Goshawk – The missing link.

Given the great news that Pine Martens are now seen as the savours of Red Squirrels is there new hope that Goshawk will be seen in the same light, I wonder? 


The persecution of Goshawk is well known throughout Britain by the shooting estates. Given that tunnel traps kill Red Squirrels as well as Grey Squirrels then you would hope the population of Grey Squirrels may be declining but that is not the case, in fact quite the reverse.

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The above Goshawk photographed in the Peak District regularly brought Grey Squirrels into the nest. Image courtesy of Terry Pickford

£ millions of pounds of tax payers money is now used to try eradicate Grey Squirrels using ‘humane traps’ and employing trappers to eradicate them in the hope of then releasing Red Squirrels back into these regions.

Many other species are also trapped in these traps such as Polecats, Mink, Hedgehogs and even birds like Great spotted Woodpeckers and even Nuthatch which enter the traps following a trail of peanuts. It is hoped that most of these are released as Polecat is fully protected as a Schedule 1 species, but it is against the law to release the Mink back into the wild after capture because the mink is an alien species and regarded as a top predator.

A recent installed remote camera set over looking a Goshawk’s nest showed that 68% of all food brought to the nest was Grey Squirrels. So if Goshawks were protected, instead of persecuted together with returning Pine Marten back into key areas over run by Grey Squirrels, then these two predators could reduce the population of Grey Squirrels to prevent further expansion into key Red Squirrel areas.

The Lake District would be a great place to start such a programme as little shooting takes place in the National Park. Green tourism would expand as the 15 million visitors would be able to watch Pine Martens as part of their holiday and a camera set up on a Goshawk nest could provide even more enjoyment for the visitors.

Image by Dan Naisbitt

The shooting brigade will certainly vote against the return of these two apex predators, even if it helped to eradicate the Grey Squirrel. Many conservation organisations are so weak as demonstrated by their lack of  support for the Vicarious Liability E-petition. Who will be the one to jump into the fire. Even the Mammal Society who have carried out monitoring for Pine Martens in the Lake District are a poor representative for the Pine Marten as they feel 1 mammal alive in the Lake District represents a rare gene pool. Show them the money and they would soon change their tune.

Also where is the tourist board in all this! Look at Yorkshire winning the Tour t France. Cumbria could be the next Mull but we are represented by a bunch of fairies.

Several pairs of Goshawks are known to already exist in the Lake District but give them the Pine Marten and Bob’s your Uncle a reduction in Grey Squirrels!!

3 comments to Goshawk – The missing link.

  • There is no doubt that grey squirrels are heavily preyed upon by Goshawks, but only in the absence of other prey. During the 1970’s some goshawks were fitted with transmitters and released into English woodlands. One female in particular made serious inroads into the grey squirrel population of the wood where she was released. Male goshawks tend to hunt more birds such as pigeons, jays and other corvids, as well as gamebirds where these are abundant. This is in fact one of the problems, if pheasants and/or partridge are reared and released nearby, then a pair of goshawks are likely to take advantage of this easier prey and ignore the squirrels and other vermin species. In areas where there is no driven shooting the goshawks would thrive and rear good sized broods, but once these young leave the safety of the nesting site and move on to find their own territory, then they are sure to come into conflict with the local keepers and be quietly destroyed.
    Despite the amount of vermin species that Goshawks are known to eat, they will never be welcomed by the ” tunnel visioned” shooting fraternity.

  • skydancer

    The unfortunate thing for the Goshawk is that it has feathers ,a hooked beak and talons ,so it will always be regarded to gamekeepers as vermin and must be shot. At the moment following the cold weather here in the north of Cumbria I know of at least two wooder areas holding goshawks, which currently are predating the thousands of wood pigeons in both areas. By the spring both pairs will certainly have been shot or trapped.

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