SNH indifferent to potential disease epidemic on Scottish grouse moors

Late last year we blogged about the significant spread of disease on intensively-managed driven grouse moors in northern England (see here) following the publication of two scientific research papers from the GWCT.

The disease, respiratory cryptosporidiosis (also known as ‘Bulgy Eye’) has been, until recently, almost entirely associated with captive poultry flocks that have been kept at high density, usually for breeding purposes. It was first detected in wild red grouse in 2010 and since then has spread rapidly, via communal medicated grit trays, and by 2015 had affected high density red grouse on half of the 150 grouse moors in northern England. This disease has the potential to damage shoot economics but more importantly, there are welfare issues and conservation concerns, especially the threat of cross-infection to other species inhabiting the same moors.

Photo: Medicated grit trays, contaminated with grouse faeces, act as reservoirs for disease transmission (Ruth Tingay)

We mentioned in our earlier blog on this subject that the rapid spread of this disease had been well-documented on grouse moors across northern England but information about how far it had spread across Scotland was lacking.

The GWCT had recorded it for the first time in Scotland in 2013 (on the Lammermuir grouse moors), and at a 2015 seminar the audience was told by a GWCT scientist that “since then we’ve heard of much further outbreaks” but we’ve been unable to find any more detail about how far it has spread in Scotland.

So we thought we’d ask SNH. They’d be all over this significant threat to biodiversity, caused by intensive grouse moor management, right?

Apparently not.

The correspondence referred to in SNH’s response to Q4 doesn’t really relate to this subject – its more about SNH’s reaction to our blog about SNH’s ridiculous Natural Larder campaign in 2015 where they were trying to portray red grouse as “natural, healthy and sustainable”. We’ll be publishing that extraordinary correspondence in a separate blog.

So why isn’t SNH monitoring the spread of Cryptosporidiosis across Scottish grouse moors? And if SNH isn’t monitoring it, who is, and what measures are being put in place to stop the spread and to protect red grouse and other wildlife?

Looks like its another question for the Scottish Government’s grouse moor management review group to consider.

12 thoughts on “SNH indifferent to potential disease epidemic on Scottish grouse moors”

  1. A quick google search shows that Cryptosporidium baileyi can spread to domestic poultry as well as owls, etc. The environmental cost, poultry welfare, cost to poultry producers in ‘game shooting’ areas is worrying especially now as the quarry has now reverted back to being ‘wild’ again and can travel at will, potentially spreading infection.
    All this so as a few can satisfy their desire to kill?
    This activity (if you can call it that, given the 4x4s drive right up to shoots) has had its day.

  2. SNH are not neutral. Previous has shown this. The landowners viewvthem as being on ‘their side’ in general

    1. That’s a hilarious statement, I think you’ll find pretty much everyone thinks SNH favour the ‘other’ side. In that respect they’re a bit like the BBC, being accused of bias on all sides.

  3. I would imagine that waders could be especially vulnerable to this. So even the very few species that can incidentally benefit from DGS ‘management’ are eventually scuppered by it as with the mountain hare. The greater the intensification and the more it’s scrutinized more like this will come to light. What’re the odds the list of these diseases gets longer and longer?

    1. As you know, Les, the grouse shooting industry, and all of its supporters, don’t give a damn about waders. The benefits to waders are a by-product, with shooting/gamekeeping representatives having admitted as much, and this has only come about as a result of the wholesale extermination of all predatory species, much of it involving the illegal persecution of protected raptors and predatory mammals.

      A zero tolerance approach to all predators, long-term environmental and ecological damage, unregulated medicational practices, toxic substances being spread throughout the countryside, and now the rapid rise and spread of disease which could jump from species to species.

      And they think they are conservationists!

    1. Circusmaxim,

      You’d think so, but we know through FoI that the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) is not monitoring respiratory cryptosporidiosis because it isn’t a notifiable disease.

      We also know that the Veterinary Medicines Directorate is supposed to be monitoring red grouse for veterinary medicine residues from medicated grit but only began to do this in 2016 and so far has only managed to test six red grouse (2016) and eight red grouse (2017) in the whole of the UK! See:

  4. “So we thought we’d ask SNH. They’d be all over this significant threat to biodiversity, caused by intensive grouse moor management, right?”

    This is setting up an “Aunt Sally”. I can’t see what power SNH might exercise to control this grouse management technique and so your title “SNH indifferent” is absolutely right.

    The targets should be veterinary practices providing the drugs, the overseeing veterinary body and the Chemicals Regulation Division (of the HSE) who control the use of biocides.

    I agree with you about the mistake made by SNH in the folly of Scotland’s Natural Larder but that does’t mean they have any control over the use of drugs in the environment. We need to focus on the right target don’t we?

  5. SNH showed they were indifferent to mountain hare culls on Countryfile a couple of weekends ago. Feart of upsetting the landowners.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s