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Confirmed! Grouse Hunting has No Impact on Hen Harrier Population

The UK Government reported a record-breaking year for hen harrier breeding in the country. The bird-of-prey experienced a near-wipeout of its population in Britain in the year 1900. But nearly 120 years later, the population experienced a record year of growth. Conservation efforts and managed grouse moors (moorlands that are kept up for driven grouse hunts) helped this happen.

Natural England, a British public entity responsible for ensuring England’s natural resources are protected and improved, released the figures on August 11. Fifteen breeding pairs of hen harriers hatched a total of 47 chicks. This is an improvement over the previous record of 46 chicks born in 2006. Eleven of the 15 breeding pairs nested on managed grouse moors.

Over the last two years, the hen harrier population added 81 fledged chicks. This surpasses the total of 55 fledged chicks for the previous five years put together. According to the report, the chicks hatched in a wider variety of areas this year. Conservationists see this as evidence that the hen harrier population in the UK is on its way to restoration.

Mongabay, an organization that also puts forward the argument that the hen harrier population is largely impacted by grouse hunting, admits that there is no direct evidence for the illegal killing of hen harriers related to grouse hunting.

Fieldsports Britain recently went toe-to-toe with anti-grouse hunting activists. Fieldsports demonstrated that the arguments against grouse hunting – that it endangers the hen harriers’ ability to thrive – doesn’t hold water:

The Countryside Alliance is a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the rural way of life in Britain, including shooting sports. The Alliance created a table based on Natural England’s figures on the number of hen harrier breeding attempts, successful nests, and chicks fledged over the last 34 years. The table shows a cyclical nature to the hen harriers’ breeding with fluctuations between high and low population growth happening on an 8-year cycle. The Alliance said that an explanation for this cycle is not clear:

Hen Harrier Breeding Numbers (Source Countryside Alliance)
Hen Harrier Breeding Numbers (Source Countryside Alliance)

In short, the hen harrier population is showing a strong trajectory for future population growth. And grouse moors, in direct opposition to arguments by those who would eliminate grouse hunting, were home to the largest number of hen harrier nests bearing chicks this year.

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