I WAS astonished to read Sir Ian Botham’s statement suggesting gamekeepers be employed to manage wildlife reserves owned by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (“Botham: Put gamekeepers in charge to help protect hen harriers”, The Herald, February 5).

Available evidence suggests moors managed by gamekeepers to provide commercial, driven grouse shooting are not safe places for raptors and other wildlife. Anything that might eat an egg, chick or adult grouse is regarded as vermin by many gamekeepers. Gamekeepers can obtain legal permission to kill unlimited numbers of more than 20 species of native birds simply by reading Government General Licenses on a website.

They can also legally kill most species of mammal that naturally predate on birds and their eggs. Every year, thousands of mountain hare are killed by gamekeepers in a bid to reduce the tick population that, in high numbers, can kill grouse chicks. I don’t see the logic in that as, if you kill off their main host, ticks will predate on whatever is left and, if most other animals have been killed as vermin, the remaining food source is likely to be grouse chicks.

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After a moor has been “managed” to maximise the numbers of grouse, paying guns come in and, in the process of blasting the grouse out of the sky, pollute the moors with tonnes of toxic lead pellets that poisons birds which ingest them, along with the grit they need in their gizzards to digest their food.

I think Sir Ian should stick to cricket as he seems a bit stumped when it comes to understanding the relationship between moorland managed for driven grouse shooting and the health and welfare of other wildlife for which those same moors should be home.

John F Robins,

Secretary and Campaigns Consultant, Animal Concern,

Post Office Box 5178, Dumbarton.

I HAVE seldom if ever read such nonsense as Sir Ian Botham’s claim that gamekeepers should be put in charge of protecting hen harriers.

Grouse moors managed by gamekeepers in most cases are ideal habitat for hen harriers yet few are found to survive in these areas.

It is reported that only three to four pairs of harriers successfully rear young on the moors in Yorkshire and across the north of England, an area that should support perhaps several hundred pairs.

There is no argument that hen harriers predate heavily on young grouse and therefore many, but not all, gamekeepers feel the need to persecute them illegally. Until the powers that be get really serious about pursuing and prosecuting these crimes and handing down substantial penalties, hen harriers will continue to suffer.

Ian McDougall,

3 Comerton Place,

Drumoig,

Leuchars.