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New Orkney goose plan to be introduced next year

In recent years, Greylag geese have contributed to the financial strain faced by Orkney’s farmers. A new licence to shoot the birds outside of the normal open season will look to help the county’s farmers and landowners.

A new Orkney–wide licence to help control greylag goose numbers outside the open season is to be introduced by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

Greylag geese currently affect many farms across Orkney by eating and trampling livestock pasture and valuable crops.

SNH have explained that the new licence to shoot the birds will begin for the new close season in February 2020. There will be local support for farmers, who will be able to obtain immediate permission rather than having to apply for a specific, individual licence, which can take around ten days.

This local licence follows a new goose policy which supports efficient, practical regulation for farmers and others affected by geese grazing.

Graham Neville, SNH’s Northern Isles & North Highland area manager, has said: “We realise that farmers in Orkney have been struggling with the impact of large goose numbers, and this pressure has been increasing. We’re keen to work with farmers and land managers and support them in finding sustainable solutions to managing this problem, while still making sure we fulfill our nature conservation obligations.

“We have been working hard to look at ways to give farmers more flexibility. As a result, we plan to introduce a greylag goose licence for Orkney to cover the closed season from 1 February to 30 June.

“For the long term, we will also be working with an extended local Goose Management Group, alongside partners in NFUS, RPID and others, to try to explore new ways of managing the problem. We will be funding and administering this through the local goose management group in Orkney.”

SNH have been discussing potential management tools and the new licence with NFU Scotland representatives in Orkney. Alan Corrigall, chairman of the Orkney Branch, said: “We are grateful to SNH for making the changes that will allow shooting to take place throughout the year, where necessary. Whilst the new licence will not control geese numbers in itself, it will make much easier for those undertaking shooting to get the necessary consent between February and June.

“We also look forward to working with SHN and others as we explore other ways to reduce the resident greylag goose population to lessen the environmental and economic impact of the huge numbers of geese.”

Resident greylag geese in Orkney have increased over the past 20 years. The goose count in 2018 recorded 63,534 birds.