Conservation? What conservation? Britain is a land of shooting – pheasants in the south and grouse in the north.

Article stolen from the Guardian newspaper.

Britain’s national parks dominated by driven grouse moors, says study

Exclusive: Area twice the size of London devoted to grouse shooting in UK’s parks, threatening efforts to tackle climate crisis

Driven grouse moors in the UK’s national parks are associated with the controversial burning of vegetation and the illegal persecution of birds of prey.
Driven grouse moors in the UK’s national parks are associated with the controversial burning of vegetation and the illegal persecution of birds of prey. Photograph: Coatsey/Alamy

Patrick Barkham@patrick_barkhamThu 5 Aug 2021 06.01 BST

National parks supposedly at the heart of efforts to tackle the climate crisis and boost nature are dominated by intensively managed grouse moors, according to new research.

Driven grouse moors, which are associated with the controversial burning of vegetation and the illegal persecution of birds of prey, make up 44% of the Cairngorms national park, 28% of the North York Moors and a fifth of the Peak District, a study by the charity Rewilding Britain has found.

A total of 852,000 acres – an area more than twice the size of Greater London – inside Britain’s national parks is devoted to driven grouse shooting, with grouse moors covering a quarter of the Yorkshire Dales, 15% of Northumberland national park and 2% of the Lake District.

“With over three-quarters of a million acres of our national parks devoted to driven grouse moors, the parks are being held back from tackling Britain’s collapsing biodiversity and the climate emergency,” said Guy Shrubsole, policy and campaigns coordinator for Rewilding Britain.

“The prime minister’s pledge to protect 30% of Britain’s land for nature – and count national parks towards this total – rings hollow when you realise that vast areas of our national parks are dominated by these nature-impoverished and heavily managed areas.”

Britain is the only country in the world to practise driven grouse shooting, a tradition which requires intensive management of heather moorland to produce large numbers of wild red grouse for shooting in the weeks after the “Glorious Twelfth” of August.

Grouse moor managers undertake controlled burns of moorland in patches to stimulate fresh heather shoots for young grouse, but research by Leeds University has found this can damage peat soils, releasing carbon and increase flood risks downstream.

The illegal persecution of birds of prey such as hen harriers and golden eagles still occurs on some grouse moors, with the legal killing of stoats, foxes and mountain hares also aimed at maximising grouse numbers for lucrative shooting parties.

Mark Avery, the wildlife campaigner and co-founder of Wild Justice, said: “Is this really what national parks are for? We should ban driven grouse shooting anyway but let’s start with inside our national parks.

“The current trend is for rewilding upland habitats to make them more nature-rich but 44% of the Cairngorms national park is dewilded because of a rich man’s hobby.”

After growing pressure to stop the burning of moorland, the government this year banned the burning of grouse moors on protected sites and where moorland peat is deeper than 40cm.

Wild Justice is seeking a judicial review of the new law, arguing that it is unenforceable, particularly as the government has no maps identifying these “deep peat” areas.

The government’s Climate Change Committee this summer recommended extending the burn ban to all peatland areas.

According to the Moorland Association, owners spend £52.5m each year conserving moors with 75% of Europe’s upland heather moorland found in Britain and more than 60% of it designated sites of special scientific interest for its unique vegetation and ground-nesting birds.

Gamekeepers’ predator control to protect ground-nesting native red grouse also benefits other rare and declining birds such as curlew, lapwing and golden plover, while grouse moor owners have planted 1,275 hectares of trees in recent years on the moorland fringe.

Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association, said: “In terms of tackling climate change, grouse moor managers in England have achieved 60% of their peatland restoration targets, making a valuable 26% contribution to government targets for 2025.

Tom Adamson, Gamekeeper for the Bolton Abbey Estate uses a Batter to smother the flames during Moorland Burning on Barden Moor in the Yorkshire Dales. To its critics Moorland Burning is damaging to the environment, it releases millions of tonnes of greenhouse gasses, destroys habitats and increases the threat of flooding in lowland rivers. Most controversially, the vast estates in Northern England and Scotland, which charge hunters up to £23,000 a day in the Autumn, burn patches of heather to remove cover for predators and create space for green shoots to be eaten by grouse. However the defenders of the practice argue it prevents wild fires by creating narural breaks and preserves a valued landscape that would otherwise revert to scrubland. They claim opposition is motivated by hostility to grouse shooting.
Global warming?

“Grouse moor managers are wholly committed to their considerable conservation efforts which help protect and enhance the natural world – an ambition we all share. There is not a binary choice of grouse shooting or not. Any report that claims land is solely given over to driven grouse shooting must be scrutinised as moorland has multiple uses and land tenure.

“Grouse moor owners see their conservation efforts as a work in progress measured by handing it to the next generation of custodians in better condition. All said and done, we are wild at heart; very much a part of nature.”

While the grouse interests have calculated that 1,500 full-time jobs are linked to grouse shooting, Rewilding Britain’s analysis of 23 large-scale rewilding sites in England – including some former driven grouse areas – found a 47% increase in jobs overall as a result of rewilding.

More stolen material:

From The League:

Up to 146,000 pheasants, 5,300 red grouse and 38,300 red-legged partridges are shot every day in the UK, during their respective hunting seasons.

Pheasants and red-legged partridges are not native to the UK, and it is estimated that up to 57 million pheasants and 4,600,000 red-legged partridges are released into the British countryside each year.

There is concern amongst conservationists that the annual mass release of these birds – with a total biomass greater than that of all our native birds combined – has an adverse impact on native wildlife.

A study on trends in the ‘game’ bird shooting industry demonstrates that with the increasing size and intensification of shooting estates comes greater risk to the environment. As a greater proportion of hunters come from urban rather than rural areas, there is a decreasing connection between these shooters and the habitats of their prey.

The consequential increasing intensification of the ‘game’ bird shooting industry, associated with the large-scale release of captive-reared birds and decreasing interest in sustainable management techniques, is likely to have negative implications for the local biodiversity around shooting estates.

Furthermore, studies and recent reports link grouse moor management with environmental degradation, river pollution, contributing to climate change and the potential link between grouse shooting moors and urban flooding.

This trap was dug out of a sett by badgers. I painted it to preserve it. Length – 40 cm. It was used to kill badgers because the mainly worm-eating mammals might eat an occasional pheasant’s egg.

David’s comments:

With millions of non-native birds released each year there is undoubtedly much destruction. Snakes, butterfly and moth larvae and other invertebrates are eaten by these birds, as well as the keepers destroying potential native predators of these released birds. In a pheasant killing site known to me, the badgers and foxes suddenly totally vanished when there was a change in ownership. Killed just for pheasants to be so blasted full of lead that even supermarkets refuse to sell them!

Badgers are, in theory, a protected species but I found a jaw trap at one site and old cyanide tins at another. One of my students, some while ago, reported a very rare honey buzzard being shot on a pheasant shoot when he was a beater. Of course, there are allegations of so-called royalty shooting a protected hen harrier … we will see if that ends up in a ‘tell all’ autobiography.

We all have to have our own views. I started my journey through conservation helping to protect otters – then hunted with dogs (for FUN), even as their population approached near zero. I would ban shooting of grouse, pheasants, partridges and their like. Deer control should only be for trained and licensed marksmen, and not anyone with some spare money and a blood-lust. I dare not start on fox hunting …

It really is time for these Victorian blood-lusts to be sent to the history books.

Do look at the Rewilding Britain website if you have time. They are a very positive organisation and deserve support. has 100+ ad-free wildlife / botany / science articles. Go to the homepage and scroll down.

(I know that’s not very efficient, so offers to improve it will be welcome.)

Images from the wildlife camera last night.

A UK grey squirrel comes to investigate. The species originates in eastern USA, and those I saw there seemed smaller. A evolution to cope with different ambient temperatures? The apple was ignored by all the wildlife with peanut clearly nicer to eat.
Images at night are shades of grey, not colour. Woodmice.
I suggest the upper animal is a yellow-necked mouse.
The wood and yellow-necked mice arrive from ground level. The dormice come from above, which leads to and from the high conifer and mixed vegetation hedge. Dormice are said to avoid ground level except during hibernation.
Three species of mice.
Dormouse approaching from above.
Maximum enhancement. Size: 2 1/4 inches (57 mm) of body 1 3/4 tail (44 mm)
And this little one could not resist a daytime snack and played hide-and-seek with me.
A yellow-necked mouse died here at lunchtime. Once dead I measured it: body was 80 mm and tail 100mm. The tail far longer than the body.
The yellow bar across the neck / chest is clear here. That does not occur in the other rodents.

The Guardian newspaper / website has a great range of environmental articles and it is worth keeping an eye on! Have a great life. I’m off seeking, with help, high summer orchids this weekend … so, expect an article soon.

Cheers, David

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