Bird lovers cry fowl as NI grouse hunt is on


A NUMBER of people in the Republic of Ireland want to bring an end to celebrating “The Glorious Twelfth” in Northern Ireland and for the guns to remain silent.

They are not into politics or religion but rather the conservation of one of the island’s most threatened bird species, the Red Grouse.

Yesterday, August 12th, saw the opening of the shooting season for grouse in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland but not in the Republic where wildfowlers have to wait until September 1st.

According to Dr Sinéad Cummins, who was involved in the largest ever study of the grouse here, the fact the season begins early in the North and not here has created difficulty in Border areas.

“While we would like to see grouse not being hunted at all because numbers are so low, we would like to see the authorities co-ordinate the opening of the season on both sides of the Border,” said Dr Cummins, who works with BirdWatch Ireland.

Most conservationists, she said, wanted the season to open on September 1st on both sides of the Border. She said most wildfowlers she knew no longer hunted grouse because of their declining numbers and were more into conserving them than shooting them.

“There has been a 50 per cent decline in the number of birds here over the past 40 years and we estimate there are only 4,200 birds left in the country,” she said.

She said this had been caused by loss of habitat, especially from overgrazing by sheep, turf cutting and other activities. The grouse is now confined to a few areas on the east coast, Donegal and west Mayo and is on the red or endangered list of birds, she said.

The grouse was very dependent on heather and its declining quality on the wetter bogs in the west had led to a fall in numbers.

She said bog fires had also harmed stocks because grouse were “single breeders” and would not attempt to breed again if the first nest was destroyed.

“Because it is still listed as a quarry species it has no real protection and it is time to move to save what is Ireland’s oldest bird.”