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A new pilot scheme is about to be launched in a bid to tackle the problematic levels the rabbit population has reached over the last period. The scheme aims to reduce numbers to a more tolerable level, but it is hoped the scheme will also form the foundations of a sustainable model, which will support activity to keep the rabbit population at a manageable level.

A meeting was held with Grazings Clerks in 2015 to open discussions and explore the options available. At that point all present at the meeting agreed that a long term commitment was required and whilst an eradication programme might be desirable, it was not sustainable due to the financial commitment.

In January 2016, a proposal was drawn up for consideration and this has been welcomed by townships. The pilot scheme will work with a local team of 16 shooters, registered with UOG and given permission, upon receipt of appropriate licences and insurance to take a co-ordinated approach to rabbit management across the estate. These shooters are experienced and most have already taken part in the Goose Management Scheme.

A bounty type system will be operated, whereby the shooters will be paid 50p for each rabbit tail. This approach allows for recording of numbers taken, but also allows the appointed co-ordinator, in conjunction with UOG to ensure the shooting team are working across the whole estate and not just working on the areas of “quick win” at all times. Townships will be provided with numbers removed from their areas.

The scheme will hopefully launch in mid-March to get some work done prior to Spring, providing all the documentation is in place and the finance for the scheme is in place also. Ness General and Galson Moor Grazings are the two overarching grazings who will be the main points of contact for taking the scheme forward in conjunction with UOG who will administer the scheme.

The scheme will run very much like the current Goose Management Scheme and the initial pilot would be for a 6 month period. A review meeting will be held in July with shooters and Grazings Clerks to assess the success of the pilot period and see where improvements could be made.

It is not an aspiration that this scheme alone will reduce to rabbit population to the desired levels and other methods will still be explored on an ongoing basis and these will work alongside the scheme.

We would ask all crofters to contact their Grazings Clerk as a matter of urgency, if they DO NOT want their croft to be shot over as part of this scheme.

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