Predator control key to balanced wildlife

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Alistair Munro’s article (10 August) on the sharp decline of Scotland’s wading bird numbers comes not a moment too soon.

While it seems impossible to curb current agricultural expansion, forestation and urban sprawl, all of which lead to the loss of wildlife habitat, the obvious expedient is to reduce the increase in those predatory species – notably foxes, the corvidae and selected avian raptors and gulls – now breeding out of control.

The definitive British Trust for Ornithology has recently referred to the sharp increase in specialist predators, such as the badger, which indicates that the predators themselves are under survival pressure from loss of their traditional diet.

With buzzard numbers up by 31 per cent since 1995, raven numbers up by 35 per cent, magpies and carrion crows defying enumeration, the BTO has revealed a fall in curlew and lapwing numbers by 56 per cent over the same period. One does not have to be a statistician to appreciate that species extinction is the outlook for many of our waders. I hesitate here to even mention the issue of song-bird survival.

Alex Hogg, of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, rightly credits vermin control on the heather moors as a protective factor for the waders there, but wader birds have a much preferred environment in the upland unimproved grasses and bogs where the gamekeeper’s writ no longer runs.

Who then is to control the annual increase in the predators in our Scottish wildlife?

The RSPB is fixated in its determination to redress the wrongs of the Victorian and Edwardian blood-sports fraternity with a blanket immunity on all avian predators: a clear case of fighting yesterday’s battles today.

Those of us who revere our wonderful heritage of wild birdlife here in Scotland must lead the debate for a balanced control of predatory species in the critical effort to save their diminishing prey.

Alastair Harper

Lathalmond by Dunfermline

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