Thursday, 14 August 2014

GWCT letter to The Times on grouse moor management

The following letter by GWCT Chief Executive Teresa Dent was sent to The Times following Matt Ridley's recent piece 'Gamekeepers are one of nature's best friends':

Dear Sir

Matt Ridley highlighted the contribution grouse moors make to the conservation of upland waders, and refers to a 9 year study we carried out between 2000 and 2008 (Comment, 11th August). We studied curlew, golden plover and lapwing, and showed that predation control as normally undertaken by grouse keepers improved the breeding success of these scarce breeding birds by an average of three and a half times. This matters, and as the RSPB recently highlighted “the curlew is Britain’s largest wading bird and is in trouble. The consensus is that low breeding success principally from predation of eggs and chicks …is driving declines”. From an international perspective curlew is our highest conservation priority bird species. 

The north Pennines SPA (Special Protection Area) is designated for 3,930 pairs of curlew and within its boundaries are 40 grouse moors employing 115 game keepers. When the SPA was surveyed between 2005 and 2007 curlew numbers were at 5,454 pairs – better than the designation.

The RSPB is right to call for more breeding hen harriers in the English uplands, but let’s make sure that is not at the expense of grouse moor management, or the loser could well be our ‘highest conservation priority bird species’. Our experimental study found that areas of the north Pennines with no predator control would lose curlew at a rate 17% per annum, equivalent to 84% over 10 years. 

The Hen Harrier Joint Recovery Programme is designed to create the balance that achieves more harriers, but not at the expense of other species, or the very management that creates the conditions under which they thrive. We are keen for Defra to publish its Plan  - in getting it this far, Defra has succeeded in significantly moving forward resolution of the very genuine wildlife conflict which Matt Ridley spelled out – whether his article was as evocative as the call of the curlew I shall leave others to judge.

Teresa Dent
Chief Executive
The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust


  1. Way too long. Ridley too finger pointing. You know what I think of that!

  2. Rob Yorke . . . who he?

  3. Teresa Dent's article is very relevant. I used to farm in the South of Scotland where there is little management of grouse moors. Sadly the curlews and oystercatchers in our area disappeared long ago due to predation of eggs.

  4. Shooting is Green and has to be sustainable. Go beyond the critical limit and there will quickly be nothing left to shoot. So improving habitat for wildlife is really enlightened self-interest, shooting can only continue if quarry species are conserved and this involves creating and maintaining the right habitat for your quarry and guess what - we are better custodian of wildlife than many who claim to protect wildlife. Well done The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust - shout even louder please!

  5. The Conservation of Game and of Areas for game benefits all the species that live in that area with the exception of Crows and Magpies. A local Naturalist Group visited an area under the control of a local Gamekeeper and were astounded by the number of songbirds thriving there. The secretary was so impressed that she asked for guidance on how she might manage one of her groups's reserves.