Ariane Burgess MSP has drawn attention to the risk of bird flu spreading to wildlife from game birds released by shooting estates.
The Green MSP for the Highlands and Islands lodged questions for the Scottish Government, including whether it recognises the recent findings of a UK Government risk assessment which found that the release of several millions of captive pheasants during July and August last year had a very high likelihood of infecting one or more wild birds with bird flu in the vicinity of release sites.
Bird flu is back in the headlines because it’s now been found in otters and foxes in the UK, including one otter in the Isle of Skye and one in the Shetland Isles.
There have been four positive cases of bird flu in non-native pheasants in Scotland.
Only a small proportion of birds are tested, so the real figure is likely to be much higher.
“At a time when so many of our wild birds are being decimated by bird flu – and we now know it is also passing to otters and other wild mammals – it makes no sense to be putting extra pressure on them by allowing these unlicensed releases for blood sport.
“I lodged a series of written questions to ask the Scottish Government for their understanding of the impacts and what action they are taking to reduce the risk of future HPAI transmission from released pheasants to wild birds of prey, waterfowl, corvids and gulls.
I have also asked whether they are assessing the risk to wild mammals, now that bird flu has been found in foxes and otters, and whether they will consider further regulating the data collection, reporting, management and release of non-native gamebirds like pheasant in Scotland.”