5500 geese face cull under heritage plan

SCOTTISH Natural Heritage today gave the go ahead for more than 5000 birds to be shot as part of a pilot project to manage booming geese populations on Orkney.

Up to 5500 geese could face the cull under Scottish Natural Heritage plans. Picture: Contributed

• Scottish Natural Heritage to clear Orkney residents to shoot greylag geese

• Geese dubbed ‘single biggest threat’ to crofters

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• 3,200 killed in pilot in 2012, 5,500 limit set this year

It will allow islanders to control the resident Orkney greylag geese population by shooting under licence by experienced local guns in August and September before migratory birds from Iceland arrive in Orkney in October.

Earlier this year the greylag goose was branded the “single biggest threat” to island crofting life in Scotland by the Scottish Crofters Federation which called for a major cull to protect vital cereal crops on Orkney and the Western Isles.

Last year almost 3200 greylag geese were killed in a pilot project on Orkney. And this year up to 5,500 geese will be allowed to be shot to help control their numbers on the islands.

An SNH spokesman said: “Geese taken as part of the pilot project will be recorded and population levels monitored in summer. This will keep the population down to reduce impact on farming while preserving the species’ conservation interest. The growing population of resident greylag geese in Orkney has seen an estimated 10,000 birds in 2008 rise to 21,367 in August 2012. This is causing serious damage to arable and grass crops.

“The long-term goal is for a goose population which generates income for local people through sustainable management.”

Gail Churchill, SNH’s Orkney operations manager, said: “We are responding to the concerns of local farmers and land managers and we are also committed to ensuring that management is controlled so geese are managed sustainably.

“Last year 3191 greylag geese were shot under the pilot project and the target this year is 5,500. In succeeding years this number will reduce as the population decreases. The work will be undertaken by experienced local shooters following established best practice methods, and overseen by staff within Scottish Agricultural College.”

She added: “This active management work will help us meet our nature conservation obligations by maintaining a sustainable and stable resident greylag goose population. It has the support of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) who will be working closely with all of us involved in this new form of adaptive management control.”

Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish Environment Minister, said: “The increase to what has become an unsustainable population of resident geese causes serious damage to land and crops in Orkney. It is good that this successful conservation project, where local farmers play a major role in carefully managing goose numbers, is continuing for a second year. This sustainable solution was developed in response to the needs of the local community, and has widespread support in Orkney.”