|Image: Laurie Campbell|
The early years: revealing the genuine conservation conflict
It was on Langholm Moor (1992-1997) that the GWCT and partners1 demonstrated that hen harrier populations can render grouse shooting uneconomic. In six years, harrier numbers rose from two to 20 pairs. Shooting was abandoned because the hen harriers ate over a third of all grouse chicks that hatched.
With no grouse shooting, the local culture, economy and employment suffered and the control of generalist predators ceased. By 2003, 20 harrier nests were back down to two and numbers of breeding grouse and waders had more than halved2. Predation was identified as the most likely cause of the declines. Grouse moor managers felt their worst fears had just been proven – this was a real lose-lose situation.
Today the moor is home to a second vital study: searching for a win-win situation
For the last seven years, the GWCT and partners3 have put huge energy into achieving Langholm’s core objective: an economic driven grouse moor that hits all its conservation targets…
…and thereby demonstrates how to resolve the conflicts between raptors and red grouse.
How is it going? How easy is it to run a grouse moor? There is, now, a much better understanding of the challenges – but Langholm has not yet resolved its core objective.
new seven-year interim report predicts (there are three more years to go) that if we stick to the existing conservation methods this second study will:
Habitat improvement – Pass
Raptor recovery – Pass
Red grouse recovery – Fail
Other wildlife recovery – Might pass
Resolve wildlife conflict – Fail
Why have the grouse not recovered?
The quality of keepering and legal predator control is good, as is grouse health, but grouse mortality all year round is high and 78% of adult grouse found dead were identified as having been predated by raptors.
If we adopt new conservation methods, we could pass them all
It would be easy to give up now, but the partners at Langholm believe they can pass all five conservation tests – if new conservation ideas are used. The fact that all sides continue to work together in search of a solution is what makes Langholm unique. It remains the only place in the UK that can not only test, but also monitor, new ideas to resolve the conflict between raptors and grouse.
What new conservation ideas?
The Langholm project hopes to publish its plans in early 2015. These are likely to focus on raptor predation because existing monitoring indicates that grouse recovery is not being restricted by habitat, disease, lack of food, weather or other mortality.
Langholm has inspired change – and it’s about to do that again
FREE Hen Harrier Recovery Plan guide
Download your FREE guide to the hen harrier & grouse shooting issue >
What's inside your FREE guide
✓ essential hen harrier facts
✓ details of the hen harrier recovery plan
✓ summary of the issues and arguments surrounding a proposed ban on driven grouse shooting
✓ key figures and scientific findings
Download your FREE guide >
1 The Joint Raptor Study (JRS) was a collaborative research venture, undertaken jointly by the GWCT and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), but funded and guided throughout by a consortium of interest groups that included the RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, the Game Conservancy Scottish Research Trust, Buccleuch Estate and Peter Buckley of Westerhall Estate.
2 Baines, D., Redpath, S.M., Richardson, M., & Thirgood, S.J. (2008). The direct and indirect effects of predation by Hen Harriers Circus cyaneus on trends in breeding birds on a Scottish grouse moor. Ibis (Supplement 1), 150: 27-36.
3 The Langholm Moor Demonstration Project (LMDP) is a partnership between Scottish Natural Heritage, the Buccleuch Estate, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Natural England.