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Defra scraps plans for action against buzzards

Controversial plans to take buzzards into captivity and destroy their nests to protect pheasant shoots have been dropped.

Buzzard photo
A buzzard

Related: Row as Defra targets Cumbria's buzzards

Just over a week after announcing the plans, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has abandoned them following an outcry from conservationists.

The government had planned to spend up to £375,000 researching ways to keep the bird of prey from targeting non-native pheasants, which are reared in captivity and released for shooting in their millions.

They said three quarters of gamekeepers believed the birds had a harmful effect on pheasant shoots.

One of the fierce opponents was Dr Roy Armstrong, senior lecturer in the University of Cumbria’s Centre for Wildlife Conservation, who said the government was acting ‘solely in the interests of private landowners and not in the interests of conservation.’

He said it was a politically motivated policy and would actually lead to more buzzards initially because removing a pair of breeding birds would lead to more coming in to fight over their territory.

“New birds to a territory will not have the experience of established birds and will therefore not know the best areas for hunting voles, rabbits etc – their preferred prey,” he added.

“In this situation they are more likely to rely on larger, more visible species, such as pheasants.

“Defra’s policy is scientifically illiterate and morally indefensible. Buzzards are a native species, pheasants are not.”

The proposals had included destroying nests to prevent them breeding, catching and relocating buzzards to places such as falconry centres or providing alternative food sources.

They were suggested after figures showed a sharp rise in numbers – up 145 per cent – between 1995 and 2009.

Announcing the U-turn, wildlife minister Richard Benyon said he had decided to look at developing new research proposals in light of public concerns.

“It is right that we make decisions on the basis of sound evidence and we do need to understand better the whole relationship between raptors, game birds and other livestock,” he said.

RSPB conservation director Martin Harper welcomed the decision to cancel the project and said there were well-tried, non-lethal ways of dealing with buzzards at pheasant pens.

Have your say

Pheasants Forever, a U.S. based conservation group supporting..well, you get it, determined after many thousands of dollars and long hours of field research that raptors have very little effect on pheasant populations. Habitat and localized weather patterns are the keys to healthy populations. When an organization promoting pheasant hunting says raptors are no big deal you have to believe the science must back them up! Good luck to you common buzzards.

Posted by John Halverson on 2 June 2012 at 17:32

It will still happen you just wont hear about it

Posted by Brian Gunn on 2 June 2012 at 09:11

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