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Keywords:

  • human–wildlife conflict;
  • raptors;
  • heather moorland;
  • diversionary feeding;
  • biodiversity;
  • ecosystem services

Summary

1.  Birds of prey and driven-grouse shooting are at the centre of a long-standing human–wildlife conflict. Hen harrier predation can reduce grouse shooting bags, limit grouse populations and cause economic losses. Despite legal protection, hen harrier numbers are severely depleted on driven-grouse moors.

2.  In limited trials, provision of supplementary food to hen harriers greatly reduced their predatory impact on young grouse, but did not result in higher grouse densities for shooting. Consequently, grouse moor managers have failed to adopt the technique.

3.  A recent Forum paper has called for a trial ‘population ceiling scheme’ for hen harriers, arguing that this represents the best way to increase hen harrier numbers on driven-grouse moors. Once densities exceed the agreed ceiling, the excess would be translocated to other suitable habitat.

4.  Whilst a ‘ceiling’ scheme might work, it would be difficult to implement and we believe that other approaches to population recovery should be tested first.

5.  While driven-grouse shooting makes an important economic contribution to some rural communities, some grouse moor owners receive considerable sums of public money. Despite this, many moors are in poor condition, the ecosystem services they supply may be at risk from both climate change and current management practices, and grouse numbers are in decline. The socio-economic and environmental implications of alternative models of grouse management need urgent examination.

6.Synthesis and applications. If driven-grouse shooting is only viable when birds of prey are routinely disturbed and killed, then we question the legitimacy of driven-grouse shooting as a sustainable land use. Moorland owners need to consider more broadly sustainable shooting practices for the 21st century.