Land owner Patrick Laurie claims that Black Grouse would benefit from investment by the shooting community. However we are sure Mr Laurie must already realise that in particular most Red Grouse moor owners go out of their way to destroy these birds already as they regard the Black Grouse as a bird that can cause damage on shooting days just like the Hen Harrier.
If you look at a map of the distribution of the Black Grouse compared to the Red Grouse there are vast areas of Britain, including the Forest of Bowland, where this bird does not exist but where historically it once did. Most of these areas also have a heavy game keeper presence so predation was never the reason for the bird’s disappearance. Nests were trod on in the breeding season and birds generally shot out of season just for taking Red Grouse away from the guns!! Total heather moorland is not what the Black Grouse needs and destruction of what they call the ‘white ground’ is just one example of how not to manage a Red Grouse moor.
The winter of 2009/10 showed that many Red Grouse moors in the North Pennines could not keep Black Grouse alive with a 60% drop in birds. The only recorded increase in Black Grouse numbers occurred on the RSPB’s reserve at Geltsdale in the northern Pennines. During this hard winter when the ground was covered with snow and frozen across the Pennines, Black Grouse flocked to Geltsdale from neighbouring Red Grouse moors to feed on Birch buds, whereas on Red Grouse moors many birds could not dig down to get at bilberry shoots which is one of their favourite foods.
Until a proper management system is put in place it is unlikely however that the voluntary ban will be dropped. Wetter summers may even result in populations of Black Grouse falling even further and less young being produced to retain a healthy population. A shift to the dryer east seems the only sensible solution with areas of the North York Moors changing their management to cater for this magnificent bird.