Future of Ilkley Moor grouse shoot in doubt

A head gamekeeper with his dogs during grouse season
A head gamekeeper with his dogs during grouse season
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For some, it is vital conservation work that helps wildlife to thrive, but for campaigners fighting to ban grouse shooting on Ilkley Moor, it’s cruel, unsafe and turning away tourists.

Bradford councillors will today consider banning grouse shooting, after campaign group Ban Bloodsports of Ilkley Moor (BBIM) submitted a petition with more than 1,000 signatures objecting to the shooting agreement the authority, owners of the Moor, currently has with the Bingley Moor Partnership (BMP).

A head gamekeeper with his dogs during grouse season

A head gamekeeper with his dogs during grouse season

The Partnership, which owns 4,500 sq ft of moorland adjacent to Ilkley Moor, has paid the Council £10,000 a year since 2008 under a 10-year lease, to shoot on the moor for up to eight days each season.

A report to be considered by the Council’s Environment and Waste Management Overview and Scrutiny Committee today, said that in practice, the shoots and drives generally take place on the neighbouring moors owned by BMP, and that the rights allowed the Partnership to carry out moorland management work in order to control predator species, agreed by Natural England and set out in a Higher Level Stewardship.

This includes setting small traps to catch small mammals like rats and weasels that may take wild birds eggs, and “do not pose a danger to people or pets”.

But the campaigners say the practice of shooting and trapping is cruel, and in a report produced alongside the petition, said the predator control methods “seriously impact on the natural flow of the moor”. The group also say the “bad publicity” associated with shooting was damaging to the reputation of the Moor and has a negative effect on tourism.

BBIM spokesman Luke Steele, who has protested on shoot days this summer, welcomed the “serious consideration” being given by the Council to stopping grouse shooting, and said the move would ensure the Moor “remains the beating heart of our region.”

A review into the lease was carried out by the Council last year, when it was renewed until 2018, but it can be terminated at any point with six months notice. Ending the lease would also end the moorland management work.

Edward Bromet, lead partner at the BMP, said it carried out a “tremendous conservation effort” on Ilkley Moor and “it would be a tragedy if that was disrupted.”

“This conservation effort needs to go,” he said. “Grouse shooting is merely a by-product of that.”

He said the Partnership put £60,000 a year into its conservation work, which helped make a “more beautiful” moorland for tourist to enjoy.

Amanda Anderson, director of The Moorland Association said the legal control of predators gave ground nesting birds more than three times better chance of fledging their young.

“For lovely moorland bids like curlew and lapwing this means they are up to five times more abundance on moors managed for grouse shooting whilst populations are declining elsewhere. In addition, Merlin - Britain’s smallest bird of prey - has four times more breeding records on moors with gamekeepers.

“Add to these environmental pluses there are knock on benefits to ensuring good public access, wildfire prevention, and money in to the pockets of local people and businesses on shoot days and throughout the year.”

After five years of “strict neutrality” the Friends of Ilkley Moor now oppose shooting.

Group chair Owen Wells called for the Council to end the lease and put management of Ilkley Moor back in the control of its Countryside Service. He said there was no evidence that work by BMP had improved biodiversity on the Moor, and that, predators and prey can coexist without external interference.

“The prime use of the moor is for ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the public,” he said. “There is a degree of conflict in managing a moor for grouse and allowing public access.”