'Exceptional' year for grouse bag

Scottish grouse hunters enjoyed an "exceptional" year in 2010 as the population of the birds thrived, despite cold weather conditions.

Following the close of the grouse season on 10 December, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) said high numbers of red grouse, which live on heather moorland in Scotland and the north of England, were down to good breeding success this year following increases in numbers last year.

The hardy birds, which live on heather shoots and wild berries, did well despite the harshest winter for 30 years, when upland moorland areas were snowbound for long periods.

Researchers said a 200-brace of red grouse harvested in one day was "not unusual" on many estates in the Angus glens - one of the most productive parts of Scotland.

The GWCT launched the Angus Glens Moorland Health Project in the area in 2004.

Dr Adam Smith, GWCT director for Scotland, said: "It was particularly good in Angus and perhaps slightly more restricted in Perthshire.

"Some parts of Perthshire showed general signs of improvement, indeed they actually managed to drive grouse in eastern Perthshire for the first time in many years. It's a good news story all round."

Most estates in Inverness-shire were "fairly happy" with their season with some recording exceptional results. One estate said it had a "3,000-brace season" and another had shot their best bags for more than 10 years.

The south of Scotland has remained on an "even keel".

An independent report published in August suggested red grouse generated at least 23.3 million for the Scottish rural economy each year and supported the equivalent of more than 1,000 full-time jobs.

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