Challenges of habitat management- Inversnaid

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Challenges of habitat management- Inversnaid

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Some of you have been in touch recently with concerns about work to control feral goats at our Inversnaid reserve. For more information on this issue please see the email below.

Goats and the Inversnaid Special Area of Conservation

There has been a lot of concern over the welfare of the goats at our Inversnaid reserve and we wanted to send a reply to everyone that has taken the time to email us on this issue.

As the country's largest conservation organisation, the RSPB cares about all nature, and the reduction in number of these wild goats is a decision we've been forced to take with a very heavy heart. Our Inversnaid reserve is not only a beautiful woodland it is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC), which means we are legally bound to protect it from damage, from whatever source.

In May 2012, we were advised by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the Government conservation advisors, that the condition of the site was deteriorating and rare flora were at risk. In their opinion, this was the result of heavy grazing by the wild goats and because of the site's legal protection we had no choice but to do something to halt the damage.

The intention has never been to eradicate the goat population at Inversnaid, but to reduce the numbers to a level that maintains a harmony with the reserve. We initially sought a proposal for re-locating the goats, but didn't manage to find a viable alternative and so we were left with no choice but to go ahead with the cull.

Recent publicity has brought forward other offers of help with re-location, including an offer from Hillside Animal Sanctuary, which had not been made to us previously, but which is now being investigated.

So now we have an offer of somewhere to put the goats, but we still have no clear way of corralling them or safely capturing and transporting them the long distance to Norfolk. The terrain at the reserve is very steep, dangerous and difficult to access and the animals are naturally wild as they have never been domesticated. So we need to be sure that whatever we do, all the appropriate animal welfare, legal, health and safety and other official requirements are met.

It's too late to put all these measures in place for this year, as the cull is nearly over and has to be completed by the end of this month to avoid the breeding season. We sincerely hope we can find a way forward in discussion with experts in animal welfare that allows us to meet SNH's concerns and avoid the need to cull in the future.

We would like to re-assure you that we will be actively pursuing these new offers of help, to try and see if an alternative solution can be found to this complicated and unfortunate problem.

Thanks again for taking the time to email us

Dr Mike Clarke
RSPB Chief Executive


The goat management work at Inversnaid to protect the internationally important site has come to an end for 2013. No further goat managment is planned until September 2014. On Monday 9th December RSPB Scotland met with representatives from a range of interested parties, including Scotland for Animals, the Feral Goat Research Group and SNH to discuss alternative options for addressing goat-grazing pressure. Recent interest in our work at Inversnaid has resulted in a variety of suggestions and offers of assistance, which we welcome. We will now include a full assessment of these new options in our annual review of management to restore this amazing and special habitat to favourable condition. Working with experts and interested parties, we will reach a clear decision on a way forward which offers a sustainable and legal solution.

  • There is a problem for all conservation organisations: many members are not conservationists and don't understand about the need for habitat management and predator control. For example, the badger that destroyed the Avocet nests and chicks on Spring Watch last year cannot be allowed to continue its depredations: some way needs to be found to keep it out of Minsmere or else it will need to be culled "for the greater good".

    Goats are a man-made problem and the best man-made solution is a good curry: that is one reason why they were there in the first place.

  • I think there is a contradiction between the willingness to protect all species and killing goats. Whether feral or not, it doesn't make much difference. They are feral because of men behaviours, it's not their fault. But my point is that healthy animals should never be killed, for any reason, especially by an association that care about nature. There are always other solutions and, in fact, there were humane solutions.

    As much as I love birds and the RSPB, I don't want to be part of an association that kills animals.

  • I am deeply saddened that members consider leaving the RSPB over this issue. I have seen feral goats in Scotland, mainland and islands, and they are beautiful animals and a joy to watch as they leap from rock to rock on steep cliffs.

    However they are feral animals with no natural predators as man has eliminated wolves and lynx from their natural habitat to maintain the balance of nature. In midland England I see the devastation an uncontrolled expansion of the deer population is having on the local woodlands.

    It seems to me that the RSPB is doing as much as it can to manage this situation at Inversnaid with sensitivity and in collaboration with other organisations. Surely our responsibility is to try to maintain, as far as possible, the natural balance of nature (that man in the main has disrupted) and protect all species whether plants, insects, birds or mammals.

    Best wishes, Richard.

  • Totally disagree with the comments. Feral animals need to be controlled - for example, Scottish wildcats will die out if feral cats are allowed to interbreed with them.

  • I have only now got to know about the culling of wild goats by the RSPB and I cannot believe what I have read. An association of wildlife lovers that should PROTECT nature, has taken the decision to voluntarily kill the goats in its reserve! There is NO GOOD REASON EVER for killing even a single healthy animal. I was so proud of being a member of the RSPB; I thought it was a great organisation and I have helped it so much over the last few years. Not only you have lost a member (me) for this, but you have also terribly let down a person that really appreciated your work.

  • Once again the RSPB fail in their duties and their current motto "Give nature a home" becomes a joke. The SSSI, SAC and particularly the SNH should be ashamed for forcing the issue in such a short period. Surely the RSPB is big enough to have appealed this and could have had the support of many thousands of paying members to find a better way. Many existing and potential members will now walk away due to this stupid and imbecilic action.