Despite poor grouse numbers, the shooting season has boosted Scotland's economy and biodiversity
As this year’s grouse shooting season comes to an end, statistics from Scotland show that despite a limited number of shoot days, the season continues to provide an extraordinary boost for biodiversity and the rural economy in Scotland, with numerous birds of prey nesting successfully and spending by estates rising to £15m.
We have already reported on the fact that a survey by Scotland’s regional moorland groups found that spending by Scotland’s grouse shooting estates increased this year to over £15m despite the restricted season.
But in addition to this, grouse moors this year have seen rising numbers of birds of prey both nesting and living on the moors, proving yet again that they are a stronghold for many species.
Scotland’s population of Golden Eagles now exceeds 500 pairs and the resilient population on sporting estates in Highland Scotland has enabled birds to be translocated to both the Scottish Borders and Dumfries & Galloway, where it is hoped they will also establish successfully.
Sea Eagles in Scotland have increased in number to the current estimate of around 130 pairs. The buzzard population now exceeds 87,500 pairs in the UK while the number of Kestrels now exceeds 31,000 pairs. A group of twelve Scottish upland estates recorded more than 360 raptor sightings over the summer, with the majority being Buzzard, but also Kestrel, Red Kite, Merlin and Golden Eagle. And although Hen Harriers remain rare, their numbers have increased to over 500 pairs in the UK, with the majority nesting on and around grouse moors.
It is not a mere coincidence that birds of prey choose to live on grouse moors. Sporting estates invest huge amounts of money every year in conservation work including peatland restoration, creation of wetlands and scrapes for waders, hedge laying and planting new native woodlands in lowland areas and along river banks, which helps boost insect numbers.
A further piece of research, commissioned by the Scottish government and carried out by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the James Hutton Institute in 2020, studied the socioeconomic and biodiversity impacts of driven grouse moors. Key findings include:
• 60 – 80 per cent of direct spending on driven grouse shooting happens in the local area.
• Driven grouse shooting supports more jobs per hectare than any other moorland land use.
• Other moorland land use relies on public subsidy to remain financially viable – hill farming received 66 per cent of revenue on average from public sources, while conservation land required 80 per cent.
• Predator control undertaken within legal guidelines to minimise predation of Red Grouse, benefits other ground-nesting bird species and Mountain Hares.
• Ten key upland species - Curlew, Whinchat, Kestrel, Merlin, Golden Plover, Lesser Redpoll, Green Hairstreak Butterfly, Adder, Birch and Blaeberry - all benefit significantly from grouse moor management.