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Call made for pine martens to be 'removed' from Badenoch and Strathspey

By Gavin Musgrove

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CNPA board member John Kirk pinpointed the pine marten as the cause of the failure of capercaillie numbers to recover despite millions of pounds being spent trying to revive the species. Picture: David Lambie
CNPA board member John Kirk pinpointed the pine marten as the cause of the failure of capercaillie numbers to recover despite millions of pounds being spent trying to revive the species. Picture: David Lambie

A Cairngorms National Park Authority board member has made an impassioned plea for the ‘removal’ of pine martens to protect the capercaillie and other rare wildlife in the strath.

Farmer and plant businessman, John Kirk, a community representative, implored the Scottish Government to take the initiative on the ‘beasts’.

Pine martens are protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, and classified as a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

They are, however, listed as of ‘least concern’ on the IUCN ( International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List.

Mr Kirk was commenting during a review of capercaillie conservation and management at Friday’s full board meeting of the CNPA

Mr Kirk said: “Since I came onto the park board the hottest subject in my email in-box has been this poor capercaillie.

“I always remember my daughter coming into the house and asking me if I could come out and shift the caper so she could go to school down the farm road. She is now 40 so that tells you how long ago that was.

“I think this is a chance for the CNPA to take a lead and do the right thing by wildlife and follow the science

“The SAC (NatureScot Scientific Advisory Committee) is saying it – we need to remove the pine marten. May I remind you the pine marten was not here until 1977 when Scottish Natural Heritage put it in. That is important.”

He continued: “It is a disgrace when people in rural areas can not keep hens because of the pine martens. You can carry out diversionary feed all you like – the pine marten will kill for the sake of killing.

“It will not kill for food – it just kills. We really need to do something. It doesn’t end with the capercaillie.

“Black grouse, red squirrels, wading birds are suffering in our communities.

“We really need to get hold of this situation and stop pussy-footing about and do the right thing on predation and get back control.”

CNPA board member John Kirk.
CNPA board member John Kirk.

Mr Kirk added: “We also need to look at no-go areas so that these birds get peace and quiet.

“We as a board will look stupid in three or four years time if we have wasted all this money when people are going through some really hard times out there – hospitals can not get enough funding and if we have just wasted £4 million not saving one capercaillie.

“I don’t think there is anyone in the room who would disagree that this is important – it is an iconic bird.

“We really do need to take a lead – but to do this we need to make changes.

“The Scottish Government needs to take the initiative on these beasts that are now out of control as we can not do it ourselves.”

Asked for his response, Andy Ford, the CNPA’s director of nature and climate change, said: “The urgency to act is very well noted and I also note your advice on further conversations and to progress what might be done in terms of managing protected species.”

Fellow member Judith Webb said latest key research showed there was not one single factor – but multi- factors – leading to the decline of capercaillie.

She said that the park authority should not be rushing into a decision on predator management of a protected species.

Mr Ford had earlier told the meeting on predator control for capercaillie: "There is still of course a divergence of opinion which I am sure that members are very well aware of and there are a number of land managers committed to different approaches.

"The CNPA current spends its time and resources largely on legal control of foxes and crows and we add value to the existing grant schemes through the Capercaillie Project supporting gamekeepers working in response to this initiative...

"We do not spend any time at all looking into solutions for predator management with protected species. But as we go forward that picture is likely to change.

"It is not in the park authority's gift to decide whether or not there should be trials of control of protected species but we are working very closely with NatureScot on this and their board will be very keen to hear the CNPA's perspective."

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