HomeDocumentsLamping with High Powered Rifles (added 25.3.05)

Lamping with High Powered Rifles (added 25.3.05)

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Lamping with High Powered Rifles

dThe Burns Inquiry reached the wrong conclusions on lamping for the following reasons.

  1. Game Conservancy research by Jonathan Reynolds (1994) demonstrates that if the objective is to control foxes to reduce losses of game birds and ground nesting birds, foxes should be controlled at the earth in the spring before damage can be inflicted. This would also apply to lamb predation. The traditional, best practice use of foxhounds and terriers, in both locating earths, and enabling the dispatch of both breeding females, and or, cubs at the earth, provides a more effective and more humane alternative to lamping. Where fox numbers are out of control, gun packs have the advantage of adding shot guns to the tools deployed. Such methods, in practice, get better results than reliance on lamping, and in addition can be highly selective.
  2. The fox control processes may be complicated from harvest time, where a large number of young foxes, seeking territory, will be coming in from adjoining areas, where control is not effective, or non-existent. In these circumstances all possible methods of control will be required, including lamping. Welfare considerations will take second place to the need to reduce numbers for good practical and ecological reasons. However, in the first instance, there will be an obligation on those who are encouraging and harbouring excessive numbers of foxes, to cooperate with their neighbours, and allow the gun pack or the traditional hunt, to resolve the problem before the large increase in the spring population. Two healthy vixens in a family group are capable of producing 16 healthy cubs. These cubs will compete with other important species for food supplies such as voles.
  3. The Game Conservancy lamping research survey of 162 keepers, showed an average time spent per fox of 6 hours, often with two men, one holding the lamp or driving the vehicle, and the other with the rifle. Two foxes were seen and one was killed. The results of the survey varied enormously in different areas of the country. In many areas lamping was not considered worth while or safe. Subsequent research for the Parliamentary Middle Way Group suggests that a high percentage of foxes are shot at while moving, increasing best case scenario average wounding rates of 10%. Lamping is an activity, where consideration should be given on whether the time is better spent on more rewarding species management activities. Although widely promoted by shooting organisations, as a stand alone sport, it is has no solid scientific support to justify its existence.
  4. Shooting at eyes reflected in the beam of light brings the risk of killing or injuring non-target species. A near miss of lady holding a Yorkshire terrier and a long list of injuries, and even human deaths, highlights the potential for public concern and the return to the night shooting ban. If a fox is being shot every hour by a lamper, it is probable that excessive ecological or other damage has already been inflicted, and that a range of other methods and actions are required earlier in the year to bring the management and welfare issues under control.
  5. Lamping at night should be at the discretion of the professional gamekeepers, where they have, or need to identify, specific fox or other predation problems, especially within wild game bird shoots, where the presence of one breeding vixen will create problems. Squeaking and leaving bait can improve performance, but young foxes soon become lamp shy. To give an example, a typical well run wild game bird shoot on 5,500 acres in Middle England, has an annual tally of some 15 lamped foxes.
  6. In general terms disturbance of wildlife at night, particularly small roosting birds in cold weather is damaging and undesirable. The safety risks, the indiscriminate nature of the method, leaving cubs to starve in the spring when the vixen is killed, the inability to follow up wounded, and the availability of more humane management methods should weigh against the reliance on this method of killing foxes.
  7. Research Conducted by David Macdonald for Wiltshire County Council (1996)

    January, February and March are the months where the vixens will be pregnant or nursing young and where breeding pairs or units are most vulnerable to being disrupted by the death of a member of the family unit, leading to the starvation of cubs.
    One welfare advantage of hunting with hounds is that because the vixen gives off much reduced scent over the breeding period, a much smaller percentage of pregnant or nursing vixens will be killed. During the early months of the same period, dog foxes will give off increased levels of scent, marking breeding territories.
    It was because of the welfare concerns for starving cubs, that animal welfare concerns in Scotland partially addressed the issue, by approving the use of terriers at the earth in the spring. In England, the many damaging issues of shooting at night with rifles remains to be properly understood, and effectively addressed.
  8. Lamping should never be compared with the properly deployed wide range of hunting methods, conducted by well regulated professionals, which contribute large sums of money to the rural economy. The nature of the modern countryside and threats to best practice, have encouraged a growth and enthusiasm in this area or unregulated, indiscriminate shooting without dogs, which is of great concern and unacceptable to many people.
    The National Farmers Union cannot defend the irresponsible use of any method of pest control, and in all cases advocates the strict adherence to the codes of practice produced by responsible governing bodies - NFU Working Party 1995 Management of Agricultural Pests
  9. Outside the domain of members of the professional gamekeeper organisations, it is difficult to see how individuals with high powered rifles could be effectively regulated. Where the code of conduct quite properly requires a wounded fox, hare or deer to be effectively followed up, such a clause could not be effectively enforced. The reality is that moving foxes are shot at on many occasions, and in the vast majority of cases, wounded animals are not followed up, and nor could they be, unless shooting was fully integrated with scent hound use and hunting methods.
  10. Even if carried out properly, and in the appropriate circumstances, it should be obvious that lamping has many more welfare implications and problems, than hunting. The wider use of high standards of terrier work at the breeding earth or refuge, and the much wider use of well regulated gun packs, requires serious consideration by wildlife managers and land custodians as being more humane, more efficient and providing a far superior management alternative.

    Edmund Marriage - British Wildlife Management

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