We held our third meeting at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 9th May 2018.
Our Group is making good progress in gathering evidence to support our advice we will be putting to Ministers on grouse moor management.
Our meeting considered detailed presentations on three key topics: a) Raptor population trends, and associations between the illegal persecution of raptors and grouse moor distribution; b) Legal predator control; and c) Mountain hare management.
The first of these topics gave rise to the formation of this Group, with the publication a year ago of the SNH report on the fate of satellite tagged golden eagles. Whilst we noted that many raptor species in Britain have recovered in terms of their post-war population sizes and distributions (with some strikingly successful reintroduction/reinforcement conservation programmes for sea eagles, red kite and osprey) the evidence linking raptor persecution to some areas managed as grouse moors appears both compelling and shocking.
Our discussion on legal predator control showed just how complex the evidence is, with habitat effects (often some distance from moors being managed), and the intensity and scale of management practices having variable effects on birds such as red grouse and waders. We were struck by the immense and concentrated effort devoted to some types of predator control, often involving tough and painstaking work in remote areas.
Our consideration of mountain hare ecology, management and conservation proved especially challenging, as we arguably have much to do in terms of developing our understanding of the distribution and conservation status of this mammal in the uplands. For some areas we have remarkable, long-term data sets, but these are of variable quality. So we welcomed on-going work developing more accurate counts to be trialled later this year. Much current information on the distribution and trends in mountain hare numbers comes from moorland managers who control hares intensively in some areas to reduce the spread of tick-borne disease affecting red grouse. We discussed in detail the scientific evidence on the impacts of controlling hare numbers and what effect culling might have on population levels.
We next meet on 20th June, when we will consider the practices associated with muirburn and the use of medicated grit to reduce disease in red grouse (Trichostrongylus tenuis, a parasitic threadworm living in the gut of red grouse), long of concern to grouse moor managers. We will also discuss a framework for consulting with key stakeholders during the summer.
Alan Werritty (Chair)
Telephone: 01896 661719
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