Tuesday, 22 May 2018

SGA RESPONSE: LOSS OF SAT TAG TRANSMISSION FROM 2 HEN HARRIERS

In response to a story released this morning by RSPB regarding the loss of transmission from 2 satellite tags worn by Hen Harriers, the SGA has released the following statement to media.
A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “We sincerely hope these 2 birds will be found. As an organisation, there are very few full-time gamekeepers in the Moffat area for us to make inquiries. If the public know anything they should contact Police on 101.
“The loss of tag transmission in Angus, like the tag in Moffat, merits further, independent, investigation. There has been a commitment in Angus over the last few years to changing past reputations. The high numbers of raptors on local moors are proof of that and the first Harrier breeding attempt for some time, last year, in the region was a sign of progress. We know talks have been held between sporting estates regarding translocating a pair of breeding Harriers so those on the ground will be seeking further evidence and an accountable explanation regarding this loss of satellite tag transmission.”

Thursday, 17 May 2018

ACT NOW: TIME RUNNING OUT TO NOMINATE IN 2018 SGA AWARDS


The SGA would like to remind members and supporters that time is running out to submit entries for our three main organisational awards for 2018.
Nominations for the newly inaugurated Long Service medals have defied all expectations with no fewer than 6 individuals meeting the criteria of 40 or more years of active and continuous service.
If we have missed anyone, please ensure their feats are recognised by getting nominations into the SGA office info@scottishgamekeepers.co.uk before the closing date of May 31st 2018.
The medals and framed certificates will be presented at the 30th GWCT Scottish Game Fair at Scone Palace grounds on Friday 29th June http://www.scottishfair.com
and Moy Highland Fieldsports Fair on Friday 3rd August http://www.moyfieldsportsfair.co.uk
The SGA will be represented at both events this summer.
Also being presented at Scone will be our coveted Young Gamekeeper of the Year Award 2018.
This prize is one of the leading annual accolades in the game sector and recognises those undergoing learning or in early career stage who demonstrate a flair for sustainable management and a care and passion for their profession.
Nominations will be accepted from college lecturers, estates, fellow professionals or peers and should be sent into the SGA office before the closing date of Friday 15th June.
Being a Young Gamekeeper winner will help any young professional in their career as they move forward, and there is also a cash prize and merchandise at stake.
Despite the name, nominations are welcome for stalkers, wildlife managers, rangers and river or land ghillies.
Finally, the Ronnie Rose Award for conservation and education, in memory of the late SGA advocate, deer manager, forester and author, attracts a rich pool of entries annually.
This year’s prize is the 4th and several strong nominations have already been received, suggesting a hard choice for the judges on the committee and the Rose family.
Please submit all nominations by the closing date of Friday 20th July.
Anyone can nominate an individual or individuals who, by their efforts, have demonstrated a commitment to conservation, wildlife management and/or education on hill, low ground or river.
To recap on last year’s prize, which was presented at Moy by Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP, http://www.fergusewing.com





Monday, 23 April 2018

GAMEKEEPERS BACK RAVEN RESEARCH LICENCE TO SAVE CURLEW

The Curlew is regarded as the UK's most pressing conservation concern
The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has backed the granting of a research license by SNH in Perthshire to control abundant raven populations in an urgent bid to save crashing wading bird numbers.
The licensing authority has granted a 5 year research license to the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders in a bid to save birds such as the Curlew, now described as the UK’s most pressing conservation concern.
Curlew numbers have crashed by 62 percent in only two decades and fears have been raised that the distinctive and evocative call of the bird could soon be lost forever.
The local community, representing farmers, gamekeepers and private interests, contacted SNH after participating in Scottish Government’s multi-party ‘Understanding Predation’ project which brought all rural stakeholders together and concluded that urgent and bold action was now necessary if waders were to be saved.
After over a year of bird counts and other discussions, a research license has been drafted which will initially permit the cull of up to 69 ravens in a geographically defined control area to relieve predation pressure on waders such as Curlew, Lapwing and Plover at breeding time.
The license, and any proposed raven management numbers, will be adapted each year depending on regular ground counts of both ravens and wading birds.
SNH has attached conditions to ensure the license will pose no threat to raven populations which have risen by 134 percent in the UK in only two decades.
Over many years local land managers in the area have witnessed flocks of juvenile ravens, sometimes numbering over 30, picking off wader chicks and eggs at breeding time; evidence submitted to the Understanding Predation project.
Campaigners have attacked the plans, launching a petition over the weekend.
Alex Hogg, Chairman of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The reality is no number of keyboard petitions will save the Curlew. Only action will. The practical land managers, who have shared their land with these birds for decades know the time for talk is long over.
“Scottish Government’s Understanding Predation project brought together natural science and local knowledge with the common aim of saving these birds.
“Raptor workers, RSPB, farmers, gamekeepers and everyone with a stake in the countryside agreed in countless workshops that urgent and bold action was now necessary. Adaptive management was identified as one of the tools to save the Curlew and other wading birds whose populations have crashed dramatically. There is no point in reaching those conclusions then failing to act. This licence is a positive action to address a known problem before it is too late.”
He added: “The combined field knowledge of farmers and gamekeepers, gleaned over centuries, is no less valid than other science on this issue.
“Managed moorland and farmland in Strathbraan has been identified as key sites for many wader populations. Even then, losses have been evident, with predation by ravens regularly observed by land managers in the area, with juvenile flocks of 20s and 30s hoovering up chicks and eggs at breeding time.
“SNH deserve credit for working with the community to design a research license to ensure the conservation status of the raven is safeguarded while allowing an assessment of the level of enhanced protection waders could receive in the area by reducing the predation by ravens.” 
A Spokesperson for Strathbraan Community said: “Farmers and keepers in the community have for a number of years identified ravens as a predators of wading bird eggs and chicks, particularly at breeding time. The people here are proud of the number of waders they have locally and their contribution to the numbers nationally. 
“Some of the local land managers were part of the Scottish Government’s Understanding Predation project which brought together conservationists, scientists, government bodies and practical folk to identify what was causing the sharp declines in population of waders across Britain and what might be done to protect those we still have.

“By approaching SNH we have agreed a community licence which will help tell us about ways to protect the waders and conserve ravens. This licence will also allow us to limit the effects of ravens predating on sheep and lambs at this time of the year.”

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

PERTHSHIRE GAMEKEEPERS ASSIST WITH SEA EAGLE SEARCH


Thirteen Perthshire gamekeepers have assisted Police Scotland in searching for a sea eagle after learning the bird’s satellite tag stopped working in a local glen.
Estates were informed of the loss of signal from the bird’s tag and offered their co-operation with ground searches after heavy snows around the area in recent weeks.
Yesterday, the gamekeepers accompanied Police and RSPB officials in searching areas of moorland and woodland several kilometres west of Dunkeld in the hope of finding either the bird or the tag device.
Two sea eagles have been seen in the glen since the tag stopped functioning and Golden eagles are also regularly sighted in the skies above the moors and low ground farmland.
The gamekeepers’ national body, The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), has asked anyone locally with any information or sightings to contact Police Scotland.
Unknown individuals were seen by gamekeepers quartering and searching the area, days ahead of yesterday’s (Tues) search, and may know something of value to the investigation.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said: “When learning about the bird, the gamekeepers- working in the area around where the sea eagle’s tag was reported to have last signalled- were keen to assist the Police and immediately offered their help in the searches. There has been a lot of snow drifts in the area recently which has obviously made searching problematic, logistically.
“The gamekeepers want the bird found, if it has perished. They are first to be accused when any bird of prey goes missing, or a tag stops, so these guys want to find the bird and assist the Police in every way they can.
“They have also pledged to search other areas in the vicinity over the coming days and report to Police. With some tags, there can be hours between one signal and the next so the location of the last bleep is only an indication of where the bird was. Eagles are capable of covering considerable distances in a short space of time. If anyone else has any information on this, they should contact Police Scotland.”
Sea eagles, reintroduced to Scotland, rely on carrion for food, especially in winter.

A study of pellets of young eagles by Leitch and Watson showed 40 percent contained sheep, deer and goats, 48 percent comprised rabbits and hares and 12 percent consisted of birds such as ducks, seabirds, gulls and grouse.

Monday, 9 April 2018

WHAT TO REMEMBER WHEN WATCHING CAPERCAILLIE


Friday, 6 April 2018

GAMEKEEPERS INVITE FIRST MINISTER TO HIGHLANDS TO DISCUSS MOUNTAIN HARES

Picture credit: SNH.
Gamekeepers fingered in a controversial mountain hare film have sent an open invitation to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to learn about hare management on their ground.
Last week BBC Scotland aired a film obtained covertly by animal rights campaigners showing what they described as ‘military style’ hare culls.
The broadcast led to the First Minister describing the practices in the film as ‘unacceptable’ during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood.
Now gamekeepers in the film have written to the First Minister to invite her to the highlands to see first-hand why the hare management is carried out.
They feel it is wrong for Government to obligate land managers to control deer populations then leave high populations of hares to graze the same habitats.
A number of protected sites exist on the ground and gamekeepers possess correspondence from statutory agencies outlining the value of their control of grazing in improving site condition.
Transparent records showing hares taken compared to population numbers will be made available to the First Minister, with Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham also being invited to the highlands.
Head Gamekeeper for one of the estates concerned, Duncan MacKenzie, said: “We’d really like to be able to show the First Minister around rather than discuss these issues in Edinburgh. I think it would be beneficial for everyone to get an understanding of why the hares need to be managed, here.
“We had SNH out a few years ago to see how the hare populations were being controlled. We invited them out recently also, so nothing is being hidden.
“We have good records of the amount of hares in comparison to the amount we have taken off the hill, covering a number of years, and there are still high numbers of hares on the ground.
“What the footage by the anti grouse-moor campaigners showed was working people being
secretly filmed carrying out a legal management activity which is no different to other forms of species management and is well within the laws passed by Scottish Government.
“The ironic thing is that those who are seeking the end of grouse management would also be signalling the beginning of the end for the mountain hare in Scotland.
“Populations are thriving on grouse moors but are struggling badly elsewhere due to predation and loss of their preferred heather habitat and we hope to have the opportunity to explain this in full to the First Minister.”
New methods of counting mountain hares were published by SNH on 26th January and those methods are to be adopted by the estates to inform all future hare management operations.



Wednesday, 4 April 2018

SGA DEER GROUP MEMBER INTRODUCES KIDS IN CARE TO URBAN DEER


A carer in East Kilbride has turned pioneer by introducing disadvantage kids in South Lanarkshire to the wonders of the wild deer that find a home on the city fringes.
David Quarrell wanted to combine his skills as carer and as an authority on urban deer to help connect local kids in the care system to nature and their environment.
Now, after successfully hosting the first organised trip of its kind for children in care, he hopes to roll out the education programme further.
Passionate about the roe deer that share green spaces on the outskirts of Glasgow, the experienced deer manager showed youngsters deer, explained about their lives, how to identify them and where they prefer to live and find food.
He also explained why populations sometimes required management to minimise damage to nature reserves and gardens, to keep populations healthy and to prevent road traffic accidents.
South Lanarkshire Council helped facilitate the trip and kids were given special learning packs and identification sheets from The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) and British Deer Society.
Lowland Deer Network also provided funding for costs and a breakfast for the kids and carers, who were out spying the deer at 6.30am before most people were awake.
“It was very worthwhile,” said David, who is a member of the SGA Deer Group and Chairs the South Lanarkshire Deer Group.
“None of the children had ever seen a wild deer before. They have coped with a lot of negative challenges in their lives to date and some of them have not had the chance to experience the positives of the wildlife around them. We saw about 14 deer over the morning and the kids were passing the binoculars between them, very excited.
“We talked about numbers of deer and whether they would expect the numbers to be higher or lower the following year. They also saw Herons at a protected SSSI site as well as pink footed and graylag geese, and enjoyed the whole experience.
“At the moment it is just a pilot but it teaches them a lot about their local environment. It was really good to see them connecting with nature and we hope to do more visits in the future.”
At the end of the visit, carers were given packs of venison sausages, burgers and steaks to cook; prepared by Tweed Valley Venison.
The initiative, taking place in the Year of Young People 2018, was supported by the Social Work Department of South Lanarkshire Council.

Foster carers have since given positive feedback on both the visit and the venison, saying the kids were engaged and enjoyed the experience and getting out into the outdoors.





OFFICE DISRUPTION: PLEASE NOTE

All members should be aware that the office is suffering unforeseen disruption this morning due to weather conditions and issues with phone systems. Please allow for this when contacting the office. Due to the nature of the disruption, email is the best way to make contact. All email requests will be answered as soon as is practical. Thanks for your patience. Team SGA.

Friday, 30 March 2018

CARE ADVISED AS WINTER TAKING ITS TOLL ON DEER

Red Deer continue to inspire Scottish people of all generations- and sell newspapers!
Hill users are being asked to take care to avoid disturbing deer over the Easter holidays as the prolonged winter has exacted a heavy toll on Scotland’s iconic species.
With a return to wintry weather predicted, stalkers are reporting many deer severely weakened by having their food source cut off and are cautioning against stressing the animals further.
The long winter has seen higher than normal levels of wildlife mortality, with sea creatures washed up on beaches and conservation groups urging the public to help vulnerable song birds survive to breeding time.
Some farmers are reporting difficulties with lambing due to the prolonged winter weather.
Deer have also been hit hard across Scotland’s hills with food buried for months under deep and drifting snow which has then crusted over with hard frost, leaving vegetation virtually inaccessible.
Stags already in poor body condition after the annual rut, where they fight for females- sometimes to the death- have been particularly hit by weather events such as the Beast From The East.
In poor weather, deer retreat from the high tops to lower ground for shelter but have not yet returned to the tops in many areas as they are too weak from having food cut off by snow.
It will be more likely that those talking to the hills for recreation this Easter will encounter deer and are being asked to be mindful of their plight, if possible.
“It is probably the worst conditions for over a decade for deer. Normally it is harder for them in the west during winter because it is generally wetter. However, this is affecting deer all over the high ground in Scotland whether numbers in that area are relatively high or number very few,” said Lea MacNally, of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, a professional stalker for almost half a century.
“The food source is there, they just can’t get it due to the length of time there has been full snow cover. Every winter there is an expected natural mortality but there has been much higher than normal mortality this year. Deer are having to expend a lot of energy scraping down through frosted snow to get to food and, in many areas, snow hasn’t lifted for a long time. The deer’s backs have not been dry for months and some calves are barely standing.
“If folk are out and about over Easter, where possible, they should try and give the deer a wide berth so as not to move them out of shelter. Disturbance causes deer to move and, if people take care to avoid that, it could make the difference between life and death for weakened animals.
“It would also be prudent for dog walkers to ensure their pets are under close control.”
Stalkers are warning the public that, should they see deer that have succumbed to the weather, it is likely to be around hill burns where they have moved to seek shelter.
Studies in other European countries like Norway have shown the link between hard winters and deer mortality (2) so, while concerning, this phenomenon is not unusual at the northern edge of the red deer range.
The latest SNH report on Deer Management in Scotland, 2016, reported that increases in deer numbers on the open hill have halted in Scotland in the last 15 years (1), allied with higher culling effort.


1/ Reference: Deer Management in Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, 2016.

“The results indicate that the population of red deer in open-hill ground in Scotland has been increasing. Data from 1960 - 2016 show that deer density increased steadily since 1961 (around 8 deer/km2), and peaked in 2000-01 at around 13 deer/km2 – an increase of 60%. In the last 15 years, the population growth appears to have halted and the estimated deer density in 2016 is around 12.5 deer/km2. Figure 3.1 illlustrates the changes in deer density (stags, hinds and calves) since 1961. The trend supports the contention made by Clutton- Brock et al5 that the population growth rate was slowing by 2000.






Thursday, 29 March 2018

STATEMENT ON COVERT MOUNTAIN HARE FILM BROADCAST BY BBC


SGA Statement: Covert Mountain Hare film obtained by OneKind and League Against Cruel Sports and broadcast by BBC.


A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “In two area shown in the film, the habitats are protected. Land mangers were notified by SNH that one was in unfavourable condition. There are no deer on that holding. The over-grazing damage was caused solely by mountain hares. Another area in the film is designated for dwarf woodland and there is a duty to reduce grazing pressure on the habitat. The other holding has significant areas of forestry as well as moorland. Both of these habitats require grazing assessment and management.

“If SNH and Scottish Government want protected sites to be in favourable condition then refuse to back the management actions to achieve that, then estates should stop being thrown to the mercy of animal rights campaigners with secret cameras and SNH should carry out the management themselves. We are not far from the stage now where people will not want to manage deer and hare populations because they cannot operate without being covertly filmed.

“Thousands of deer are killed annually, under Government instruction and a potential £40 000 fine for non-compliance, to protect designated sites, habitats, crops and trees. Killing thousands of deer then leaving thousands of hares to feed on that same habitat defies any sense or logic. The sad thing is that there are people within public agencies who know that very well but seem ready to let those tasked with carrying out the task, take the flak.

“Welfare is important. However no one managing any species can guarantee human error will never play a part. That is why dogs assist with wounded animals. 

“SNH stated in Parliament recently that there is no evidence available to suggest a threat to the conservation status of mountain hare in Scotland.

“The issue has become a Trojan horse for those seeking to end grouse shooting. Yet, if filming took place on nature reserves, viewers would see numbers barely able to sustain population viability. That is the true, untold story of mountain hares in Scotland and it is time it was told."