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Last Updated: Friday, 12 August 2005, 04:34 GMT 05:34 UK
Grouse shooting hit by disease
Grouse on moors
Gloomy predictions have again greeted the Glorious Twelfth
Some parts of Britain could be heading for the worst grouse shooting season for decades, country sports groups say.

Traditionally the start of the season, the Glorious Twelfth, is usually marked with thousands taking to the moors.

But tick infestations and an outbreak of parasitic worms have led to bird stocks being reduced by as much as 50-90%, the Moorland Association says.

As a result few shoots on upland estates in England and Scotland are expected to get under way later.

The breeding success of the grouse has been very poor in most areas
Colin Sheddon
British Association for Shooting and Conservation

Thousands of birds have died in the last three months due to an outbreak of parasitic worms in the birds' guts.

As a consequence, shoots have been cancelled and rural communities which partly depend on the sport to attract visitors could lose vital income.

Scottish director of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation Colin Sheddon said that unseasonably cold and wet weather played a major part in the poor grouse numbers.

"In general we are looking at the worst year in perhaps the last 10 years, while in England they are saying it's the worst in 50.

"The breeding success of the grouse has been very poor in most areas and the general picture is that cold, wet weather at the end of May and beginning of June has had an adverse effect."

'Mixed bag'

High levels of ticks may be related to the warmer winter weather, he said.

"Generally speaking, it wasn't cold enough in the winter and it was too cold in May and June," he added.

Chairman of the Moorland Association Simon Bostock said some grouse counters had reported seeing fewer than 10 birds in areas where they would normally see more than 300.

On the moors above Hawnby in North Yorkshire that flooded in June, it is thought that many birds would have been simply washed away.


South Deeside and West Perthshire are the worst hit areas in Scotland, according to Scottish director of the Game Conservancy Trust Ian McColl.

He said: "We do grouse counts in sample areas from the middle of July and these two areas were the worst I've counted in about 10 years."

Mr McColl said hotels would feel the force of the blow, as fewer people came for the shoots, and that it would have a knock-on effect on "vulnerable communities".

But Mr McColl also described this year's season as a "very mixed bag".

Some estates boasted good numbers while their neighbours experience the opposite, he added.

Grouse season 'not so glorious'
12 Aug 04 |  Scotland
Heat triggers hunt for grouse
12 Aug 03 |  North Yorkshire
Grouse numbers on the up
03 Aug 03 |  North Yorkshire
Markings help moor recovery
02 Jun 03 |  North East Wales

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