State of Nature report proves need for change


The new State of Nature report confirms Scotland’s species are under greater threat than ever. 


11% of our species are threatened with extinction, among them ground-nesting Capercaillie and Curlew. 


Lapwing, too, are critical.

On 25th October, Holyrood will hear Chairman Alex Hogg’s petition asking for Scottish Government to officially recognise legal control of abundant generalist predators as an act of conservation.


Never before has this petition been more relevant.


Generalist predators such as foxes, corvids and mustelids (stoats, weasels) are abundant.


Even with control of their numbers, there is no threat to these abundant generalists.


However, they can seriously limit the breeding success of much rarer ground-nesting birds, which form part of their diet. These birds are declining or are already red-listed. They are disappearing fast and require conservation action.

They are more vulnerable because, unlike species which nest off the ground such as in trees, there can be little escape from predators. Habitat alone will not always provide the adequate cover they need to keep their eggs and chicks safe from raiders.


Landscape changes, too, are favouring some generalists whilst shrinking the habitats of some ground-nesters.


Foxes use forestry for hunting, emerging from the cover of woods to find food. In the last century or so, Scotland has gone from a country with very low woodland cover to having nearly a fifth of its land afforested. This is a significant landscape change. There is more forestry on the way, too. 


Advantage Mr Fox. 


In the uplands, we are losing more ground-nesting birds than we can replace through successful breeding.

Furthermore, compared to times past, we have less skilled people undertaking predator control in the countryside.


Gamekeepers still do, but most farmers no longer have the time or skills to set traps or to undertake training. Far fewer than before own firearms or have the relevant certification. Many will rely on the friendly local gamekeeper to help them keep predators in check. Forestry rangers traditionally carried out fox and crow control as part of their job but this is no longer their remit.


Additionally, the toolbox for professionals to control the population of foxes is being depleted by Scottish Government law changes. 


The Government intends to ban snares and the new Hunting with Dogs legislation means foot packs, which would have been used in thick forestry to clear foxes from woods, can only now operate under strict licensing; the licensing regime being very, very tough. 


Now more than ever, Scottish Government must officially recognise legal control of abundant generalist predators as an act of conservation which addresses these imbalances. More than this, they should declare their support for it, encouraging it to be done and done well. 


In a climate emergency, and faced with the loss of species, fixating over primary purpose of predator control now only serves as an academic exercise. 

The critical question we should be asking today is: will it work and, if so, how well. If the answer is yes, and the means are legal and legitimate, therein lies its intrinsic value. 


Outcomes matter, whether the act of conservation is carried out by an NGO, or a pest controller. 


Find out more about the Petition and join nearly 2500 others by SIGNING it, here: 




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