Hen harriers and red grouse: economic aspects of red grouse shooting and the implications for moorland conservation.
1. Thirgood & Redpath (2008) propose ways in which red grouse: hen harrier conflicts could be resolved. It has also been suggested that grouse management could accept lower bag sizes (number of birds shot) thus reducing the need for intensive management of predators and habitats. This would allow hen harriers to co-exist more easily on grouse moors.
2. We compare the bags, costs and incomes from these less intensive forms of grouse shooting with the more intensive driven shooting.
3. Allowing high density grouse moors to decline to low density ones will result in greater loss of income than the corresponding saving of costs. This can result in moor owners abandoning grouse management and thus gamekeepers losing their employment.
4. Losing gamekeepers from the uplands would jeopardize the protection of heather moorland and Special Protection Areas for birds, large areas of which are keepered and which currently support high numbers of breeding waders.
5. Synthesis and applications. We agree with the study by Thirgood & Redpath that consideration of social and economic factors will be needed to resolve conflict but a reduction in management effort from driven to walked-up shooting is not the answer. A more satisfactory approach to the harrier: grouse conflict could be to try to reduce harrier predation by means of diversionary feeding and to address the problem of the rapid build-up in harrier numbers by exploring the use of a ceiling on harrier densities.