Large areas of the British uplands consist of heather moorland, a habitat of global conservation importance that supports communities of threatened animal and plant species. Red grouse Lagopus lagopus scotica are dependent on heather and benefit from management of habitat, predators and parasites by gamekeepers employed to create a surplus of grouse for sport shooting. We compared numbers of red grouse shot across nine British regions over four discrete time periods (1890– 1920, 1920–1950, 1950–1980, 1980–2010) using annual records of shooting bags from 272 estates. We examined whether trends in numbers of grouse shot may be explained by changes in keeper density, heather moor extent or replacement of moorland by afforestation. Grouse bags were consistently higher in regions of northern England than in Scotland and Wales, and declined in all nine regions except southern Pennines from 1920 to 1950. Bags in northern England increased significantly from 1950, coinciding with increases in keeper density. In north-east Scotland and Wales, numbers of grouse shot declined over the same period, coinciding with declines in keeper density and increased afforestation of moors. Regional variation in red grouse bag counts over time may be explained by changes in land use and management intensity affecting extent of suitable habitat and predator prevalence.
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