19 July 2013

Reared pheasant shoots can help wildlife: everyone can step up to the challenge

Meet the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Campaign for Game, which aims to encourage individual shoots to increase the wildlife benefits of their game management activities.

Game rearing and shooting has a 150 year track record of helping to conserve and encourage a huge range of wildlife, plants, insects and birds from woodland and farmland.

Our wildlife needs all the help it can get and the purpose of the Campaign for Game is partly to celebrate the biodiversity benefits reared game shooting can bring.

However, individual shoots can always do more and the Campaign for Game is also designed to ensure a strong and confident case can be made to those not yet convinced of the value of lowland game management and shoots for wildlife.

Key objectives

The Campaign for Game has four key objectives:

  1. Promote the great potential lowland reared shooting has to bring to benefit wildlife
  2. Improve the wildlife performance of shoots by offering a new GWCT Biodiversity Assessment to any reared shoot, to help make the most for wildlife
  3. Highlight the need for more research to investigate further how reared game shooting can play its part in wildlife recovery and reduce the risk of any adverse effects of shooting to a minimum
  4. Allow shoot managers to clarify to themselves that they are making a net contribution to biodiversity

However, as Ian Lindsay, GWCT’s Director of Education and Research, explains:

“Game shooting has been rising in popularity over the past 20 years and an increased number of reared birds are now being released in the UK. This has caused some controversy.

“GWCT’s Campaign for Game aims to encourage individual shoots to increase the wildlife benefits of their game management activities by choosing from a list of key management options.

In addition the GWCT’s advisory service can provide a new and bespoke “biodiversity assessment”, which will help shoots to identify what they are doing well and what they need to do to improve. Effective national uptake of the assessment will start to provide a clear demonstration of the contribution of game management to wildlife conservation in the UK.”

Key actions for shoots

The new assessment includes some suggested key actions, including:

  • Feeding through the winter to avoid the hungry gap, so helpful to our song birds as well as game.
  • Being aware of all designated land (e.g. SSSIs) in making plans for a shoot
  • Selecting cover mixes which maximise feeding for wild birds, rather than only planting maize
  • Looking out for and identifying the wildlife on land managed for shooting

GWCT’s previous research has investigated the conservation gains from habitat improvements and also the effects of releasing. Now, time has moved on and we want to update our research and gather more evidence on a wider scale.

Barney Stratton, who runs an 8,000 acre shoot in Wiltshire has already pledged his support of the Campaign and has encouraged the 14 shoots in his shoot association to undertake a “biodiversity assessment” through the GWCT.

He said, “Shoots have a lot to be proud of in terms of what they do for nature conservation, but unless this is documented it counts for little in a media age where facts have to be presented clearly, consistently and constantly. We need to show those who wish to denigrate what we do that they are barking up the wrong tree. By getting involved in GWCT’s Campaign for Game, at local level, shoots can help to provide a clear case for the biodiversity benefits that game management makes to wildlife conservation.”

In tandem with the biodiversity assessment and management options, GWCT is publishing and planning new research in order to gather further evidence on the environmental sustainability of game management activities. Key questions the research aims to answer include:

  • What is the scale of game management: how much, what and where?
  • How to ensure that released birds still in the countryside after the season closes, survive to breed in the wild?
  • It is estimated that 20% of released pheasants are lost from the date of release to the first day’s shooting. By reducing these losses can the bag be increased without releasing more birds?
  • How much good conservation management goes on in the countryside motivated by pheasant releasing? The GWCT wants to survey game management by estate, region or natural area or constituency.

Ian Lindsay concluded: “As a community, we need to identify what the challenges might be and where they exist, how we can address the effects of game bird releasing in order to maximise the environmental benefits. Although there are many game management success stories, we should be prepared to challenge ourselves. Sound conservation is something that shooting people pride themselves on delivering and I would urge all those that love their sport to support this Campaign.”

To support the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Campaign for Game, visit the GWCT’s website www.gwct.org.uk/campaign4game or ring our team of advisors on 01425 651013.


Notes to editors

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – providing research-led conservation for a thriving countryside. The GWCT is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.

ISDN radio broadcast line – at our Fordingbridge HQ we have an ISDN radio broadcast line, allowing us to conduct interviews remotely.

For information, contact:
Kate Williams
Telephone: 01425 651000
Email: press@gwct.org.uk

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