At our poster conference, Eilidh introduced the topic of illegal raptor persecution. Persecution (otherwise known as deliberate mistreatment) of protected birds of prey such as golden eagle and hen harriers is on the rise in Scotland. But why you ask?
The grouse shooting industry is big here in Scotland, but grouse are also a big part of the diet of raptors. Game keepers want there to be as many grouse as possible in autumn for shooting. The number being shot is declining though, and game keepers think birds of prey are to blame! So what do you do when you have a problem? Get rid of the cause! And that’s exactly what game keepers are doing. At least 20 raptors were illegally poisoned, shot, trapped or disturbed last year, ultimately leading to their deaths.
Just look at that little face! We can’t allow these illegal killings to continue, but Eilidh acknowledged that grouse shooting on heather moorlands remains to be an important contributor to the economy as well as conservation of the iconic heather moorlands. She thinks more needs to be done to tackle the problem and outlined several potential solutions which could allow a happier coexistence between raptors and grouse shooters:
- The habitat of other raptor prey, like voles could be reduced to decrease the number of raptors
- Raptors could be moved to other areas of suitable habitat
- A predator which eats raptors could be introduced
None of these ideas have been tried and tested, but one solution that has shown success is divisionary feeding, which provides another food source for birds of prey. This has been seen to reduce the number of grouse eaten by raptors, whilst allowing them to live free of harm alongside gamekeepers. Eilidh left us thinking about the potential ways the illegal persecution of birds could be tackled. She thinks, along with myself, the solutions should be explored further and divisionary feeding done on a larger scale to bring harmony in heather moorlands and end raptor persecution once and for all.