We’ve been blogging for over a year about the use of propane gas guns on grouse moors and about our concerns that these booming bird scaring devices are being used to discourage raptors (and particularly hen harriers) from settling to breed (e.g. see here, here, here, here).
In June this year, Natural England finally produced what they called ‘guidance’ for those wishing to deploy gas guns and published a decision flow chart. It looked like this:
A spokesperson for Natural England said he hoped the guidance was helpful (it wasn’t, see here) and welcomed further questions if clarification was needed.
One of our blog readers did want further clarification and he asked Natural England to explain how ‘ensuring that gas guns are located so that they do not disturb breeding Schedule 1 birds’ would work in practice?
Here’s Natural England’s response:
“In response to your query the onus is on the land manager or their representative not to cause disturbance as that would be unlawful. The use of gas guns aims to dissuade species such as corvids from causing damage to ground nesting birds or livestock. On large expanses of open moorland they should be able to be deployed away from Schedule 1 species. Most managers should know where these species are present but it would be best practice for Natural England and other interested groups, for example raptor study group members, to pass on information over the location of Schedule 1 species to the land manager so they are in a more informed position and then able to ensure that gas guns are deployed appropriately“.
Ah, of course. Because telling the grouse moor manager/gamekeeper where you’ve seen hen harriers will undoubtedly lead to those birds being protected and left undisturbed, right? Have you got that, raptor study group workers?
And here’s another ingenious policy strategy from Natural England. In response to the news that Natural England had issued a licence to a gamekeeper allowing him to kill up to ten buzzards in order to ‘protect his pheasants’ (see here), another blog reader (@exPWCO) asked Natural England how they would check that just ten buzzards had been killed? Here’s Natural England’s response:
Ah, of course. Because asking a gamekeeper to fill in a form stating how many buzzards he’d killed under licence is bound to result in a truthful response, right?
Both of these policy statements just beggar belief. They are both based on the assumption that gamekeepers don’t illegally kill raptors, which, as we all know (and so should Natural England), is a flawed assumption.