Responsible game management by gamekeepers, stalkers, ghillies, wildlife managers and rangers in Scotland results in £43 million of investment in conservation work every year.
According to the 2006 PACEC Report, UK governments would have to spend, through taxpayers, £140 million to replace the 2.6 million work days per year that gamekeepers, stalkers, ghillies, wildlife managers and rangers undertake on conservation, un-assisted by grants.
Whilst legal predator control and habitat management by gamekeepers benefits game species, from red and black grouse and Capercaillie to ptarmigan and mountain hare, this vital work also benefits other species such as ground-nesting birds and songbirds, declining rapidly on areas where there are no gamekeepers.
A 9 year study by Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust at Otterburn proved that wading birds such as Lapwing, Curlew and Golden Plover breed up to three times more successfully on ground managed by gamekeepers, compared to areas without keepers.
Heather moorland, a semi natural habitat, is one of the characteristic vegetation types in Scotland but has been declining since the 1940s. It is of international importance and the management of this resource by gamekeepers for grouse shooting, through rotational heather burning and controlled grazing, supports a vast diversity of plants and animals.
Mountain hare are almost entirely dependent on heather moorland while Ptarmigan, red grouse and Golden Plover rely heavily on this source of food and breeding cover. 20 per cent of heather moorland was lost in Scotland between the 1940s and 1970s through conversion of heather to forestry or grass. This trend continues today. Gamekeepers in Scotland are therefore at the vanguard of preserving this vital and unique habitat and the species that depend on it. (source: Loss of heather moorland in Scottish uplands: the role of red grouse management. Robertson, Park, Barton, 2001).
Management of heather moorland by gamekeepers also provides a vital food source for species such as Golden eagle, Hen Harrier, Raven, Peregrine and certain species of Owl. Over 0.7 million hectares of Scotland, including many scientific sites for plants and wildlife, are managed directly by gamekeepers, stalkers, wildlife managers and rangers for shooting. 4.4 million hectares of Scotland’s 7.8 million are influenced by shooting, creating the equivalent of 2000 conservation jobs. The responsibilities are vast.
Gamekeepers, Stalkers, ghillies, wildlife managers and rangers also play a vital role in balancing the number of deer in Scotland. Deer stalking is offered to visitors as sport, bringing much needed economic input. However, beyond the sporting cull, highly qualified stalkers will undertake a further cull to keep nature in balance, ensuring they only take out the animals which will enhance the overall health of the herd.
Deer grallochs left on the hill by gamekeepers and stalkers, in areas un-used by the public, help sustain eagles, particularly over the winter months.
Land managed by gamekeepers for other forms of sport such as pheasant shooting also brings wider biodiversity benefits. Hedgerows and woodlands are planted specifically for sport, giving food and shelter for a vast array of different species. In the glades and rides created in woodlands for shooting, for example, there can be four times as many butterflies as woodland edge.
The planting of cover crops for game shooting provides vital over-winter food supplies for declining songbirds. These are only a few examples where our members offer a contribution to Scotland which is hugely under-valued by simply looking at shooting alone.