Moors buck the trend as estates celebrate bumper grouse season

The North York Moors bucked the trend in a disastrous grouse shooting season that saw rural businesses in other parts of the region losing an estimated £11m in revenue, according to new figures.

The first grouse shoot of the season last august. Picture: SWNS

As the four-month red grouse season drew to a close in December, the Moorland Association estimated that low numbers of birds across most of the county had caused the cancellation of around seven shooting days in every 10.

Last year’s bitterly cold February followed by the long summer drought was blamed for conditions which were described as “appalling”.

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But in the Moors, the populations of grouse were said to have braved the “beast from the East” which killed off birds in other areas, to such an extent that some local businesses were claiming the season as one of the best on record.

The wild red grouse is a hardy subarctic bird but its breeding success can be unpredictable,” said a spokesman for the North Yorkshire Moors Moorland Group.

He added: “Unlike elsewhere in the North, across the North York Moors the grouse population sustained a full shooting programme right the way through the four-months.”

Red grouse is one of only a handful of birds native to the UK alone and lives on moorland in the Peak District, the North Pennines, Yorkshire Dales and the Forest of Bowland, as well as the North York Moors.

In the absence of sustainable numbers in the other areas, gamekeepers had to call off most of their shooting days to protect the remaining populations.

But a survey among eight of the 11 estates in the North York Moors found that 177 shoot days went ahead, with spin-off benefits to hotels and other local businesses.

Each grouse moor employs an extra 34 staff on shoot days, including account beaters, loaders, flankers, pickers-up, house and catering staff.

The Moorland Association said the figure equates to a total of around 6,000 days of additional employment between August and December, “benefiting local youngsters, pensioners and migrant workers”.

Tina Brough, of the North Yorkshire Moors Moorland Organisation, said the success of the season in the area “benefits the local community and businesses whilst also supporting vital conservation efforts”.

She added: “Grouse shooting is an important tradition and helps to sustain the rural economy, especially during the off-season when tourism is limited.

Essential part-time and seasonal employment is provided throughout the shooting season in remote rural areas that would otherwise be lacking.

“To be able to support over 6,000 extra work days of employment over the past four-month season is extremely important for the survival of small villages in North Yorkshire and offers a vital lifeline for many residents and businesses.”

The season brought international as well as domestic visitors to the Moors.

Lis Rickleton, manager of the Black Swan Hotel in Helmsley said the town was dependent on income from grouse shoots.

“We rely on shooting parties staying in our hotel to support our business in the off-peak holiday season,” she said.

“It also generates add-on services – shoot dinners, ladies’ shooting lunches, spa days and days out for partners and family members not shooting. Shooting is very much the backbone of our rural community.”

Red grouse are wild birds and cannot be reared. Only when there is a healthy surplus of grouse can they be harvested for shooting.