Gamekeeping during the coronavirus lockdown

By Mike Swan, Head of Education

Keeper and hopperUpdate: We have new advice for those in England following the changes made on 13 May.

The GWCT is fielding increasing numbers of calls from gamekeepers, and especially part-time amateurs, as to whether they should carry on their duties during the current coronavirus lockdown.

As most point out, they can continue to trap, feed, and control pests without any need for social contact. The GWCT would also argue that these activities are essential work, even when unpaid, in the conservation of a wide range of wildlife.

Supplementary feeding through what is still part of the hungry gap is a duty under many agri-environment schemes. It is a vital support to farmland birds like corn buntings, yellowhammers and grey partridges. It is also a key element of supporting wild breeding pheasants and redleg partridges, and a duty under the terms of the Code of Good Shooting Practice.

Springtime control of predators like foxes, stoats, crows and magpies is a vital element of good gamekeeping, and it supports a wide range of other ground-nesting birds such as lapwings, curlews and skylarks, as well as many other species of songbirds. Stopping this activity for a season would not be just a temporary blip, but a serious breakdown in an ongoing conservation programme. It can take many years of hard work to build a healthy population of many of these species, but just one season without predation control is likely to result in a near-total collapse.

So, the GWCT view is that all gamekeepers who wish to do so, from full-time professionals to amateur volunteers, should carry on their work, provided they can do so without enhancing the risk of transferring the virus. To prevent them from doing so would be an abdication of duty to our countryside and its wildlife.

Much of this work can be carried out without the need for firearms, and it is clear that current restrictions prevent recreational shooting. However, where the use of a gun is essential to control pests, or for humane dispatch, this is still allowed. Our colleagues at BASC have been in regular contact with government over this – for more detail please see the BASC website.

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at 8:08 on 08/04/2020 by John Hall

As the “lock down “ continues we are being inundated by more and more walkers, joggers and dogs not on leads wandering about fields and disturbing paired up and nesting birds. Can you ask the media (BBC) to point this out to their viewers and listeners.

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at 10:28 on 07/04/2020 by Mark Evans

Good Morning, just wanted to thank you for making a constructive statement on the do’s and don’ts during these unprecedented times, being pest controllers with firearm and shotgun licences , we are probably the most law abiding section of the community and can ill afford to fall foul of the law. Hopefully common sense and adherence to the regulations by all parties, we should all make it through without any problems .


at 10:03 on 07/04/2020 by Browning

Thank you for you definitive view on gamekeeping. This helps a great deal particularly to unpaid keepers such as myself. I have restricted myself to one visit per week for feeding. I have suspended shooting to avoid doubt. However dog walkers seem to be going once or twice a day which is somewhat annoying. Thank you Rob Browning

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