Uncomfortable truths about predator control: our letter in The Guardian


Stopping the release of pheasants would do nothing to prevent, or even reduce, fox predation on ground-nesting birds. Depending on whose data you select, the fox population has remained stable since the 1990s or declined by up to 40%. There is no evidence of a continuing or recent rise in fox numbers.

In any case, preventing the local extinction of increasingly rare species such as the curlew, lapwing or grey partridge does not depend on reducing the national fox population, such an idea is plainly untenable. When a householder or council sets out to deal with a rat infestation, their success is not based on reducing the UK’s rat population but on killing the particular problem animals in a particular place.

In the same way preventing the local extinction of rare ground-nesting birds may depend on stopping a particular fox killing a sitting curlew, it most certainly does not rely on reducing the guesstimated number of foxes in the UK to a smaller guesstimate.

What is usually needed is carefully targeted, efficient and humane action, taken at the right time in the right place.

That such an idea is controversial continues to surprise many reasonable and informed people and, as Mary Colwell suggests, has much to do with the larger conservation businesses not wanting to compromise their fundraising potential by being too frank.

Ian Coghill
Chairman, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust

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at 9:31 on 07/06/2018 by Gay James

Why no mention of badgers? Badger numbers have rocketed yet they are still protected, there are more badgers than foxes in this area. I have not seen an alive hedgehog in years, lapwings and english partridges have almost disappeared. Let's hope lots of badgers take up a suburban life style an then people will stop thinking they are lovely.


at 21:51 on 06/06/2018 by Anthony

Excellent letter by Ian Coghill, and while not being a great lover of fox hunting, shooting a rogue fox in the interest of conservation is the most sensible piece of prose I have seen for sometime. What I cannot quantify John, is the need to control otters and cormorants when they have obviously been around hundreds of years without depleting fish stocks. I can sort of understand that the reintroduction of Otters may take some time for the food chain to adjust. It could be however, that we have reintroduced the Otter, without reintroducing any natural enemies, save ourselves.

John cooper re predation

at 13:26 on 06/06/2018 by Neil brookes

I find your comments on otter very fresh there is no need so make silly comments on getting rid of the apex predator but I do agree that there needs to be control and rights given to fisheries to protect there livelihoods I am a keen river fisherman and will be out on the 15th waiting for midnight one of the best feelings in fishing is the start of the river fishing season I hope that in time all parties can work together to make a resolution in this I fear the biggest threat to our sport any generation has faced it's up to us to try and makes thugs right for future generations but fear it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better Regards N brookes

Predation in the Countryside.

at 9:19 on 06/06/2018 by Edward sabin

Living in North Lincolnshire and since retirement have been involved in farm bird surveys . On my early morning walks I have recently witnessed 3 cases of Carrion Crows flying over with chicks in their beaks, a pair of Oyster Catchers being mobbed by crows and one of the chicks being taken. Also a Grey Partridge being attacked by a domestic cat, the partridge left the nest and the crows moved in to devour the eggs. On the same area we have Marsh Harriers, Foxes and had a lone Male Montagu's Harrier two weeks ago. The good news is the O.C's are mating again, so fingers crossed for a second brood.


at 8:21 on 06/06/2018 by Owen Williams

It is a measure of how much we've destroyed the balance of nature that even when areas such as the Berwyn Mountains are left to 'rebalance' the abundance of generalist predators continue to negatively impact on wader survival. The only short term solution is to micro-manage local ecosystems using targeted predator control. If there can be no agreement on this uncomfortable fact we are facing a silent future for our upland with the only party being able to crow success being the corvids.


at 21:09 on 05/06/2018 by Alec Swan

There was a time when I worked as a river 'keeper, on the Wye and we were paid a bounty on the cormorants which we shot - - then we became all sort of protectionist - nothing must die - - we then and as now, have lost our way. Predators need to be predated upon and there's only one who can do that - mankind. We protect wildlife simply to benefit ourselves - I've no problem with that, we just need to maintain a balance - is it really that difficult? - - apparently it is.

Controlling destructive predators

at 18:44 on 05/06/2018 by Philip P

Let us not forget the mink. Releasedby irresponsible souls from the fur farms with no thought of the consequences. Mink are currently eating their way through the pondfish stocks of the Severn and Avon catchment areas. They leave no survivors.


at 12:52 on 05/06/2018 by John cooper

Excellent letter. I wish we could include otters in the list of predators in need of control. Many stretches of rivers, lakes, etc. have been devastated by these highly efficient animals who tend to take the larger fish... cormorants of course are very efficient at wiping out the smaller fish. Soon we will have very few fish left in the natural habitat.... In Milton Keynes, with its abundance of lakes, there is a deal of evidence of the otters even killing large birds such as swans - perhaps that might eventually lead to some public appreciation of the need to control these voracious predators... Regards, John

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