SOME PARTS of Britain are heading for the worst grouse-shooting season since 1950 as the hunting season got under way last Friday, August 12th.
The ‘Glorious Twelfth’ is supposed to mark the beginning of the traditional grouse- shooting season, with thousands of people taking to the moors.
But in Scotland, bad weather and tick infestations have meant that shoots in many areas have been severely reduced or cancelled completely.
And experts forecast that the shooting season in England will be the worst since 1950 because parasitic worms in the gut of the grouse reduced the number of chicks in the spring and led to the death of thousands of birds in the last three months.
Grouse stocks have plummeted by 50 to 90% from last year's record-breaking season, says the Moorland Association.
Rural communities that depend on sporting visitors could lose millions of pounds.
Ian McCall, director of the Game Conservancy Trust in Scotland, said: "It is not universally disappointing. It is not catastrophic and on balance Scotland might be better off than England, which is a rare achievement this year.
England usually does better because of the kinder climate and fertile soil. But this year they have fewer grouse because they had too many last year and did not shoot enough, which allowed disease to spread."
The poor 2005 season is expected to send prices for a brace of grouse soaring. They are expected to at least double from an average of £7 to £14 and upwards. The knock-on will be higher prices in hotels and eateries where game is a speciality.
One bright aspect is new research showing that heather moorland managed for shooting is a haven for other wildlife and rare upland birds, such as black grouse, golden plovers, curlew and lapwing.
A study published by the Countryside Alliance and the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation reveals that black grouse and upland waders are six times more likely to breed successfully on moorland where heather management and predator control takes place than they would on unmanaged woodland