Wild Justice's latest letter to the Defra secretary displays their ingorance of the nuances of the UK Woodcock population

The campaign group Wild Justice have written yet another legal letter to George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – this time regarding woodcock. 

The letter, sent through their lawyers Leigh Day to both Eustice and the Irish Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Edwin Poots, concerns the close season for Woodcock in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.Wild Justice suggest that rather than the current closed season of 1 February – 30 September (31 August in Scotland), this close season is extended until 30 November. 

 Their justification for this is the fact that the resident British woodcock population has seen a decline. Wild Justice suggest that the GWCT’s current recommendations that woodcock are not shot before 1 December should become law, and back this up by stating that “the rationale for such a change has been set out by the pro-shooting Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust”. 

The GWCT have undertaken more research into woodcock ecology and conservation than any other organisation in the UK. In response, they have said that: “It would appear from the letter that Wild Justice may not fully understand the nuance of the factors driving woodcock populations and neither is it clear how their proposals for statutory changes to the shooting season would enhance the population status of our resident breeding woodcock.” They have further confirmed that the GWCT do not believe that a restriction on the woodcock shooting season would help recover the UK’s resident woodcock population.  

NGO members across the country work tirelessly to protect the woodcock and preserve breeding numbers, using various methods including predator control. Both we and our members are fully aware of the fact that the woodcock population of the UK is in decline, and this is an issue that needs further attention, to understand the reasons behind that decline. 

As the GWCT have touched on, we do not believe that Wild Justice have understood the full ins and outs of the woodcock population drivers in the UK. In order to understand more about the topic, the GWCT and the British Trust for Ornithology are together monitoring changes in breeding Woodcock numbers, and are asking for people to help with their monitoring. We would encourage anyone who is able to help with this survey to do so; more details can be found at this link.  

Gamekeepers and shoots play a hugely important role in managing woodlands in order to encourage woodcock and increase their breeding numbers. However, there appears to be no real basis for this request from Wild Justice to the government other than to create a news story. It is known that gamekeepers are the largest active body of conservationists in the UK and as such have and are doing everything they can to improve woodcock numbers nationwide.  


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