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Landowners call for rare bird curb


Scotland Correspondent

Rare birds of prey, including falcons, buzzards, and hen harriers, should be culled to arrest the sharp decline in stocks of grouse and other moorland birds, Scottish landowners said yesterday.

The Scottish Landowners' Federation (SLF) called on the Government to relax the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act to allow gamekeepers to shoot raptors, which are currently a protected species. The federation, whose 4,000 members own around 3m hectares of the Highlands, argues that measures to protect birds of prey have proved too successful.

Raptors are now destroying moorland birds, including plovers and lapwings, lairds claim. The decline in grouse stocks has been particularly rapid, threatening to wipe out the pounds 20m-a-year shooting industry.

Graeme Gordon, the head of the SLF, told an environmental conference in Perth yesterday that the rising number of birds of prey had upset the balance of nature. Mr Gordon is confident the SLF will persuade the Government to change the law. The federation has begun lobbying through the Department of the Environment's Raptor Working Group, which was set up earlier this year.

But officials at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds deny raptors are to blame for the reduction in moorland bird stocks. Instead, they point to poor land management, in particular, the widespread destruction of heather moorland.