The partridge shooting season opened on 1 September for both our native Grey Partridge and the non-native Red-legged Partridge. Nearly 12 million RLPs are released normally for recreational shooting puposes which is a phenomenal number and would attract far more attention if it weren’t a figure swamped and dwarfed by the 51 million Pheasants that are normally released into the countryside ahead of their date with death which starts on 1 October (release numbers from GWCT in DEFRA papers released as a result of Wild Justice’s legal challenge, and relate to 2018).
About 5 million RLPs are shot in the UK each year – there is a naturalised wild population as well as bred and released birds remember. This puts the RLP in second position after Pheasant in the big-bag species of the UK and ahead of numbers 3-5 added together: Woodpigeon, c2m: Mallard, c1million; Red Grouse , c0.7million. The ‘traditional’ shooting industry of the UK is dominated by the shooting of two non-native and captive-bred and relased species.
I was interested to hear from friends in eastern Scotland last week that some grouse shooting estates, some of which are quite notorious by reputation for their raptor killing, have so few Red Grouse these days that they are switching to releasing large numbers of RLPs. How very traditional – not!
I was pondering on the numbers of Red Grouse shot in the UK while speeding past a timber lorry on the A68 earlier this week. The GWCT say that c700,000 Red Grouse are shot in the UK (numbers vary from year to year – there hasn’t been a very good year for a while now). The Avian Population Estimates Panel (one of whose number is a distinguished GWCT scientist (no, I mean it)) say there are 265,000 pairs of Red Grouse. 530,000 adult Red Grouse in spring and 700,000 Red Grouse shot in a normal year? Now I know that Red Grouse lay a lot of eggs (6-9), and predators are ruthlessly, and sometimes illegally, killed on grouse moors, but that still seems an astonishingly high kill rate (particularly considering not all Red Grouse live on grouse moors). Or don’t you think so?