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PEST CONTROL

While some quarry species are hunted purely for food, others are pursued because they damage agricultural crops, livestock, forestry or buildings. Some of these species are also edible and sought after for the table, but they would be controlled regardless of this.

In hunting terms, the term ‘pest’ usually refers to a species which damages crops and livestock or threatens human health. In the UK, species commonly referred to as pests include foxes, rabbits, grey squirrel, corvids (crow family), pigeons (feral and wood) and rats. All of these are widespread in the countryside, and can cause significant economic losses or pose a serious risk to public health.

Every species can become overpopulated for its environment if there is no check on numbers. When this happens, the species will become diseased and/or starved as there are too many individuals for the amount of available food and habitat. As this happens, the remaining individuals lose health and vigour, and so the whole population suffers. Hunters believe that it is more humane for pest species to be controlled by gun, trap, snare, falcon/hawk or dog/hound, than it is to leave an animal or bird suffering a lingering death from disease or starvation. Hunting is about sustainable management.

As well as for the health of a population, it is also important for individual species not to damage the habitat in which they live through over-grazing or over-browsing. Many of our habitats, such as heather moorland, native woodland and wildflower meadows are species-rich but vulnerable; it is important for us to manage these habitats so that they remain as biodiverse as possible.

This frequently means limiting the population growth of species that can become more dominant – and so more successful and more common – than others. It is also worth saying that this form of management applies to many species of animal and bird other than ‘traditional’ pests; for example, deer and geese are managed in this way but are not commonly or solely referred to as pests.

fox shooting scotland
gundog rabbit shooting

The Government actually places an obligation on landowners to control pest species in certain circumstances. This highlights how serious the impact of these species can be if they are left to reproduce unchecked.

For pest bird species, control becomes lawful under the General Licences – but there are strict conditions with which to comply. Read more here:

http://www.snh.gov.uk/protecting-scotlands-nature/species-licensing/bird-licensing/general/ and here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/general-licences-for-wildlife-management

SACS firmly believes the Government should treat general licences as an enabler for land managers to do their jobs properly, but we increasingly see the licences treated by Government as a privilege that can be removed. SACS believes that controlling pests should be made easier, not harder, and we continue to challenge nonsensical changes to licences and the law. Help us fight for our rights by joining HERE.