Stop shooting endangered Waders

September 25, 2016




Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax.rusticola), Common Snipe (Gallinago.gallinago) and Golden Plover (Pluvialis.apricaria) are legally shot in the UK despite their serious and on going population declines. A moratorium on shooting should be immediately imposed and remain until the impact of shooting is established by independent scientific investigation, any necessary restrictions or quotas are introduced, and/or their populations recover to levels where harvesting is judged sustainable.

Data from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), JNCC and RSPB Bird Trends report a decline of 76% in the Woodcock over the last 25 years. Although the numbers wintering in the UK are increased by migrants from Eastern Europe, data from BTO and Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust studies of Woodcock bags report that 17% of shot birds are UK resident breeders (www.woodcockwatch.com/project-information3.php). It is a Red Listed species.

In the same period Snipe (Amber listed) have declined by 87%. Following long term historical declines, between 1993 and 2013 Golden Plover decreased by 17% in England and 25% in Scotland. A sharper decline has occurred in Wales with only 36 breeding pairs recorded in 2007. Since 2006 there has been a significant decline in winter visitors from Fennoscandia and Russia. Nevertheless the UK wintering population remains internationally important at a time when the species can still be legally shot (September 1st – January 31st).

Whilst it is important to state that there is currently no evidence to suggest that shooting is primarily responsible for these declines (habitat loss or degradation, agricultural intensification, pesticides and climate change being the principal driving forces), continuing to harvest species in such steep decline is perilous and counterproductive to conservation practices. As such many responsible shooters have already instigated their own restrictions/bans particularly in regard to Woodcock.

The Lapwing (Vanellus . vanellus) has declined by 53% in the corresponding period and is also Red listed. This loss is thus significantly less than Woodcock and Snipe, and yet it has become a flagship species for farmland conservation. If we were to allow 17% of its population to be shot each winter there would be an international outcry. It’s time for sense and science to shape shooting practices not tradition or lore.

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