Page last updated at 12:11 GMT, Monday, 10 August 2009 13:11 UK

Grouse numbers 'are on the rise'

Red grouse. Picture courtesy of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Red grouse numbers in Scotland have shown an increase in recent years

Gamekeepers have reported an upturn in grouse numbers in Scotland before the shooting season starts on Wednesday.

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust said red grouse numbers were up by about 25% on recent years.

A spokesman said some parts of the country may have the biggest "shootable surplus" in about five years.

However, parts of Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and Dumfriesshire have been hit by ticks, predators and heather beetles, meaning some grouse stocks are low.

The season traditionally starts on the "Glorious 12th" of August.

Hopefully a good season in 2009 with appropriate harvesting levels may mean a purple passage for grouse and the hills in the next few years
Ian McCall
Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust

Pre-season counts carried out by the trust recorded a large number of well-grown grouse broods in Scotland this year, with some having 12 chicks.

Many moors in Perthshire and Stirlingshire have seen the best productivity of grouse for a number of years, although numbers remained modest because relatively few adult grouse were around.

In Angus, grouse counts were "consistently up" on last year and a small rise in productivity was reported in Morayshire, Nairnshire, Banffshire and parts of Inverness-shire, Deeside and Donside.

The trust said that prospects were good for the shooting season in the Pentlands and the Lammermuirs, despite July's poor weather.

Good productivity

Dr Adam Smith, the trust's Scottish policy officer, said: "The red grouse has done well in its core range.

"This year's productivity is good in many areas and the improved young-to-old ratio is a sure sign of a healthy population.

"It is great that many of those who continue to invest heavily in moorland management are going to be rewarded this season, with some of our counts predicting the prospect of the biggest shootable surplus since 2003."

Recent studies have suggested the national total of red grouse may be as high as 800,000.

Ian McCall, the trust's director for Scotland, said: "Hopefully a good season in 2009 with appropriate harvesting levels may mean a purple passage for grouse and the hills in the next few years."



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