In may 2012 DEFRA, the department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, agreed to commission and fund, at a cost of £375,000 a project to look at ‘The development of management techniques to reduce predation of pheasant poults by buzzards’.
      The three year project was to involve the non lethal removal or dispersal of buzzards in areas where they were considered to be preying on young pheasants, and thereby impacting on the rearing of game birds for the shooting industry. The trail methods proposed included, the trapping and removal of buzzards to sanctuaries and kept as captive birds, and the destroying of nests to deter breeding pairs.
        The reason behind this study was the growing concern from gamekeepers, and shooting estates that buzzards were responsible for a large number of losses from pheasant rearing pens, in one case it was claimed that up to 25% of young birds were taken.
        In 2011 a survey by the National Gamekeepers Organisation found that 67% of their members believed that buzzards had a detrimental effect on game shooting industry. Pressure from the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, or BASC, and the Countryside Alliance for the control of predatory species led to this controversial proposal.
          Buzzard numbers have indeed increased and they are now more widespread than ever, thanks to the Countryside and Wildlife Act of 1981, under which the are protected. A study in 2010 by the British Bird Breeding Survey showed that buzzard numbers had increased by 146% since 1995.
          Natural England, the government body which is responsible for the issuing of licences to control predatory species, has seen an increase in the number of applications from shooting estates. Although buzzards are protected under the law, there is a clause which allows control measures to be granted particularly in cases concerning the protection of livestock and game. However none as yet have been issued against...