goose damage has been reported in a number of areas of Scotland not covered by current schemes. The current study did not have a remit to carry out a comprehensive review of the scale of the problem. Strictly the NGMRG cannot respond to such issues unless a local group is formed and formally approaches NGMRG. In any case, current goose policy has a predisposition against management intervention for goose species not requiring special protection except in exceptional circumstances (Recommendation 19 of the 2005 review). In many areas it appears (from our engagement with stakeholders) that damage is not an issue, either because of its limited nature or because shooting currently keeps it to manageable levels.

For the future, we suggest that a more coherent generic policy strategy will be required for goose species not currently requiring special protection (particularly Greylags) in the context of increasing populations and therefore potential damage. There may be inconsistency in the intervention response in different areas (including Strathbeg, the Uists, Caithness and Orkney). In the sample areas that we were asked to evaluate as part of the current review, effective intervention is limited by a lack of reliable monitoring data on damage and goose densities, and the responsibilities of NGMRG in obtaining these data are currently unclear.


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