Help drive up the conservation benefits of pheasant releasing
by Professor Nick Sotherton
Director of Research, Advisory and Education
I am sure that you, like me, have found yourself locked in conversation about the impact of game management.
When it is done to the highest standards, the conservation benefits are there for all to see - more farmland birds, well-maintained woodland and food-rich cover crops. Our research showing the good that game management can do in the wider countryside, when practiced well, was even acknowledged by the RSPB in a recent Guardian article:
But we cannot be complacent. I believe that pheasant shoots can and need to achieve even more.
I am asking for your support today to raise the funds that make this possible. By limiting early mortality, we can reduce the need to release more birds – driving up the conservation benefits of shooting and driving down the criticism released pheasants might attract.
One in five released pheasants dies before the shooting season begins, putting further pressure on shoots to release more birds. Furthermore, our research shows that when too many pheasants are released in one area, the positive effects are reduced.
It is not only straight after release that pheasants are vulnerable. A GWCT study shows that only a third of released pheasants that survive the winter are still alive in July. We know that those that survive rarely breed successfully. It is essential that we understand why the survival rate and productivity are so low and what can be done to improve them. You can help us achieve this.
Your gift can make a real difference to conservation
Research has begun, but there are many questions that need to be answered.
• How do we release birds that survive better?
• How can we improve return rates?
• How can we improve the release environment for pheasants and other wildlife?
We are the only organisation searching for the answers to these questions. I am confident that, with your help, we can improve the situation if we act now.
Effective predation control makes a difference, but is not enough on its own. Early research also suggests that small changes to diet and rearing conditions, such as providing perches, can improve the likelihood of surviving in the months after release. Making these changes can improve bone structure and muscle development, making released pheasants more able to avoid predators.
The countryside will benefit from better adapted released birds, an improved releasing environment and better conditions for breeding.
With your support, we can research how to drive up the benefits of releasing with two simple aims – fewer losses before and after release and improved biodiversity at release sites.
I am raising funds to research and publish new science on the impact of methods that could make a real difference to conservation.
With robust, peer-reviewed science at the heart of any future guidelines, we can advise shoots how to improve their rearing practices and drive up the conservation benefits.
What your gift will do
Undertaking and publishing our research is just the start. We will review releasing guidelines to give those on the ground the necessary advice to put our research into practice.
The findings from our research will be spread far and wide, reaching all sporting organisations, other conservation groups and the civil servants and politicians responsible for our countryside.
New research will feed into our biodiversity assessments, already used by major retailers as a benchmark for game suppliers, and give politicians the facts they need to make the right decisions for the British countryside.
How you can support our Research Funding Appeal today
£50 – to collect five soil samples from a release pen and look for gapeworm eggs and larvae in the laboratory
£175 – to conduct a day’s butterfly count and floral surveys in woodlands where pheasants are released
£480 – to radio tag and track a hen pheasant twice a week throughout the breeding season
Your support for this research can help increase the positive impact of game management for years to come.
Please help provide the science to drive up the conservation benefits of game management