birds conservation wildlife

Conservation and Culling

This is another controversial look at a conservation issue. I began writing this blog way back in October and then spent much time thinking about exactly what to write and ensuring due consideration was given to both sides of the argument. Then the issue was brought up on Autumnwatch where in particular the culling of Red Deer in Scotland was looked at. So I have waited until now to publish it.

Has the time come when we must consider seriously the need for the controlled culling of certain species in order to maintain a balance in our natural world? We have upset the balance through our actions for centuries by removing links in food chains and food pyramids especially predators such as wolves. Gamekeepers have removed certain raptors from huge areas of our islands and massively reduced the population of others. This amazingly continues today!

The consideration of this controversial issue is currently difficult as people’s vision is being blurred by the contentious ambitions of our government to cull badgers all for the wrong reasons – pressure from the farming industry. The unproven condemnation of badgers as being the main cause of the spread of bovine tuberculosis is being used as the reason for a cull. but this is altogether different – it is being proposed for purely economic reasons.

The aim of the culling I am talking about here would be to bring some control to over-sized populations caused by an imbalance of nature caused by man, often the species needing to be culled being foreign invaders. The most obvious creatures that need to be under scrutiny when considering culling are the Grey Squirrel, the Wood Pigeon, the Rabbit, Signal Crayfish, mink and some species of deer. It is clear to see that there are far too many of each of these and where mink and Signal Crayfish are concerned even one is too many as they cause severe disruption to our native creatures, the Bank Vole and our native Crayfish respectively. Whether the Grey Squirrel is a direct threat to our native reds is less clear-cut as they tend to favour different habitats.

Perhaps one answer is to consider these as a food source. Should we return to a time when pigeon and rabbit were part of our everyday diets, and begin to think of harvesting the Grey Squirrel and Signal Crays as a new food source? To some extent we accept this with deer for example Attingham Park, a National Trust property near us just outside Shrewsbury, culls its deer to keep a healthy herd and sells the venison.

So what is the way forward? Could we accept culling if it also had the by-product of providing a food source?

The Grey Squirrel is cute and entertaining as are rabbits, so a cull of either would be hard for some to swallow. But they are not native to our shores and they can both become tasty ingredients.

The opposite side of the coin could be the re-introduction of missing species, and this could be even more controversial. Could we realistically reintroduce wolves? The reintroduction of beavers in Scotland does not seem to assist in redressing any imbalance.

More questions than answers!! I certainly have no answers. I couldn’t kill any living creature, with the exception perhaps of the slugs that devour our plants.