Red grouse numbers declined as the hen harrier population increased
A moorland experiment to reintroduce red grouse shooting to a hen harrier protection area is beginning to show results, it has been claimed.
The Langholm Moor Demonstration Project was launched last September to redress the imbalance between the two species.
Suspicion for killing the birds of prey has often fallen on landowners keen to protect their lucrative grouse stocks.
The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust said there were now signs the birds could co-exist.
The 10-year project, which is funded by the trust, along with Scottish Natural Heritage, Buccleuch Estates, Natural England and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), will cost more than £8m. It is estimated it could be worth £1m to the local economy.
A scientific team has been established to monitor changes on the moor and four gamekeepers have been employed.
Professor Colin Galbriath, chairman of the board overseeing the experiment, said: "It was a huge achievement to bring the project together and with the gamekeepers on the ground, action has certainly started to show results.
"Scientific monitoring has shown a marked reduction in numbers of foxes and crows. Intensive watching of hen harrier nests recorded no grouse chicks being brought into the nests, although there were three items out of 106 that could not be identified."
The moor covers 10,000 acres of the vast Buccleuch estates in Dumfriesshire. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Protection Area (SPA).
A full annual report on the project will be released in December.