Q: Is there a conflict between grouse and harriers, and where does that leave us?
A: The Joint Raptor Study (1992-1996) showed that without new kinds of management, such as diversionary feeding and brood management, you cannot have viable grouse shooting alongside large numbers of hen harriers. Now, after 15 years of talks, 20 reports, three governments and six years of mediated conflict resolution talks, the aim is to implement the 81-page conservation framework published by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, to increase the hen harrier population.
Q: Who is making that happen in England?
A: Defra brought the moor owners, gamekeepers and conservation groups together – and united them all in a simple aim: more hen harriers. This group has produced a Hen Harrier Joint Recovery Plan. Defra published the plan in January 2016, and it can be downloaded from the Defra website.
Q: What is in the hen harrier recovery plan?
- Law enforcement, prevention and intelligence
- Ongoing monitoring of breeding sites and winter roost sites
- Research of the movement of hen harriers using satellite tracking
- Diversionary feeding of hen harriers to reduce predation on grouse chicks
- Engagement study about reintroducing them across suitable habitat in England
- Trial the temporary movement of hen harrier young to aviaries (also called ‘brood management’)
Q: Temporarily removing hen harrier chicks to aviaries?
A: Nesting hen harriers can take significant numbers of grouse to feed their own chicks. Should a harrier build a nest within 10km of another, the harrier chicks in the second nest would be temporarily removed to reduce the local pressure on the grouse population. Any harrier chicks temporarily removed to aviaries would be released back to suitable habitat once fledged.
Q: Diversionary feeding and moving chicks temporarily to aviaries – is that legal?
A: Yes, if it is done under a government licence.
Q: How many hen harriers will be killed in this plan?
Q: If diversionary feeding reduces predation, why can’t we just use that?
A: More research is required since diversionary feeding alone has not been shown to increase numbers of young grouse on the moor, and hence overcome the root causes of the harrier-grouse conflict. The package of options ensures both hen harriers and grouse populations can thrive.