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Nov
13

The gruesome fate of mountain hares on Scottish grouse moors

Following yesterday’s article on the reported ‘massive declines’ of mountain hares on Deeside grouse moors, and the game-shooting industry’s response that mountain hares are ‘thriving’ on Scottish grouse moors (see here), one of our contributors has sent in the following photos, taken on a well-known Angus grouse moor between 2011-2012.

The awful, bloody truth.

If you are disgusted by these images and are concerned about SNH’s long-term failure to implement an effective monitoring scheme to protect this species, you might want to email SNH’s mammal expert, Rob Raynor and ask him what measures he intends to introduce, and when. Email: Robert.Raynor@snh.gov.uk

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59 Responses to “The gruesome fate of mountain hares on Scottish grouse moors”


  1. November 11, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    If you compare different methods of grouse moor management – and indeed areas where there is no grouse moor management – how do mountain hare populations differ? Do you get more or less hares on areas managed for grouse? From what I understand you get a lot more. So what is it about grouse moors which mean they support so many more hares? I’d be genuinely interested in your views.

    • November 11, 2013 at 11:29 pm

      Er…the complete obliteration of the mountain hare’s natural predators on driven grouse moors perhaps has something to do with it?

      • 3 Lazywell
        November 12, 2013 at 1:04 am

        So which is it: more hares on grouse moors because of legal predator control? or massive declines to the extent that “in some areas hares have been completely wiped out”? You really can’t have it both ways.

        The fact is that even in areas where cull rates have been more intensive, researchers on the ground continue to see significant numbers of hares. That echoes the measured and perceptive comments of Dave Adam in response to your previous post.

        As as been rightly noted elsewhere, mountain hares are highly mobile, secretive and well camouflaged, which is just as well as otherwise the eagles would have eaten them all.

        If I were you I would be more concerned about the apparent decline in hare numbers in the south and west of Scotland, where I am certainly unaware of any campaign of “systematic destruction”. The lack of a thriving food source for eagles there, of the kind found on managed grouse moors in the east of Scotland, is a genuine conservation issue.

        • 4 Marco McGinty
          November 12, 2013 at 5:57 am

          “As as been rightly noted elsewhere, mountain hares are highly mobile, secretive and well camouflaged, which is just as well as otherwise the eagles would have eaten them all.”

          Really? I’m quite sure that is not the case, more of a fantasist’s viewpoint. The majority of the hares in the above photographs clearly show them with pale pelage, and yet there is not a hint of snow in any of the images, so why were these individuals not taken by eagles? Does this indicate that eagles have been persecuted in these areas?

          “The lack of a thriving food source for eagles there [in south and west Scotland], of the kind found on managed grouse moors in the east of Scotland, is a genuine conservation issue.”

          Again, really? There is no food source for eagles in the south and west of Scotland? You have many thousands of wintering wildfowl, and increasing numbers of breeding Canada Geese in the region. I was also under the impression (from those country folks) that eagles had a devastating impact on lambs during the lambing season. There is a lot of sheep farming in the south and west of Scotland, as well as a tremendous variety of other potential prey items. Furthermore, Golden Eagles seem to do fine on Arran, so I honestly don’t know where you got your information from. Perhaps illegal persecution is keeping the population down.

        • 5 Grouseman
          November 12, 2013 at 7:37 am

          Very well said Lazywell the problem is many people on this blog and beyond dont care about serious conservation issues when you can seize the oppertunity to have a pop at grouse moor management.

          • 6 Marco McGinty
            November 13, 2013 at 11:07 am

            Yes, serious conservation issues such as the widespread and illegal raptor persecution that occurs on many shooting estates.

        • November 12, 2013 at 12:34 pm

          You are spouting nonsense about Golden Eagles and hares.
          On Mull there are some of the highest densities of Golden Eagles in the country and yet i see Mountain Hares almost every day within a Golden Eagle territory.
          I don’t understand the point you are trying to make
          “mountain hares are highly [citation] mobile, secretive and well camouflaged, which is just as well as otherwise the eagles would have eaten them all.”
          It’s called predator prey relationship, so what. You seem to be implying that it is only because of the canny hare that it doesn’t get exterminated by the big bad eagle.
          Basic ecology says the opposite. The eagle needs the hare to survive otherwise it would lose a food source.

      • November 12, 2013 at 8:32 am

        Predator control on grouse moors might well have something to do with them having more mountain hares I agree and also presumably the way the heather is managed. This would certainly seem to account for their being more mountain hares where moors are more intensively managed and very few where there is no management and somewhere in between where there is some.

        However the headline in the Herald was that wildlife experts are saying that grouse moor management is driving hares to the brink of extinction. That doesn’t seem to be entirely the case. Would you agree?

        I’m not actually arguing for or against grouse moors. To be honest I’d like to see lots of different forms of land use as well as land non use as I think that leads to more bio diversity. However having some areas where their are fewer meso predators seems to me to be not entirely a bad thing. It’s worth remembering that the absence of these meso predator’s predators – such as wolves lynx &c &c possibly causes considerable bio diversity loss unless their meso predator prey is controlled to some extent in some other way.

        It’s certainly an interesting issue and well worth discussing so thanks for your comment.

        • November 12, 2013 at 12:15 pm

          “However having some areas where their are fewer meso predators seems to me to be not entirely a bad thing”
          Except in the case of birds of prey, ahum, it is illegal.

        • 11 Marco McGinty
          November 13, 2013 at 11:29 am

          Headlines do tend to try and capture the broad spectrum of the issue in a few short words, and can sensationalise as a result of this, which is why we must delve further into the article. The very first sentence of the article did state that it was in parts of the highlands, and in no way did the article suggest that every grouse moor was responsible. In fact, rather than an attack on the grouse shooting industry, Dr Watson appears to be more concerned about SNH’s lack of action, or desire, to combat these losses.

          And yes, the sooner that the wolf, the bear and the lynx are reintroduced, the better.

    • November 12, 2013 at 12:26 pm

      Strange that the un-cited facts you claim are presumably for all grouse moors. The article was about specific grouse moors. You are implying that all grouse moors are managed identically.
      If it is true that some species are higher on grouse moors, which i suspect is just spin, then the numbers are artificially high.

      • November 12, 2013 at 7:20 pm

        So are we complaining that the numbers of mountain hares are artificially high or low? #confused

        To be honest we live in a country where there is no true wilderness so all species and all ecosystems are affected by man to some degree. There is obviously a question over how we affect things but not really one as to whether we affect things. In my view.

        • November 13, 2013 at 5:58 pm

          I would like to see some evidence for your claim for a start hence my caveats. You have ignored completely my statement that you are treating all grouse moors as a whole when the article was about specific grouse moors. I was also referring to the often quoted claim by grouse moors that they benefit wildlife (hence my ‘some species’) not to hares specifically.
          What is confusing about artificially high numbers and then the artificial ‘need’ to cull. Isn’t that the definition of a Red Grouse shoot.
          The fact that there is ‘no true wilderness’ in the Uk is hardly something i am proud of.

  2. November 11, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    Remember that there are no natural grouse moors anywhere in Scotland; they’re all naturally forest and have to be either overgrazed by deer or sheep, or else burned off regularly, to stop them reverting to forest. A grouse moor is by definition a man-made, managed environment (even if that management is mostly very damaging).

  3. 16 Dave Dick
    November 12, 2013 at 12:00 am

    By the look of the top photo, with lines of brash at the back, that’s a stink pit which will have snares set round it..So, you eradicate the predator’s food supply by killing the hares and then you use their dead bodies to trap the same predators [I’ll be kind and say foxes]..fantastic…what a sad, destructive and cruel waste of effort.

  4. 18 Andie R Timms
    November 12, 2013 at 9:34 am

    A well managed grouse moor is one that turns in a profit for the land owner. It is becoming obvious even to the uninformed that it is at the cost of anything that so called interfers with the grouse. It is apparrent that the cost to wildlife in general as the evidence mounts against the game estates is not good. You remove the predators from the top of the food chain, will have consequences to the whole enviroment. I once had a arguement with a gamekeeper that though not proven had killed a number of tawny owls on his shoot, he then had a massive rat problem, which did more damage than the owls ever did, some justice that nature gave back.

  5. 19 Rob
    November 12, 2013 at 11:01 am

    this is simply farming for specific game species at the expense of other wildlife and biodiversity. Estate owners and their employees have little interest or accountability towards biodiversity on their land and as we’ve seen, they also have little understanding of ecosystems. Grouse moors are managed monocultures, not unlike cereal fields. We see bemoaning organisations who want the public to think that their song-birds are absent because of predation is just a cheap attempt to further their underlying objectives.
    We’re also seeing through the UK a tendancy to push boundaries concerning wildlife simply because people think they can get away with anything they like given the politicians we have, be it badger gassing, hunting with hounds or destruction of habitat to develop land. Diversity offsetting will surely push these boundaries further.
    It’s time for the NGOs and Anti’s to really up their game – excuse the pun – and expose what is happening more widely. I strongly suggest that the huge majority of people in this country don’t support these fringe sports that cause so much destruction for the profit and outdated culture of the few.

    • 20 Dave Dick
      November 12, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      Agree with Rob here…the only reason we are discussing the mountain hare problem is because of the totally artificial habitat called grouse moor…not only do the great majority of people in the UK not know the reality of management of wildlife for shooting, they are unaware that these hills are only covered in heather due to regular burning – otherwise they would be forests of various types. There is a choice here..yes you would have less total numbers of animals such as mountain hares [and possibly, eagles, harriers ravens etc] but it wouldnt be the savage boom and bust you get with monocultures…..get rid of “managed” grouse moors and you get rid of this problem and many others.

      • 21 Lazywell
        November 12, 2013 at 5:58 pm

        No, when you get rid of managed grouse moors you end up with wildlife deserts. Just look at Langholm after the keepers were withdrawn: https://www.gwct.org.uk/research/species/birds/lapwing-and-other-waders/abundance-of-ground-nesting-birds-at-langholm/

        Is that really what you want?

        • 22 Merlin
          November 13, 2013 at 12:21 am

          As soon as you mentioned the gwct I knew you was having a laugh, the gwct is still trying to fathom the decline of the grey partridge despite the release of 30+ million pheasants and an unknown number of Red legged Partridge annually. Most of us know why its declining but those with differing agenda’s are still trying to find a scapegoat. You mention Langholm but your only taking the results you want from Langholm, Grouse and Voles, Harriers main prey are cyclic, on a seven year and four year cycle respectively. Once every 20 to 30 years these cycles overlap resulting in a boom year for both species, this is followed by a boom in harriers, the following years will be bad. This is what happens in much of the more remote territories of the Northern Harrier. That is what happened in 1997, Gamekeepers try to control the cycles by keeping populations level. However once you get a greedy landowner who wont or cant understand this you get problems, nature wont allow a species to become too dominant or over populated, you cant take record bags year on year this is what you need to understand, oh and a desert only needs rain to come to life

          • 23 Lazywell
            November 13, 2013 at 2:10 pm

            Not sure I understand the correlation you appear to be drawing between released game and the decline in the wild grey partridge. In any event, the GWCT’s research has indeed identified the primary factors for the chronic decline in the partridge population; and it’s by no means limited to predation, which I assume is the putative scapegoat you refer to. Vital too is suitable nesting cover; and sufficient insects for the chicks to eat. When the GWCT’s management prescriptions are followed the results can be truly spectacular: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/nature_studies/once-upon-a-time-in-a-land-before-pesticide-wildlife-was-so-abundant-8576870.html

            As for Langholm, I was not cherrypicking to suit my case; I was simply stating what happened. And it was against that background that the current project to restore Langholm as a viable driven grouse moor was launched – a project supported by, amongst others, the public agency SNH and the RSPB. Don’t forget, incidentally, that the RSPB were quoted earlier this year as follows: “It is clear that the favourable management of grouse moors is a key aspect of conserving the hen harrier.” The RSPB have also recently highlighted the importance of gamekeepers to the future survival of the curlew: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2664.12167/abstract

            Let’s hope they apply the lessons from their own research (and the GWCT’s at Otterburn, for example) in managing some of their own upland reserves in Wales, where the risk of extinction of several upland wader species is very real. And don’t just take my word for it. The enlightened ecologist and broadcaster Iolo Williams put it far more eloquently and graphically than I ever could: http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/archive/2013/06/15/iolo-video.aspx

            • 24 Merlin
              November 13, 2013 at 7:45 pm

              Grey Partridge were common in two locations near me and had been since I was a lad, since the release of pheasants about four years ago they disappeared from both areas. Pheasants compete directly with Greys not only for food but also for nesting spaces. GWCT can look for all the excuses they like but it doesn’t suite them to turn round and say we need to start limiting the release of Pheasants for the sake of Greys its much easier to lay the blame on natural predators and that suites the agenda of the shooting fraternity, you can give this organisation a fancy name containing the words wildlife and conservation trust but this doesn’t mean it has no hidden agendas.
              Langholm is a joke, two sides in an argument trying to score points against each other. Harriers, Grouse Pipits, Larks and more have lived on Moors across the northern hemisphere for millennia, their relationships are made of highs and lows. To claim that they would die or the land turn into a desert without the aid of Gamekeepers is absurd, for a natural balance to be restored it would take decades not five or ten years, yes we can help but at the moment most Gamekeepers seem to have taken it upon themselves to shoot on sight any Harrier over their land, how many young have returned to Langholm yet? Every one of those young should have been sat tagged this year and every move recorded!
              Furthermore at Langholm its now about trying to get a viable moor, the word viable needs defining hear, there’s millions of pounds of public money going to other estates up and down the country with apparently no income coming back into the public purse as they all seem to be making a loss, how long should the public sustain this industry
              Waders, thanks for reminding me it’s the SGA’s year of the Wader, Curlews had to be removed from the game list to prevent them becoming extinct, strangely they are a far more common breeding bird in the UK than the Golden Plover, Snipe and Woodcock which are all still on the Game list, obviously your going to tell me the other species are buoyed by winter visitors from Scandinavia but I’d be interested in how you tell a resident from a non native bird when your shooting these or do you think the SGA should apply to have these removed from the quarry list.

              • 25 Lazywell
                November 14, 2013 at 12:31 am

                What a surprise that you completely ignored my acknowledgment that predation is not the only factor in the historic decline in the wild grey partridge population. But have you any scientific evidence to support your claim that released pheasants and red-legged partridges are somehow also responsible, whether in your local area or more widely? Certainly I’ve seen nothing from any reputable scientific organisation to suggest as much. Like you, the RSPB are always banging on about the 30+ million released pheasants nationally, but even they, when asked about any damaging impact, can only point to the amount of poo that is created. As for the GWCT, whatever you might think about it, it depends on the thoroughness and independence of its peer-reviewed research for its credibility; it really isn’t a case of what suits it or anyone else, or what is in accordance with some open or hidden agenda.

                As regards Langholm, please tell me which are the two sides “trying to score points against each other”? If you mean the GWCT and RSPB, they’re actually cooperating together in the demonstration project there, and conflict resolution is an express objective of the project. Pity you regard such a significant initiative as a joke.

                As for waders, I’m afraid you’re on very weak ground. The woeful decline in the Welsh uplands has got nothing to do with shooting; it is almost wholly the result of poor management. Take Lake Vyrnwy for example: in 1984 – 86, there were 18-21 pairs of curlews; now, even with a bespoke recovery project that has been in place since 2007 there are still only 3 or 4. Relatively speaking, and certainly compared to managed grouse moors in the north of England and Scotland, the Welsh uplands are indeed a desert, and painful though it might be for followers of this site to countenance, what is needed to restore them to life is an injection of gamekeepers.

                • 26 Marco McGinty
                  November 14, 2013 at 7:45 pm

                  “As for the GWCT, whatever you might think about it, it depends on the thoroughness and independence of its peer-reviewed research for its credibility; it really isn’t a case of what suits it or anyone else, or what is in accordance with some open or hidden agenda.”

                  Lazywell, in response to your above claim, almost two months ago on this very site, you claimed that Goshawks had increased by 16% per annum since the early 1960s. This figure was issued by the GWCT, which you claimed to be an “impeccably independent source”. (See here https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/sga-chairmans-ignorance-could-fuel-goshawk-persecution/)

                  I believed this figure to be an exaggeration at best, or even a downright lie, and put forward my evidence to support my claim. You stated that you were going to “try and get further clarification” for your own claims, but to this date, I am still waiting on a reply from you. This is hardly the work of a thorough, independent and credible organisation, and does indeed indicate that the you and the GWCT will use plain fiction and unproven and unscientific figures to suit your own agenda.

                  In relation to the Pheasant/Partridge issue, it is highly likely that the vast annual introductions of non-native Pheasants and Partridges will be having a detrimental impact on the native species. Due to the huge numbers of introductions, competition during the nesting season and being out-competed for food are often cited as some of the reasons for the decline in Grey Partridge numbers, and any sensible person would understand this. I’m quite sure if 30+ million Trumpeter Swans were introduced to the UK on an annual basis, it would have a negative effect on the native Mute Swan population (alongside other native wildfowl). If 30+ million American Kestrels were introduced to the UK on an annual basis, it would have a negative effect on the native Kestrel and other raptors. If 30+ million non-native finches were introduced on an annual basis, it would have a damaging impact on native finch populations, as well as other songbirds. At times there is a need for scientific evidence, but in some cases it is simply not required, and common sense prevails, this being an example.

                  • 27 Merlin
                    November 16, 2013 at 11:18 am

                    Thanks for the timely reminder on that impeccably sourced scientific paper on Goshawks Marco, Falconry clubs used to import 30 to 40 birds at a time, both young and passage birds. these were then distributed to members on a waiting list for a nominal fee to cover costs. The birds were kept in large holding aviaries/barns for six weeks to check for illness and disease. One of these aviaries in the Sheffield area was damaged in a storm resulting in the loss of all the birds some of which subsequently bred in the peak district close by. This is what I recall being told by a long time member of the British Falconers club who was part of the importing project, I stand to be corrected on this as it was over a decade ago when I last saw the guy. As already mentioned but definitely worth noting again, a dozen pairs in the mid sixties increasing about 16% annually would now have a population in excess of 5,500 pairs. (actually its probably more I worked it out at 15% to make it easier) strangely the actual population stands at between 280 and 430 pairs. A couple of questions spring to mind immediately. Where are these birds? And will that scientific paper will now be amended and a corrected version publicised by the GWCT in an attempt to justify the “Wildlife Conservation” in its title

                    • 28 Marco McGinty
                      November 16, 2013 at 5:52 pm

                      Glad to be of service, Merlin.

                      With an introduction of just one pair of Goshawks in 1962, increasing at a rate of 16% per annum (as Lazywell and the GWCT suggested), would result in 1,938 pairs in 2013. As you already know, the current UK breeding population falls way short of that, so I honestly do wonder if we will ever receive an explanation for this lie.

                      As for the GWCT issuing a corrected version, alongside an apology for deliberately deceiving the scientific community, we will just have to wait and see, however I do think there is a greater chance that Hen Harriers will successfully breed in England this year.

                • 29 Merlin
                  November 14, 2013 at 8:43 pm

                  Scientific papers! Would that make a difference? I have a bird table in the garden, the Dunnock usually comes to it first, it then gets chased off by the Robin who in turn gets chased off by the Blackbird, I don’t need to have read peer reviewed papers to relise the bigger and more aggressive birds are going to take the majority of the food and if there’s any competition for the best bush to nest in the Blackbird is going to win. it’s a simple law of nature. if you still have doubts there are plenty papers written on other conflicting larger non native species competing against native species, try searching for American Grey Squirrels impact on Red Squirrels or American Signal Crayfish impact on White Clawed Crayfish.
                  So the situation in Wales regarding the Curlew is down to poor management, it is declining in much of Europe is that down to poor management too. The local population have just had a bumper year after two disastrous years, the good year was down to the fantastic weather we had, it wasn’t down to any Gamekeeper or any predator control, the two disastrous years were also down to the disastrous weather we had. It wasn’t down to any predators. Predator control over the three years would not have made any difference, it isn’t a magic wand. As for the welsh uplands being a desert I can only assume you haven’t been or if you have you were probably blind folded
                  Langholm, the two sides I was refering to was the conservationists and the shooting fraternity who took completely different views of the first set of results. I’m well aware the GWCT and the RSPB are working together and there are millions of pounds invested in this, it’s a pity not everyone see’s it this way, as I said and you failed to answer, How many young have returned to nest there yet?

                • 30 Marco McGinty
                  November 18, 2013 at 6:44 pm

                  Lazywell, once again you have failed to provide any supporting evidence for your claim. Shall I assume that your statement was yet another shooting lobby lie?

                  • 31 Lazywell
                    November 18, 2013 at 11:37 pm

                    Which statement are you objecting to now? or is it still the goshawk one?

                    • 32 Marco McGinty
                      November 18, 2013 at 11:59 pm

                      Well considering that you have refused to offer an explanation for almost two months now, yes, I am still waiting on your response to the supposed 16% per annum increase in Goshawks since the early 1960s.

                      You keep banging on about the quality and credibility of GWCT research, so do you and the GWCT still believe this figure is correct or not? If you still stand by this 16% per annum increase, how did you arrive at this figure, and if not, why not just admit you and the GWCT were wrong?

      • November 12, 2013 at 7:26 pm

        We also have “totally artificial” habitats called coppiced woodland thousands of miles of “totally artificial” hedgerows and chalk downland and meadows – all of this exists purely because at one time or another someone has tried to make a living out of it.

        • 34 Dave Dick
          November 13, 2013 at 8:28 pm

          Now thats an interesting and in relation to farmland, true statement…”make a living”. Thats where grouse moors differ from commercially run [or in the past subsistence, or in the present often subsidised] farms, I have been told many times and read it in various reports, that grouse moors are the loss making end of estates. They are kept on for kudos, not cash – until of course certain people promise to make them pay short term and kill every predator that moves to get high grouse numbers. I repeat, its a rotten artificial system that destroys biodiversity and the sooner the government [SNH] and NGOs [RSPB] stop supporting the status quo and think out of the old box the sooner we’ll get some biodiversity back.

          I dont want to see a “return to wilderness”, thats an impractical nonsense in a country the size of Scotland – theres not enough room for a single free running wolf pack in mainland Scotland for instance – I want to see an upland landscape with a mix of heath and native woodland with some sheep grazing and a serious stable return to biodiversity run on a combined national and local community basis. Not Uplands run for the amusement of a handful of landowners and their “servants”…and I assure you I am not alone in those thoughts…you just wont hear them from the shooting community.

      • November 16, 2013 at 8:49 am

        Dear Dave,

        On a different subject, but one I’ve not seen the conclusion of – did the Marks and Spencer in Kensington or Chelsea or wherever it was ever end up selling their ‘sustainably managed’ red grouse, or was it withdrawn after our outcry ???

  6. 36 Alexander Lough
    November 12, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    I find this disgusting,who exactly is behind this carnage,is it the SNH,they are doing the same with the RED DEER.
    This is another Government Quango,just like SEPA, I live in the East Lammermuirs,and we have a cement works that belches out deadly toxic gases,we complaint to SEPA ,they tell us its only steam that comes from the chimnay,its not steam,i have caught pictures of the plume and sent them to SEPA,they are in denial.
    So if the SNH are behind it then the public must demand an investigation as to why they are doing what they are.

  7. 37 Merlin
    November 12, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Hey, why not take a classroom of young school kids and show them your stink pits, explain to them this is what wildlife managers do all the time. explain that all this is done to enable a few egotistial fat business men to get some pleasure, explain its actually better to do this for wildlife and how we all should be grateful to you for doing it. see if they believe your bullshit, see if they believe you have created utopia, ask them if they can hear the nightingales and thrushes you believe your hearing in a landscape only suitable to pipits and larks. What happened to the game is good to eat campaign when people see pictures of piles of rotting animals, absolutely disgraceful

  8. November 12, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    In contrast to Deeside, all the managed estates I monitor raptors, etc on in Angus, numbers of mountain hare look fairly healthy and in several areas numbers have dramatically increased over the last 20 years. As with monitoring all species it is highly weather dependent and seasonal – some days you go out and see very few mountain hare and on other days in the same areas you are tripping over them.
    Only a few years back a very rare event happened on Invermark Estate – successful Golden Eagle triplets. Surely this highlights the abundance of a very healthy habitat/food supply of mountain hares and grouse, etc.
    For the record this wonderful scenic, highly biodiverse 55,000 acre estate has 2 resident pairs of GE which in most years are successful.

    • November 12, 2013 at 3:31 pm

      Mike, these photographs were taken on an Angus estate that is managed for driven grouse shooting. These hares don’t look ‘fairly healthy’!

      The estate you’re talking about (which isn’t where the photos were taken) is well known for supporting productive golden eagles. As of this year, it is also well known as the location where a white-tailed sea eagle nest tree was felled with a chainsaw. Funnily enough, it was the only tree within the block that was felled. How do you explain that?

      • November 12, 2013 at 4:03 pm

        Certainly another real mystery which personally sickened me – surely with Invermark Estate recently embarking on Wildlife and Cultural Tours a pair of breeding WTE would have drawn in a lot of interest and business.
        Out of interest what was the name of the estate that these photographs were taken on?

    • 42 Dave Dick
      November 12, 2013 at 7:06 pm

      I believe thats whats called the exception that proves the rule….I wont congratulate an estate on doing what is legal and should be followed by everyone…

  9. November 16, 2013 at 8:43 am

    I duly emailed Robert Raynor SNH and got this, thought I’d post it as no-one else seems to have:

    Good afternoon

    Thank you for your email which was sent to one of our members of staff. We have received a quite a few similar responses. We can’t answer them all individually but we would like to clarify a few points to explain what we have been doing and propose to do.

    Firstly, a close season on hare control was introduced in 2011 to protect the species during the main part of the breeding season (March – July inclusive). Without conclusive evidence that hare populations are declining generally across Scotland as a result of over-exploitation, full all year round protection could not be justified at the time.

    Because hare populations are naturally cyclical, monitoring overall trends over time is complex and problematic. SNH has been working closely with the leading UK experts on this species since 2005, to increase our understanding of their current status and to develop a reliable and cost-effective method of assessing their numbers.

    We would like to reiterate the following points:

    • SNH does not support indiscriminate, large scale culls of mountain hares and, while moorland managers are advised to consult SNH if they propose such measures, the only cases that we are currently able to regulate directly, are in relation to licensable activities where the number of hares allowed to be taken is restricted.

    • We have heard of allegations that some estates systematically remove mountain hares as a prey base for golden eagles, but it is very difficult to prove this to be case, given the range of other legitimate reasons for controlling hare numbers (but not eradicating them.) SNH condemns any systematic attempt to reduce hare numbers for this reason and we would emphasise that, not only is it extremely bad practice, it demonstrates no understanding of the ecology of predators such as eagles, namely that if mountain hares become scarce or absent, the predator will switch increasingly to other more available prey such as red grouse.

    • We are currently working with both the James Hutton Institute and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust to develop a further programme of research, building on previous work, to address the fundamental question of how best to count hares, with the intention of commencing further fieldwork later in 2014.

    These are complex issues which we will continue to tackle. We hope this information has been helpful.

    Customer Relations Team
    Scottish Natural Heritage

  10. 44 Lazywell
    November 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Hi Marco

    You have perfectly reasonably asked me once again to substantiate my claim in an earlier post that goshawk numbers increased by 16% per annum from the 1960s. Sorry for the delay, but I can confirm that it was a direct quote from “A Question of Balance: Game animals and their role in the British countryside” [1999] by the noted ecologist Dr Stephen Tapper. In turn, Tapper referred to Stone et al. [1997] British Birds Vol 90: pages 1-22.

    It follows from the dates of those publications that the rate quoted relates to the time from the 1960s releases through to the 1990s. As far as I am aware, the figures have never been challenged. That said, I am happy to accept your own observations that the population has declined since then.

    Will you now please accept that I provided that figure in good faith, and withdraw your allegations made at various stages in our exchanges that the GWCT and/or I have been guilty of deceit and issuing deliberate lies and unproven and unscientific figures to suit our own respective agendas?

    • 45 Marco McGinty
      November 19, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      Lazywell, I will credit you with the decency to try and support your arguments, however, and it has already been mentioned on this site, that there is a problem with the Stone reference. In 1997, when the paper was published, the 16% per annum increase could have been correct (again, this 16% per annum increase would rely on an initial reintroduction of just two birds in 1960 or 1961, and no deaths whatsoever for many years), however, the Goshawk population has hardly increased (if it has at all) since then.

      Because a species underwent a population increase at some stage in its history, you cannot claim that this increase is perpetual, unless you have sound evidence to support the claim. And considering the vagaries involved in breeding success, the natural cycle of life and death and the illegal persecution that the species has been subject to, you and the GWCT should have been well aware that a perpetual 16% per annum increase was impossible. If this rate was to be maintained, there would be just under 11,000 Goshawks in 2018, and the figure would exceed 30,000 in 2025.

      A 2006 publication in British Birds (Population estimates of birds in Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Vol 99, 25-44) suggested the Goshawk breeding population in the UK was 410 pairs, which would indicate no rise at all in the population since 1997, and perhaps even a decline. So, why would a science-based organisation choose to ignore the findings in this paper? It is also quite interesting to note that the GWCT page you linked to in a previous post (the one that mentioned the 16% per annum increase) can no longer be found on the GWCT website. This could have something to do with the website change, but it could equally have something to do with the fact that the figure was completely false, lacking in morality and had proven to be an embarrassment to the GWCT.

      Science seems to be a buzz word with the GWCT, and the very first statement on the organisation’s homepage reads “We are a leading UK charity conducting conservation science to enhance the British countryside…” (see here http://www.gwct.org.uk/), and it’s a well-used word throughout the website. Now many would consider mathematics as a science, and an ancient one at that, so why would an organisation proclaiming to have such a founding in science, choose to promote the idea that the Goshawk has increased by 16% per annum since the 1960s, an idea that is completely lacking in science?

      Which takes us back to the allegations of lies and deceit and unproven and unscientific figures. So again, we must ask why any one person or organisation would issue a statement claimed as scientific fact, yet ignore a simple scientific procedure (and other papers) that would prove the statement to be inaccurate? As I’ve mentioned before, as long as I am concerned, if a person or organisation issues a statement knowing or believing it to be wrong, then that person or organisation is guilty of issuing a deliberate lie.

      So, it all boils down to one of the following;

      if the GWCT knew it was wrong, then they were lying. If they didn’t know the figure was wrong, then their science, at times, must be very, very poor. It has to be one of the two!

  11. 46 Merlin
    November 20, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    An excellent response Marco, somehow I cant see the correction being cited, thanks to McGinty et al. you would think people would be grateful you rectify their embarrassing mistakes though wouldn’t you. A couple of other points have played on my mind before this debate got sidetracked, back on the main subject of the Mountain Hare. As you know the Mountain Hare is classed as a game species, now looking at the BASC website for details of how to care for shot game I cant find any information about throwing them in a pit surrounded by snares to decompose. Do you think the stink pit is becoming the modern equivalent of the gibbet. It cant be a nice sight in the year of Natural Scotland for a tourist to come across one of these, you can imagine the commentary on the promotional video “ The year of Natural Scotland, as you walk across the glorious Grouse moors you might catch a hint of a wiff of decomposing flesh. If your lucky you might even find his stink pit full of the rotting corpses of his poor victims, be sure to be careful you don’t trip up in any of the snares hidden nearby”

    • 47 Marco McGinty
      November 21, 2013 at 5:09 am

      Thanks Merlin. The sad thing is that many organisations just refuse to accept they’ve made mistakes, and rather than admit it, they will continue along a path of ignorance, generating even greater problems than they had at the outset. This Goshawk issue is a prime example, the RSPB Scottish Birdfair venue choice being another. So yes, apologies for deviating from the main topic.

      In relation to the Mountain Hare, you have made a very valid point. The slaughter of animals, simply to be dumped in an attempt to trap other creatures, just shows how vile the shooting industry is. So exactly where do stink pits fit in with the Code of Good Shooting Practice? Where do they fit in with the Respect for Quarry? Where do they it fit in with the Trapping Pest Mammals Code of Practice? As far as I can see, stink pits are a breach of all three. Where does the killing and dumping of all these hares fit in with the Game-to-Eat campaign?

      And again, you are correct Merlin. Stumbling across a stink pit must be a wonderful and memorable experience for any tourist, or anyone else with an interest in the outdoors, and it does bring shame on the nation.

    • 48 Grouseman
      November 21, 2013 at 8:22 am

      I don’t see your point Merlin I fully accept that some people will find stink pits or middens horrible, unappealing and even morally wrong but that will just be that individuals opinion and doesn’t make it reprehensible or illegal. There are many things in life that people find unsavoury and don’t agree with but others view as being perfectly acceptable. Take and member of the general public into a slaughter house or dehorning cattle or even putting ear tags in livestock and they will quite probably find it cruel and not wish to see it. There is far worse animal issues happening under our noses than shooting half a dozen hares to use as bait! Look at the UK’s biggest supermarket selling us all horsemeat for example.
      All this debate about mountain hares has proved is that aspects of grouse moor management (habitat and predator control) can greatly increase hare populations above levels on other areas then these moors are coming under atack for managing their numbers! It’s like saying a hen house is bad for egg numbers because all these eggs are produced then the farmer takes them away! It’s rediculous.

      • 49 Dave Dick
        November 21, 2013 at 11:38 am

        Another example of the “rediculous” is the fact that dead hares [and rabbits and deer] can apparently be left to deliberately rot in the open [surrounded by snares] when it is an offence to let stock [sheep and cattle] do so…because of disease worries..arent these the same hares that are killed to prevent tick-borne disease from getting onto grouse?…any scientists out there care to comment?

        • 50 Grouseman
          November 21, 2013 at 11:50 pm

          I don’t need to be a scientist Dick to tell you that humans cannot be infected by louping ill which is the disease culling hares is designed to limit the spread of.

      • 52 Marco McGinty
        November 21, 2013 at 5:48 pm

        “There are many things in life that people find unsavoury and don’t agree with but others view as being perfectly acceptable.”

        I take it you’re referring to the shooting industry’s pro-active approach to raptor persecution and other wildlife crimes?

        Would it not be reprehensible or illegal if the stink pits are surrounded by outlawed traps, or are being used to target protected species? As for your argument about slaughter houses, well, you’ve unwittingly answered your own question. The fact that many would be offended by such actions means that it is done behind closed doors. And I’m quite sure that any right-thinking person would consider that ear-tagging is not as offensive as a rotting pile of corpses used to trap other animals, quite often illegally.

        And once again, Grouseman, you have shown your inability to grasp the basics of natural processes and predator-prey relationships. Yes, if you rid an area of predators, the prey species will flourish, but you create an imbalance and degradation within the environment.

        As for your egg analogy, you will find that most farmers will be selling the eggs on for food. Of all the farms in the UK that are involved in egg production, I don’t think there will be many producing eggs simply to dump them on a vast pile.

        • 53 Grouseman
          November 21, 2013 at 11:55 pm

          And once again Marco you have made an inaccurate and sweeping statement. All the hares culled by estates aren’t dumped to rot like your suggesting That would be a huge waste of money it is simply the case that a few may get used as bait for traps, cages, middens etc but the bulk of them are sold into the foot chain.

          • 54 Marco McGinty
            November 22, 2013 at 1:12 am

            And for the umpteenth time you are completely wrong, Grouseman. Where exactly did I state that all hares were dumped? You really should learn to read things thoroughly before making idiotic comments.

  12. 55 Merlin
    November 22, 2013 at 12:13 am

    Grouseman wrote

    “I don’t see your point Merlin I fully accept that some people will find stink pits or middens horrible, unappealing and even morally wrong but that will just be that individuals opinion and doesn’t make it reprehensible or illegal.”

    It might not be illegal Grouseman but talking to other shooting lads the majority I know think this is wrong! Its depreciating a game species, if the Hares need controlling ( our opinions will not agree on this over something so ridiculous it might possibly harbour ticks or disease) at least they should have the decency to respect the Quarry, take them to the Butchers, give them away, pass them on to a Zoo or a Falconer they’d be delighted with them, but for someone who calls themselves a Countryman to dump them beggars belief. especially when the other half of the shooting industry is trying to claim its beneficial to wildlife and promote eating Game, once again it’s another case of the Donkey pulling the cart in the wrong direction.
    Listing a few things that people might also find upsetting doesn’t really constitute a good argument for your case, a defensive stance in this debate does nothing to improve the public opinion of shooting. Its time the land owners listened to the shooting organisations, showed their gamekeepers whose the boss and told them what is and what isn’t acceptable as they obviously haven’t got a bloody clue. that’s my point!

    • 56 Grouseman
      November 22, 2013 at 9:45 am

      I totally agree with you about showing respect for quarry and it is something everyone involved with shooting should do but my argument is out of the hundreds of hares culled annually there will only be a minute fraction used for this purpose.

      As for suggesting hares don’t increase the spread of the louping Ill virus as all untreated mammalian hosts will, I suggest reading into tick Bourne diseases and any of the reports detailing how the reduction of mammalian hosts and the introduction of a treated sheep flock can halt and reverse the effects of the louping Ill virus.

  13. 57 Merlin
    November 22, 2013 at 11:35 am

    I,ll take your word about tick borne diseases Grouseman and thanks for clarifying your point. what I cant understand then is the reluctance of your wildlife managers to accept a cull of Deer that most wildlife organisations are crying out for because some estates would lose money from stalking. I think I can guess were the research about Mountain Hares and ticks came from,, I bet the poor Short tailed Vole is looking over his shoulder and shitting himself thinking he,s next

    • 58 Grouseman
      November 22, 2013 at 10:07 pm

      You will actually find the estates that wish to reduce mountain hares are predominantly grouse moors who don’t wish to encourage large numbers of deer for the same disease spreading issues and are certainly not opposed to a cull.

      It’s a totally separate issue to be honest as stalking estates are likely to be overly concerned about hares spreading louping ill when there are large numbers of deer present.


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