Grouse bags are expected to be well down this year, following a record season in 2014. In many areas, pre-season grouse counts were lower than they have been for years, causing some moors to cancel all their shooting dates for the 2015 season.
Elsewhere, shooting will be cut back, with lower than usual bags expected.
Keepers are blaming atrocious spring and summer weather, which killed large numbers of chicks. Many moors had snow lying on the ground as late as May, and even when summer arrived, temperatures on the moors were still plummeting to below freezing.
The NGO (National Gamekeepers Organisation) explained that grouse chicks can survive harsh conditions, but they need to eat insects to develop and grow. “Unfortunately this year the insect life on the moors has been practically non-existent which has had a huge impact on chick fatality” said the NGO’s Sarah Read.
High street retailer Marks & Spencer announced that, due to low grouse numbers, it would not be selling the birds this year. The store said: “Because of the cold wet spring and the toll this took on red grouse on our single estate in the Scottish Borders, we won’t be selling grouse this year – as a responsible retailer, we believe that conserving the birds this year is the right thing to do. We intend to stock grouse next year, assuming the weather allows us to!”
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Some areas escaped the worst of the weather, and there have been good grouse counts on the lower moors, raising hopes that some estates will still have a good season.