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Gull licensing system requires a change of approach, says conservation charity - Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT)

(image: Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust)
(image: Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust)

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) is urging Defra and Natural England to consider compelling new practitioner-based evidence of the impact of changes to licences for the control of gulls on threatened wading birds, including curlew and lapwing.

Following concerns about the new licensing regime for gull control announced by Natural England in January 2020, 56 grouse moor estates across northern England carried out their own monitoring of gull predation on ground-nesting birds. During April and May 2020, 183 gamekeepers, shepherds and shoot managers witnessed and recorded incidents of gulls predating the nests and chicks of three wader species, two of which (lapwing and curlew) are ‘red-listed’ as species of the highest conservation concern. Their aim was to provide evidence to help support future licence applications and to quantify the impact of the 2020 licensing policy on ground-nesting birds.

They recorded a total of 1,355 incidents of gulls predating lapwing, curlew and golden plover. 93% of the participating estates reported incidents of lapwing nests or chicks being predated by gulls, 95% reported gull predation of curlew nests or chicks, and 73% of estates saw nests or chicks of golden plover being predated by gulls. Only witnessed events were recorded so the data does not reflect gull predation events that went unseen by estate staff. Although formal monitoring was only carried out during April and May, 96% of estates also witnessed gull predation of waders in June.

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