20/11/2019

What The Ecologist doesn't want you to know: Our response to The Ecologist

In 2018 and again this year, very little grouse shooting took place in Scotland. Gamekeepers and land managers surveyed their local populations using well established counting techniques in advance of the shooting seasons. Other than in a very few locations, they decided that there was an insufficient number of red grouse to take a shootable harvest and leave a healthy breeding stock for future years.

This is a well-established and self-imposed process, relying on an evidence-based approach to sensibly manage natural assets.

The concern for conservation through wise use applied by gamekeepers and land managers flies completely in the face of the assertion made by the ‘Ecologist’ article that grouse management is both intensive and indiscriminate. This sense of responsibility extends equally to mountain hare conservation.

Mountain Hare numbers

Mountain Hares are well known to go through similar cycles to that of red grouse, with declines compensated for by rapid recoveries, such that some local populations can vary by a factor of 10 or more over a 7 to 15-year time period.

Gamekeepers have, for generations, observed and recorded hares at the same time as grouse monitoring is undertaken. When hare numbers appear to be low, less management is undertaken. When their numbers are very high, then hare numbers may be managed.

Moorland management has been shown to be beneficial to the mountain hares. Some of the highest densities of mountain hares in Europe occur on the driven grouse moors of north-east Scotland, where hares benefit from habitat management and predator control.

Mountain hares eat heather and other moorland plants, so the managed burning carried out by gamekeepers to ensure a supply of young heather shoots for grouse can improve the food supply for mountain hares. As foxes can account for up to 90% of mountain hare mortality, the predator control carried out on grouse moors may also help mountain hare survival.

The ‘Ecologist’ article fails to mention the research published earlier this year which observed that on managed grouse moors, mountain hare populations were up to 35 times higher than on unmanaged moors.

The article also claims that there is indiscriminate killing of mountain hares. In evidence, it points to the recent change in recommendation on conservation status to ‘unfavourable’, claiming that the proposed change in status is ‘primarily because of hunting and game management’. This is untrue. The assessment regarding the impact of hunting on species conservation is a recent additional requirement to Annex V reporting under the EU Habitats Directive.

The report prepared by the Statutory Nature Conservation Bodies on behalf of UK government and Devolved Administrations effectively identifies hunting as an unquantified impact on hare numbers. In fact, the recommendation is ‘unfavourable inadequate’. The report’s inclusion of ‘inadequate’ is important because this recognises that there is a paucity of sound information about hare numbers and management.

We now know from commissioned research report 1022 delivered to Scottish Natural Heritage in early 2018 that daytime counting of Mountain Hares is unreliable, recording only a fraction of the numbers found on night-time counts in the same areas.

The speed with which grouse moor keepers across Scotland have taken up the approved night-time counting methodology reflects how important it is to them to ensure that any management of hares they undertake is based on the best available evidence. This professional response is again poles apart from the assertion in the ‘Ecologist’ article about indiscriminate action.

Inaccuracies and selective commentary

We could continue to dissect other claims made in the ‘Ecologist’ article as we have plenty to comment on in each and every instance, but that could take a long time. Suffice to say that the inaccuracies and selective commentary on mountain hares in the article serves no discernible interest in a publication called ‘Ecologist’.

We have offered to submit an article in response to the piece written by One Kind, but we were told by the editor this would not be printed.

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Comments

Wildlife Management

at 7:41 on 27/11/2019 by Phillip Walker

Sir / Madam Mr Goodhew makes some very good points about a variety of issues relevant to the issue of Wildlife Management. We also have the excellent article by your organisation which addresses some of the myths around mountain hare numbers. We need more of these evidence based outcomes put out there. These will then reflect that those who shoot and / or fish, and gamekeepers and other land managers generally contribute significantly to the greater good in our countryside. We do not want to lose this battle, and evidence based outcomes speak legion in comparison to ‘sound bites’. It’s just getting the opportunity to address the latter and promptly ! Respectfully. Phillip GP Walker.

Curlew in Worcestershire

at 20:50 on 26/11/2019 by Joe Allen

Until a few years ago we had a pair of curlew in the fields between our house and the next village. The area is now "prairie farmed" and a pool surrounded by low trees and bushes has been removed . The area is now as flat as a billiard table and seemingly devoid of wild life. Should this have been allowed to happen or is the Farmer at liberty to remove such areas for business reasons? Yours sincerely. Joe Allen

Wildlife management

at 14:58 on 26/11/2019 by Paul Goodhew

Dear sirs, Why is it when we read anything to do with wildlife management, shooting, gamekeeping, and species numbers we are allways attacked by antis, bad science and false data. I have shot, ferreted and trapped all my life as did my grandfather's, my uncles and my father, I am seventy three years old so have raised pheasant, Partridge and duck from eggs hatched under broody hens, I live in a very built up area near a very busy airport, railways and road. I am a keen gardener and put out many feeders and nest boxes, my neighbours are antis, they have little or no wildlife visiting their gardens. I have over thirty different species of bird, seven species of mammal and snakes, slow worm and frogs, newts and toads. So the big questions are who is telling antis lies? who is giving out false information on numbers and where parts of the UK are better populated with wildlife. Last but not least why is it that all the shooting organisations, the wildlife and countryside organisation allways act after the event, we should on past experience alone be more than one step ahead, I belong to quite a few. And with the help of people like Mr Packham and his friends the wild life in the UK is doomed, the increase of pest bird species because of the stopping of general licencing at a very critical time of year can all ready be seen in the countryside and will cost song bird populations dearly.

The Ecologist Article

at 14:27 on 26/11/2019 by Tony Johnstone

The Ecologist is owned and published by The Resergence Trust. The article in the Ecologist was probably written by the Editor therefore he would naturally be reluctant to print anything that would contradict his already printed viewpoint. Perhaps an approach to The Resergence Trust by GWCT appealing for the publication of a balanced viewpoint article might be more beneficial. I doubt it, but it might be worth a try. If that fails then all national newspapers should be given the story of "Biased " reporting for ulterior motives by the Ecologist which then might achieve the desired effect.

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