BASC says Chris Packham is misleading the public and threatening the future of woodcock conservation in the UK with his latest attack on shooting.
The BBC presenter has accused those who shoot of pushing woodcock onto the red list of endangered species, implying that 17 per cent of shot birds are native to the UK. Research by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) in fact shows resident woodcock make up two per cent of the UK bag. The global population of woodcock is estimated at around 10-26 million birds and is considered stable.
BASC, the UK’s largest shooting organisation, has highlighted that woodland management for game shooting, and specifically for woodcock, is an important tool for promoting breeding. Such conservation work in the UK is essential for supporting an over-wintering woodcock population of around 1.4 million.
Tim Russell, BASC’s director of conservation, said: “Chris Packham has again adopted an extremist agenda, misrepresented the facts and polarised the debate to focus the attention on shooting.
“In doing so, he has blatantly ignored the wider non-shooting issues which should be informing the debate. For example, the UK is on the edge of a large breeding range for woodcock, which makes it susceptible to habitat changes, especially those due to climate change. That has nothing to do with shooting.
“It is also acknowledged that increased damage from deer browsing has changed the structure of woodlands, which reduces habitat for breeding birds. Increased predation pressure and the disappearance of permanent grasslands are also likely to be factors. Packham seems determined to ignore sound evidence, preferring instead anti-shooting rhetoric.
“Those who shoot and those who manage land for shooting must be part of the solution for the long-term success of birds such as woodcock. But it is worth noting that the shooting community has a history of supporting woodcock; Indeed, the species did not breed in the UK until the proliferation of woodland planting for game shooting in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
“Packham’s continued assault on shooting will not benefit conservation efforts in the long run. To continue berating the shooting community is to ignore the evidence that shooting is a force for good. The danger is that such polarising attacks could remove the motivation for many landowners to manage their woods in ways that will maintain suitable woodcock habitat.”
BASC chairman Peter Glenser said: “Successful conservation works best when all sides pull together. That reality seems to have escaped Chris Packham, who would rather drive a wedge between those who would otherwise work best when they work together for the benefit of conservation.”
“Nearly two million hectares are actively managed for conservation as a result of shooting and shooting is involved in the management of two-thirds of the rural land area. Shoot providers spend nearly £250 million a year on conservation and those who shoot are acutely aware of their responsibility towards birds such as woodcock.
“Packham continues to court publicity with misjudged comment, causing bad feeling and resentment. The danger is this will send people scurrying for the trenches to protect their position, which may eventually do damage to the very birds he claims to want to protect.”