Werritty Review: evidence of raptor persecution on some grouse moors ‘compelling & shocking’

The Scottish Government-commissioned review of grouse moor management continues, with the Review Group, chaired by Professor Alan Werritty, taking evidence from a variety of individuals and organisations.

For new blog readers, this review was ordered in May 2017 by Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham after the publication of another review, ‘Analyses of the fates of satellite tracked golden eagles in Scotland‘, which showed clear evidence of deliberate and sustained illegal raptor persecution in some areas managed intensively for driven grouse shooting.

The Werritty Review is due to report next year.

[Golden eagle ‘Fearnan‘, found poisoned on an Angus Glens grouse moor. Nobody was ever prosecuted for killing this eagle. In fact nobody has ever been successfully prosecuted for killing a golden eagle in Scotland. Photo by RSPB]

A number of general updates about the Review Group’s activities have been published by Professor Werritty and we were especially pleased to read his comments about the evidence presented to the group on illegal raptor persecution. It’s not very detailed but there’s little ambiguity in his words:

“Whilst we noted that many raptor species in Britain have recovered in terms of their post-war population sizes and distributions (with some strikingly successful reintroduction/reinforcement conservation programmes for sea eagles, red kite and osprey) the evidence linking raptor persecution to some areas managed as grouse moors appears both compelling and shocking”.

Professor Werritty’s full report on that meeting, which also included evidence on legal predator control and mountain hare culls, can be read here.

There have been further evidence sessions, and also a ‘consultation’, of sorts, that took place over the summer. We’ll be blogging about that ‘consultation’ separately.

15 thoughts on “Werritty Review: evidence of raptor persecution on some grouse moors ‘compelling & shocking’”

  1. While it’s encouraging that they are not shying away from the hard evidence that’s in their face, the review has been constructed in away that it avoids the big issues.
    Take ticks. They are talking about the hare population being a tick risk to grouse. They should be considering an abnormal density of grouse as a key factor in boosting the tick population that impacts on the hare population.

  2. When a senior academic uses a word like ‘shocking’ you know it’s bad. Hopefully that will be conveyed to the public and make it harder for politicians to turn a blind eye.

  3. I can’t get through go the website so I’ll have to contain myself. I’m sure I would have responded to a consultation if it was available for public use. Many people would have wished to respond, I’m sure.

  4. Just read the summary on the link: the piece about legal predator control and mountain hares is just too anaemic. The lack of any focus on the over-population of red grouse and its impact on other moorland breeding species and its likely reservoir as a tick zoonosis is concerning. One hopes it will be addressed at some point.

  5. I’d expect that Prof Werritty is very well aware of just how thin the scientific justification for hare culling is. He authored this in the 2015 review of upland management**…

    “Although, tick control measures can sometimes improve grouse chick production (Laurenson et al. 2003), there is no clear evidence that mountain hare culls serve to increase red grouse densities, and in any case both ticks and louping-ill virus persist when and where alternative tick hosts such as red deer are present at even low densities (Gilbert et al., 2001, Harrison et al., 2010). Given that culling can reduce mountain hare densities to extremely low levels locally (Laurenson et al., 2003), and population trends are poorly known despite the species being listed under the Habitats Directive, the case for widespread and intensive culling of mountain hares in the interests of louping-ill control has not been made.”

    Seems to me that he knows the lie of the land exactly and has been let down by inadequate regulatory action with continued reliance on the blancmange like strength of the voluntary principal and SNH’s weak appeal for culling restraint.

    Given the effectiveness of that call for restraint, it seems more than possible that he and his colleagues will (hopefully) more strongly recommend to Scottish Government a robust regulatory approach.

    ** https://www.nature.scot/sites/default/files/2017-11/Guidance-A-Review-of-Sustainable-Moorland-Management-A1765931.pdf

  6. The Scottish Governement’s primary objective is the economy. If the game bird shooting industry is shown to be profitable, it will be business as usual. At a push, they may bring licensing in but how that will actually work on the ground will be another matter. The government already has plenty of evidence of what is going on but continues to prevaricate.

  7. Funny he didn’t mention it being a few bad apples.

    That’s because it’s not. It’s a nation wide on an industrial scale.

  8. If the Scottish Governments record on wind turbines, Trumps golf courses etc. are anything to go by don`t get your hopes up.

  9. The difference between the Scottish & Westminster Governments is that the later ignore or denigh raptor persecution, whilst the former at least acknowledge it, but are too scared of the lairds to do anything effect about it.

    1. Whilst acknowledging the problem is better than ignoring it the end the result is the same.
      Do nothing…. it’s a national disgrace

    2. The current Scottish Gov. employs a very simple criteria to decide what to support and what to oppose.
      If it increases the possibility of independence (from England) then support it.
      If it decreases that same possibility then oppose it.
      If it makes no difference either way then it is of little consequence .

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