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How grouse shooters are threatening UK’s wildlife

The management of grouse moors for the shooting season involves the systematic killing of the predator species, say campaigners. 

The traditional sport of grouse shooting has been subject to mounting criticism over the past years. 

Shooting takes place mainly in grouse moors in Northern parts of the UK including Lancashire, Derbyshire, Yorkshire, and Scotland. 

The shooting season starts on 12 August, referred to as the “Glorious Twelfth” and ends in December. 

However, these grouse moors are subjected to controversial methods of land management all year round. 

Moorland Monitors is a grassroots monitoring network which was set up to protect UK’s wild species in these grouse moors. 

According to Moorland Monitors, because grouse shooters want the maximum number of grouse available to shoot during the shooting season they try to wipe out any predator animals which might naturally eat grouse or their eggs. 

The process of systematically eliminating predators involves the deployment of intensive trapping techniques such as snares, spring traps, and stink bins and pits. 

The use of mechanisms such as spring traps is legal as long as the traps are placed in restrictive boxes to catch weasels. 

However leaving the spring traps in the open and using them to target stoats, like in the video above, is illegal. 

Adam, a volunteer with Moorland Monitors, said:  “Gamekeepers are meant to learn the law in their professional training. 

“So if they use traps illegally, they are either acting intentionally or through incompetence.” 

Moorland Monitors regularly share images and videos of victims on their social media to raise public awareness of these illegal practices. 

When volunteers encounter these practices, they report them to relevant authorities like The Environmental Agency Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Trading Standards. 

Once these illegal practices are reported, they assist with any further investigations.

They also highlight failures by authorities to take these issues seriously. 

Bob Berzins, a volunteer with Moorland Monitors, discovered several illegal spring traps on a South Yorkshire grouse shooting moor in January 2019. 

Berzins says that although the South Yorkshire Police who visited the scene with him recognized the illegality of the traps and made a report, they failed to act. 

He met with South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner and the senior officer in charge of rural crime to follow up on the report. 

“During that meeting, the officer was evasive and failed to give a clear explanation for the lack of Police action. 

“The net result of this was unlawful traps remained in use for several months.”  

You can learn more about the work of Moorland Monitors and how you can help through their website: moorlandmonitors.org

Main photo: Peak District. Image via Peak District National Park

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