Since the mid-1990’s buzzards have shown a welcome increase in numbers and an expansion eastward in their range in the UK. Over the same period, the number of released pheasants has also increased substantially. Losses to buzzards of pheasant poults in and around release pens are generally reported to be low and to represent a small percentage loss relative to all other causes of mortality. However, in a small number of cases, losses are reported to be of the order of between 5 and 10%.
In order to seek means to mitigate these reported losses Defra established a Buzzard Stakeholder Group in January 2012 inviting interested parties including the GWCT to join.
The Stakeholder Group’s objectives are to:
The output of the group will be a written summary of buzzard predation on pheasants and other game birds based upon the best available evidence and a review of the efficacy of the methods available to control predation. It will include recommendations to Defra regarding future policy relating to the licensed control of buzzards addressing what, if anything needs, to change.
To inform the process Defra also commissioned the Food and Environmental Protection Agency (FERA) to review the existing evidence of the effectiveness of various mitigation strategies which could be employed in and around release pens. These include a range of visual, auditory, and chemical deterrents, exclusion techniques and habitat management options.
In addition, Defra have invited tenders to undertake research exploring the development of non-lethal management techniques to reduce predation of pheasant poults by buzzards. GWCT has tendered for this work and we await the announcement of the successful bid.
GWCT supports the inclusive stakeholder approach, the review of evidence and additional research as a means of bringing about conflict resolution.