Sunday, May 27, 2007
When Hunters Turn on Each Other
A fascinating article in yesterday's Guardian on the 19th century of its wildlife -- the scale of which is revealed through a close examination of parish records:
Reliable breach-loaders transformed the sport, allowing the mass destruction of driven birds and long-range shots at deer.... In 1800, for example, buzzards were found across the whole of Britain. A century later they had gone from almost all of England and the eastern Highlands of Scotland, and were seriously depleted in Wales....On one Perthshire estate alone, 9,849 weasels and stoats, 4,042 feral cats, 2,517 "hawks", 2,517 crows, 1,239 foxes, 576 ravens, 56 pine martens, 37 eagles, 26 otters and eight polecats were culled in the decade leading up to 1900.The story also has an unexpected twist:
Ironically it was another bloodbath, the first world war, that came to their rescue just in time. The carnage in Flanders wiped out a generation of sportsmen and keepers, and persecution never returned on the same scale.