Monday, 27 April 2015

REMINDER: GET YOUR SILENT AUCTION LOTS IN BEFORE THE CLOSING DATE

Every year the Scottish Gamekeepers Association holds a silent auction to raise funds for the work we do to support the vital role of those managing Scotland’s wildlife and countryside on land and river. Not only is it beneficial to the SGA, it has proven to be beneficial for the donors who are showcasing quality field sports to new clients.

We are still looking for final donations to put into this year’s Auction and the closing date for entering lots is May 8th 2015. Each year we are amazed at the generosity of so many of you and thanks to those who have donated an array of wonderful prizes already.

Examples of previous years’ lots have included stag stalking, rough shooting, self-catering holidays, driven grouse shooting, fly fishing, a round of golf, etc.

We are open to any donation.

I would be grateful if you would consider supporting this year’s Silent Auction.
If you would like more information then please contact Alice Cumming on 01339 887064 or email Alice on stewart.cumming333@btinternet.com
Many thanks. We look forward to hearing from you.

SGA Chairman Alex Hogg.



Tuesday, 14 April 2015

GAMEKEEPERS OFFER CONSERVATIONISTS REWARD FOR MOUNTAIN HARE MANAGEMENT

Gamekeepers have offered £1000 to conservation groups, if these groups can show their management produces more mountain hares than grouse moors.
The reward is being extended to all ten conservation groups who yesterday made headlines by calling for a three year ban on the culling of mountain hares.
A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, the group making the reward offer, said: “If the conservation groups have real and genuine concern about the iconic mountain hare, we are confused as to why they provide very little management to benefit mountain hares on the ground managed by themselves.
“By adopting proper heather management, they could have the same numbers of mountain hares on their ground as are presently found on grouse moors, yet this is not done.
“Instead an inaccurate image is painted that mountain hares are endangered because of activity on grouse moors when the largest elephant in the room is why conservationists have very few mountain hares themselves and do not manage their own ground to benefit them.
“We, therefore, are happy to offer a £1000 reward to any of these groups who can prove that they can come close to producing the numbers of hares that are prevalent on grouse moors, even after gamekeepers have undertaken their controlled annual cull.
“This is not a step we would normally take in any other circumstance. £1000 is an awful lot of money to gamekeepers. However, we feel strongly the public are being fed misleading information on this issue and we look forward, when the new system of counting is operational, to go to the ground managed by these ten groups to see exactly how the hare populations are doing in comparison and assessing the results."

GOT THE MUSCLE? WE NEED YOU


Following last year's success in defeating the Factors at the GWCT Scottish Game Fair at Scone, we are now recruiting strong individuals for this year's tug o' war challenge.
The challenge will take place on the Friday (3rd July), exact time TBC, in the main ring.
As ever, competitors will not only have the honour of wearing the famous dark blue jersey of the keepers, they will also be invited to partake of suitable 'refreshments' supplied by the SGA afterwards. We understand there can often be a 'lively and jovial' ambience to this element.
If you wish to take part, or know of others who might want to, please contact the SGA office on 01738 587 515- oh, and get eating your porridge!

Friday, 3 April 2015

NEW POLICE SCOTLAND FIREARMS LICENSING DETAILS

The SGA would like to inform members of a change which may affect procedures to register firearms with Police Scotland.
As of March 2nd 2015, the Police Scotland Firearms Licensing team moved from Pitt Street, Glasgow, to Dalmarnock.
There is now a general enquiries/departmental contact number of 01786 895 580.
If you have firearms licensing inquiries, there is also a new Ask The Police facility on the Police Scotland website, link here: https://www.askthe.scottish.police.uk/content/@1.htm
This contains a database of frequently asked questions on topics including firearms, firearms licensing, etc. There is also a free Ask The Police app available for download to Android and Apple iOS smartphones.




GET YOUR ENTRIES IN FOR SGA RIFLE SHOOT

It's that time of year again. Time to get entries in for the annual SGA Rifle shoot, an excellent event and a great way to raise funds for the SGA.
A limited number of places for individuals and teams remain so, if you want to take part, call the SGA office on 01738 587 515 (when the office re-opens after Easter, on Tuesday) and book your place.
This year's event is at Blair Atholl rifle range on 11th July 2015.

CHARISMATIC 'JOCK' IS GUARDIAN OF A GROUSE GLEN ALIVE WITH WILDLIFE

Jock thanks the gamekeepers for the controlled heather burning providing bursts of new food for his coming 'little ones'. Photo by Spotlight Images.
An enigmatic red grouse who jumps at passing cars then remonstrates with passengers is fast becoming a local legend in a Perthshire glen regarded as a wildlife treasure.
The stubborn grouse, named ‘Jock’ by the gamekeeping staff has been known to fly at vehicles or obstruct their passage by walking in front of them on the single track road.
When they get out, Jock proceeds to ‘lecture’ confused drivers with variations, in speed and tone, of the red grouse’s signature ‘Go back! Go back!’ call.
Despite his aggressiveness, the proud game bird has also been seen to ‘politely’ escort visitors back to their cars and has even ‘posed’ for photos.
The remote highland Perthshire glen boasts a network of managed grouse shooting estates and sheep farms and lures wildlife photographers and TV crews from all over the UK due to its wildlife.
BBC 2 Natural World crews recently filmed hunting Short-eared owls for the new series while the numbers of breeding wading birds in the area is the highest in Tayside.
Those who have been confronted by Jock, the glen’s guardian, have developed an affinity for the feathered character.
Red grouse are known to exhibit territorial behaviour towards other grouse in their wild heather habitat but few grouse will venture so close to humans.
Wildlife photographers Barry Forbes and Ruth Samson from Fife said: “We come here because it’s great for shots of waders, eagles, all kinds of prey birds as well as geese, owls and hares. We first came across Jock in October 2014 when he flew down to greet us as we drove up the hill, landing directly in front of the car and refusing to move.
“This became the norm every time we were there. Unlike other grouse, when we got out of the car, he didn’t fly away but followed us about. He’s a bit of a character, which gives him the added X Factor. Maybe he thinks he’s a dog, not a grouse. He will walk along at your side being very vocal all the time. He’s become a bit of a star with people stopping to look at him then not getting away as he won’t let the car past!”
Irishman Niall Murphy experienced the same last week when the silver car in which he and his wife, plus friends from Edinburgh, were traveling north, came in for the Jock treatment.
“We don’t get many red grouse in Ireland at all and I’ve certainly not seen one so close. He’s certainly a bird with attitude. He didn’t seem too keen on the car and it sounds as if he knows some choice language as well,” he laughed.
Scottish Gamekeepers Association Committee Member Ronnie Kippen, who works in the glen, says he has not seen such public behaviour in his 45 years as a gamekeeper.
“Jock is basically carrying on with people and vehicles like it is grouse to grouse on the moor. He will physically fly and bounce off a car or run back and forth in front of it.”
With red grouse shooting worth over £32 million a year to Scotland’s rural economy, local gamekeepers acknowledge Jock may want to keep a lower profile at the start of the season on August 12th.
“He may end up on a plate in a restaurant at some stage of his life but if it wasn’t for the predator control and habitat management by the gamekeepers here to produce his kind, we wouldn’t have the range of other birds, from eagles and kestrels to sandpipers that photographers come here for,” added Mr. Kippen.

Ends. 

The SGA wishes to thank photographers Barry and Ruth of ‘Spotlight Images’ for permission to use their excellent photos of Jock, alongside our own collection. Regular visitors to see - and photograph- the unprecedented array of birdlife on the managed grouse moors in the area, you can take a look at their excellent range of wildlife images here: www.spotlight-images.co.uk

A fan of Jock? You can Like his Facebook page, created by Ruth: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jock-the-Famous-Grouse/610430075757793


"On your way now, son, you've seen enough.": Jock 'escorts' a visitor back to his car. Photo courtesy of Spotlight Images.






Thursday, 2 April 2015

CONSULTATION ON TAKING SALMON ONLY UNDER LICENCE

An additional element has been added to the Scottish Government's consultation regarding prohibiting the taking of wild salmon unless under licence.
A new environmental report has been added and consultees are asked for their opinions on the environmental impacts of such licensing measures.
As before, the deadline for all responses is April 30th, 2015. The SGA Fishing Group will be responding to the consultation but urges that all those with wild fisheries and angling interests should also respond as individuals.
More information can be found here: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/marine/Salmon-Trout-Coarse/fishreform/licence

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

MOUNTAIN HARE: THE CURRENT POSITION

In the wake of recent reports and letters regarding mountain hare on Scottish grouse moors, we are re-printing the recent statements from scientific bodies regarding populations and new research. See the statement below:

SNH-GWCT-SL&E POSITION ON LARGE-SCALE CULLS OF MOUNTAIN HARES TO REDUCE LOUPING ILL

The mountain hare is the only native species of hare or rabbit in Britain.  In Scotland, heather moorland actively managed for red grouse, provides very good habitat for this species.

The mountain hare is listed under Annex V of the EC Habitats Directive (1992) as a species 'of community interest whose taking in the wild and exploitation may be subject to management measures'.  Under Article 14, Scotland is required to ensure that the exploitation of such a species ‘is compatible with their being maintained at a favourable conservation status’ (FCS).  This requires active monitoring of the population, and as a first step towards maintaining FCS, Scotland introduced closed seasons under the Wildlife & Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011.

Favourable Conservation Status (FCS)

FCS uses trends in population numbers, range and habitat availability to draw conclusions about the conservation status of a species and its future prospects. For mountain hares we believe that management of the species at FCS means maintaining the population across its range, and maintaining a range which is comparable to the one which was assessed when the Directive came into force in the 1990s.  Habitats associated with the high densities of hares in Scotland also need to be maintained.

The Issue

The mountain hare is a quarry species in Scotland and has been for hundreds of years.  The impact of harvesting or culling on its population is, however, poorly understood.  We do know that population sizes can fluctuate widely (up to ten fold) but that habitat fragmentation can affect their dispersal ability, and the likelihood of losing populations increases where they cannot re-colonize from elsewhere.  SNH has received reports of heavy culls leading to local declines, and there is evidence that populations have been lost where former grouse moors have reduced management, been afforested,  or heather has declined due to heavy grazing by other animals.  Heather moorland habitats actively managed for red grouse can have unusually high densities of mountain hares when compared with where they occur in Scandinavia, the Boreal/Arctic zone and the Alps in continental Europe.

Given these concerns, a sub-group of experts from SNH’s Scientific Advisory Committee (chaired by Professor Alan Werritty) is reviewing the management of mountain hares as one of a number of issues connected with sustainable moorland management practices. This review is due to be completed by March 2015.

SNH, GWCT and SL&E interim-position  

We recognise there are genuine concerns being expressed about the status of mountain hares in Scotland, and we need to ensure that current hare management measures are not damaging their long-term prospects.  As well as sustainable game shooting, we recognize that controlling mountain hares is a legitimate practice in certain circumstances: for example, to protect young trees or as a quarry species.  Large-scale culls of mountain hares to reduce tick loads, in order to benefit grouse and other bird survival, will only be effective when other hosts are absent, or their ability to host ticks are similarly reduced.  This will not be the case for many estates in Scotland.

On the basis of the available evidence, there is no compelling field evidence for undertaking large-scale mountain hare culls to control LIV in areas of Scotland where there are high densities of other tick-bearing mammals.   Culls should therefore not be undertaken for this purpose in these circumstances.

We recognise that there are concerns about the potential negative impacts of culling on the resilience of mountain hare populations and other protected species. To this end we:


  • Will work with estates to put in place effective and sustainable management of mountain hares; 
  • Recommend that this management should aim to maintain mountain hares as part of the moorland wildlife assemblage, and not eliminate them;
  • Ask estates to adhere to a voluntary restraint on large culls which could jeopardise the conservation status of mountain hares (SNH and GWCT can advise on this);
  • Recommend that if the objective of hare culling is to support grouse shooting or to allow woodland regeneration, there needs to be evidence of sufficient management of deer and sheep to sustain these objectives; and
  • Urge that any hare culling undertaken should be localized, rather than at a landscape scale.

This position may change as a result of new research and the outcome of the SNH SAC review of sustainable moorland management.

New research

SNH is working with scientists from the James Hutton Institute and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust to trial methods of measuring mountain hare numbers to underpin better monitoring and to improve the quality of the information used to assess population status and the sustainability of hare management measures.  The work will be carried out across three years to ensure a robust evidence-base, and is due to be completed in 2017.

ANNEX
The mountain hare is listed under Annex V of the EC Habitats Directive (1992) as a species 'of community interest whose taking in the wild and exploitation may be subject to management measures'. Moreover, Article 14 of the Directive requires Member States to ensure that the exploitation of such species ‘is compatible with their being maintained at a favourable conservation status’.

Evidence on culling mountain hares
Laurenson et al., 2003 presented evidence indicating that culling hares to low densities (thereby reducing host tick burdens) could reduce the prevalence of Louping Ill Virus (LIV) in young, shot red grouse on managed grouse moors.  Importantly, the study took place on an estate where, there were naturally very few deer (and the sheep present were treated with an acaricide and vaccinated against LIV).   Red deer provide an alternative host for ticks, but they do not display symptoms of LIV. Therefore, reducing mountain hare density in areas with high densities of red deer will not reduce LIV, because the virus is maintained in the grouse population with the tick population maintained by deer (Gilbert et al., 2001).  


References


Gilbert, L. (2010) Altitudinal patterns of tick and host abundance: a potential role for climate change in resulting tick-borne diseases?  Oecologia, 162, 217-225.

Gilbert, L., Norman, K.M., Laurenson, H., Reid, H.W. & Hudson, P.J. (2001) Disease persistence and apparent competition in a three host community: an empirical and analytical study of large-scale, wild populations.  Journal of Animal Ecology, 70, 1053-1061.

Harrison, A., Newey, S., Gilbert, L., Haydon, D. & Thirgood, S. (2010) Culling wildlife hosts to control disease: mountain hares, red grouse and louping ill virus Journal of Applied Ecology, 47, 926–930. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2010.01834.x/full

Hewson R (1984). Mountain hare Lepus timidus bags and moor management. Journal of Zoology, 204, 563-565.

Hudson P. J. (1992). Grouse in space and time: The population biology of a managed gamebird. Game Conservancy Ltd, Fordingbridge. 244pp

Iason, G.R., Hulbert, I.A.R., Hewson, R. & Dingerkus, K. (2008) in Harris, S. & Yalden, D.W. (eds.)  Mammals of the British Isles: Handbook, (4th edition). The Mammal Society. 


EASTER OFFICE HOURS.


Easter is fast approaching. Members, please be aware of the Easter office opening hours. The office will be closed on Friday 3rd April and Monday 6th April, 2015.
We will re-open again at 9am on Tuesday 7th April. Happy Easter to all SGA members and supporters.