Woodcock season to be discussed in Parliament

A woodcock

An opportunity to discuss woodcock shooting in Parliament will help highlight shooting’s conservation credentials, says BASC.

The prospect comes after a petition calling to limit the woodcock shooting season hit the threshold at which it can be considered to be debated. The petition, created by the BBC’s Chris Packham, passed 100,000 signatures in December.

The petition asks for the opening of the woodcock season to be pushed back to 1 December, aligning with the arrival of around one million migratory woodcock in an attempt to limit the harvest of the UK’s resident woodcock population.

BASC is opposed to changes in the shooting season because there is no evidence that shooting is detrimental to the resident breeding population. A voluntary restraint not to shoot woodcock until the end of November is a precautionary measure already implemented to minimise the risk of disproportionately shooting resident woodcock.

Dr Marnie Lovejoy, BASC’s head of evidence and environmental law, said: “The shooting community is passionate about woodcock conservation, leading by example through research, habitat creation, predator control and a precautionary voluntary restraint.

“The reduction in the UK’s resident woodcock population is most likely down to habitat loss and degradation, population fragmentation, prey availability, climate change, predation pressures and disturbance. The petition’s request is unevidenced and unsupportable.

“Chris Packham’s purposefully divisive petition would be better served if it campaigned for more resources to tackle the known issues impacting our resident population. Tinkering with the shooting seasons over purposeful conservation measures will not help our resident woodcock.

“BASC will use any forthcoming debate to showcase shooting’s conservation credentials and to demonstrate that resident woodcock would be in a far more perilous state if it were not for the dedicated work undertaken by the shooting community. The debate will offer up the opportunity to win over those who were unaware of the evidence when signing the petition.”

Woodcock in numbers

The current estimate of UK resident woodcock is 55,240 males. A sharp decline between 1970 and 2010 meant the species has been listed as red on the UK’s Birds of Conservation Concern since 2015.

The European breeding population is estimated at between six and eight million males. An estimated one million migrant woodcock join the UK’s resident population during the winter months, arriving in November and leaving in March.

The opening of the season for woodcock is 1 September in Scotland, and 1 October in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

For advice and guidance on woodcock conservation for your shoot, and details on voluntary restraint, click here.