This blog has always had a determined focus towards pro-active conservation. I am guilty of steering my work towards the aspects which appeal most to me, and I can’t deny that my cattle have provided a pleasant tangent. Habitat management represents the fun, uplifting side of conservation, and there’s no doubt that it is satisfying to see nature respond to hard work and labour. At the same time, I have neglected a parallel strand in this process, and this oversight was brought home to me with a bump this morning.
Predator control is a founding principle of modern conservation. Over the past few years, I’ve travelled across Britain and visited some of the best wildlife conservation projects in the country. I’ve seen committed conservationists design and deliver some extraordinarily rich habitats for everything from black grouse to black winged stilts, from the highest mountain top to the lowest fen. A common theme through all these projects is that quality habitat is usually hamstrung without predator control. Of course there are some exceptions where fox and crow control are less relevant, but I can’t think of any projects which wouldn’t benefit from some predator management.
I woke up this morning to find all but a few of my partridges gone from their pen. A bloody mass of chicken feathers was heaped up in soggy mounds across the yard. We have lived here for six months, and finally the fox has come. I’ve been trying to build the perfect home for wildlife, and I’ve taken my eye off the ball.
To be honest, I dislike predator control. There can be moments of extreme excitement when lamping foxes, but the huge majority of the job is time-consuming, repetitive and boring beyond words. Most of my early twenties was spent tramping around trap lines and checking snares, and the experience became deeply sour. I have been aware of foxes on the surrounding land since the spring, but I had lazily turned a blind eye to them. I would love to avoid predator control wherever possible, but I categorically cannot afford that luxury. This latest visit from the fox is a timely reminder that there is work to do. If I can’t keep partridges safe in their pens beneath my kitchen window, what chance will they have in the fields and hedges?
Brooding over a cup of coffee this morning, it has become clear that if I want to reap the full benefit of my habitat work, I need to take a firm and serious grasp of the predators. A great deal of work and effort now beckons.