Wild Hacking licensed by SNH for 2020 – last minute decision?

A Gyr Falcon sitting on the road.

Residents in Moray, close to where captive-bred falcons have been wild-hacked over recent years (under licence from SNH last year) received a letter today (dated yesterday) from the falconers involved informing the residents that ‘falcon training’ would start from approximately late June. The residents had no warning of this from SNH.

I followed this up by contacting the SNH media office (whose staff I uniformly find very helpful, polite, quick and efficient) and asking them the questions below at c3pm, and to which I received the answers below at c5:15pm.

1)  Q: Have we issued a licence to allow hacking of falcons in Moray this year?

A: Yes

2)  Q: Have we issued any other licences anywhere else in Scotland for wild hacking?

A: Yes – Muirkirk, East Ayrshire

3)  Q: On what date was the licence issued? 

A: Both licences – 22 June 2020

4)  Q: For how many birds? 

A: Moray – 150 birds in total, max 40 birds out at hack at any one time. East Ayrshire – 100 birds total, 40 out at the hack at any one time.

5) Q: Does the licence cover Gyr Falcons only or does it cover any other species/hybrids?

A: Both licences – only Gyr Falcons

A spokeswoman for SNH said: “Last year, for the first time, we considered applications and issued licences to permit the wild hacking of falcons at two different locations in Scotland. At the time these licenses were issued, we committed to, and have now undertaken a review of information on the practice.  In addition we also met with local interest groups who raised concerns and sought advice from our ornithologists on impacts and mitigation.

In 2020, we received applications for this activity to be permitted again. In considering these applications, we have  weighed up the risks and benefits, and have taken the decision to permit this activity. These new licences include an amended set of conditions which reflect the knowledge, understanding and lessons gained from reviewing the licensed activity in 2019.

To catch up on the story enter wild hacking into the search facility on this blog (top right) and all posts on this subject will be listed.

More on this tomorrow.

And look out for a post here at c8:30pm this evening with a story embargoed until then.

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6 Replies to “Wild Hacking licensed by SNH for 2020 – last minute decision?”

  1. One of the questions that has been raised was in regard to the less than adequate pre-season environmental survey that was carried out in 2019. SNH even agreed that it left room for improvement and that this would be addressed in 2020. I'm not sure how SNH planned to improve this state of affairs, but evidence to support their commitment is hard to find.

    Given that several ground nesting birds are at home and, so far this breeding season at least, living peacefully with their brand new little families, within the 12.5km square hacking zone, it is quite concerning that no survey took account of this or included neighbouring properties in its scope. These resident curlew, lapwing and oystercatchers are in for a rude awakening when shortly, they are to be confronted from above by 40 gyrfalcons at a time for weeks on end.

    Not fair, really, is it?

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  2. The Muirkirk Spa is the location. The presence of these falcons within the SPA does not conform with the conservation objectives for the SPA. Amoungst other species, the Muirkirk SPA is classified for breeding and wintering hen harrier. So there is no time in the year when HH are not using the site. The presence of these birds will displace the harriers from a substantial area of their SPA.

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    1. Tragic, Circus Maximus. Truly tragic. And the blight is widespread.

      The awful truth is that the final say lies with an unfit outfit, that toadys to people and organisations who have no interest in preserving Scotland's wildlife. Wildlife struggling? Who that can legislate actually cares?

      The safety and nurturing of our NATIVE wildlife should be sacrosanct. We shouldn't have to fight for the very survival of our native species.

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  3. Are any of the statutory agencies / organisations charged with protecting our wildlife fit for purpose? I would say not.

    Is the problem that they have been emasculated to the point of irrelevance or is there a degree of corruption involved?

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    1. Simon Tucker, I agree, they're not fit for purpose.

      But alas, this sad state of affairs doesn't just make them useless. Much worse, it makes them dangerous to wildlife as their priorities become distorted and they edge more and more towards the pockets of those who would use our wild spaces for their own purposes.

      ... pave paradise... tra la la!

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