Modelling the impact of hen harrier management measures on a red grouse population in the UK

Leslie Frances New, Stephen Terrence Buckland, S Redpath, Jason Matthiopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Human-wildlife conflict is one of the greatest barriers to effective conservation. The recovery of the hen harrier Circus cyaneus in the United Kingdom has been limited due to illegal persecution, a consequence of the raptors’ predation on the economically valuable game-bird, the red grouse Lagopus lagopus scoticus. To improve management of the system it is necessary to understand the interactions between the two species in their broader community context. We therefore developed a multi-species model in which the life history and interactions of each of the two bird species are described through linked process models. This model was fit to population data using a Bayesian state–space framework and used to investigate the effectiveness of a conflict–mitigation technique known as diversionary feeding, in which harrier nests are provided with food in an attempt to reduce consumption of grouse chicks. To explore the utility of diversionary feeding we specified four scenarios in which 1) harriers were absent from the system, 2) there was no diversionary feeding of harriers, 3) only a portion of the harrier nests were provided with diversionary food and 4) all nests were provided with diversionary food. The results from fitting the model under the different scenarios were used to determine the strength of harriers’ impact on grouse density, as well as the effectiveness of diversionary feeding. Given the lack of information on other grouse predators and only two years of data on supplementary feeding, our results need to be implanted with caution. However, we found theoretical support for the hen harriers’ suppression of grouse cycle amplitude and average density. Furthermore, our results suggest that on grouse estates where diversionary feeding is the only active management, diversionary feeding is only marginally successful and not sufficient to mitigate the consequences of hen harrier predation on red grouse chicks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1061-1072
Issue number7
Early online date19 Dec 2011
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


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