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."

Friday, 23 March 2018

SGA STATEMENT: GOLDEN EAGLE, PENTLANDS


Statement from The Scottish Gamekeepers Association regarding statement issued today (March 23rd) by Chris Packham on missing eagle near Edinburgh.

A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The SGA repeats its previous message. If you know anything contact the only authority able to deal with such information, the Police.
“If persecution is at play, we condemn that. If this is found to be anything to do with any of our members- and we have no reason whatsoever to believe it is- they will be removed from our organisation.
“We will not, however, be involved in more media trials. If everyone’s job is to lead wildlife crime to court, and we were led to believe it is, then this case has made a total mockery of that objective and the process by which we investigate wildlife crime in Scotland. 
“Piecemeal presentations of evidence to Police by a collective of individuals and groups campaigning together to legislate against grouse shooting, while offering a running commentary in the media on live police investigations, is nothing other than shambolic. We have sympathy with authorities trying to establish criminality.
“Given the public interest generated by the campaigners, all the evidence in this case should be presented in the open so the truth can be established and, if we are to learn lessons, a system must be introduced whereby data from satellite tags can be monitored in future by independent authorities.
“The SGA has not joined in with theorising on blogs or private social media accounts.
“What we do know is that this satellite tag never once pinged on the grouse moor implicated but instead signalled in woodland some distance from a piece of moorland which hosted no commercial grouse shooting in 2017. The wood is close to one of the biggest public car parks in the Pentland Hills Regional Park. In short, there is no more evidence to implicate that landholding, or those who work there, than any other in the surrounding area or any other visitors to the park which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors per year.
“If anyone was intent in causing harm to this bird then, according to the narrative presented, they would have done so on a weekend morning in one of the busiest public areas close to Edinburgh. Someone must have seen that, therefore, and should contact the Police. 
“The fact SNH published a paper on satellite tagged eagles between 2004-2016 has nothing to do with any case happening years later, in 2018.

“To suggest otherwise is to institutionalise prejudice against a community of people: Scotland’s gamekeepers. We will not tolerate this and are extremely disappointed and angry that this attitude now appears to be at large within some sections of our parliament.”

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

SGA STATEMENT: EAGLE

Responding to a press release regarding a missing eagle, distributed by RSPB Scotland, a Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: 

“If anyone has information they should contact Police Scotland. If it is proven any harm has come to this bird and if it transpires there is evidence that that harm was the responsibility of an SGA member, they will be subject to our very strict wildlife crime disciplinary code.
“The legal process deserves respect before people automatically jump to apportioning blame.
“It is becoming increasingly impossible to gain full transparency surrounding these incidents when those holding the data are the tag owners who then dictate process and message.
“At the same time, these tag owners are actively lobbying to persuade government to legislate against grouse moors.
“If investigations were to have the best chance of success and procedural transparency, this data would be held centrally by an impartial body who could look into everything such as the reliability of the tag, who fitted it, the evidence of criminality which exists and the full range of other factors which could cause a mechanical device to stop signalling after many months in the wild.
“When a tag from a Hen Harrier stopped signalling on one of RSPB’s own nature reserves in the Cairngorms National Park, the charity stated the last known location of a tag was ‘only an indication of the broad general area’ where that bird was spending time.
“That being the case, the public deserve to see the hard evidence which exists that the lost signal was down to grouse management and not any other cause such as a faltering tag, natural mortality, eagles fighting over territory or any of the other land uses in the broad general area which include farming, forestry and wind energy.”


Friday, 9 March 2018

SGA FISHING GROUP WELCOMES GOVT INVESTMENT IN DECLINING SALMON


This morning (Friday 9th March), Scottish Government announced financial resourcing to assess declining salmon stocks in Scotland.

You can see the full press announcement details, here: https://news.gov.scot/news/support-for-wild-salmon

The SGA Fishing Group has welcomed the investment.

A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association Fishing Group said: "It is heartening to see Scottish Government looking into declines in the round. It is known we cannot get to grips with all the causes of salmon mortality at sea, but we can make sure we are doing what we can to safeguard salmon when they are here. We hope the investment will be targeted at declining salmon rather than all being swallowed up in streamlining governance processes. 
"Conservation measures on rivers were the first steps taken by government so tackling the many other factors identified in the announcement is now overdue. Smolt tagging work on the River Dee recently highlighted the problems of predation. The decisions of Scottish Government around fish farm expansion- currently being reviewed at Holyrood- will be an indicator as to the level of government commitment which exists to addressing wild salmon declines on the west coast."