Wild geese population has more than trebled

Funding has been put in place for a new £60,000 barnacle goose management scheme, to help protect Scotland’s population of Greenland barnacle geese.

Scotland hosts around 60% of the world’s population of Greenland barnacle geese. These internationally important birds are a conservation success story, with increased numbers across the country over the last 20 years. However, this impacts crofters and farmers, as high numbers of geese feed on productive agricultural land and cause significant damage in some areas.

In the late 1990s, the barnacle goose population totalled 3000 on the islands of North Uist, Coll and Tiree. This has now increased to more than 10,000 – with 6,000 geese on North Uist, and 4,700 on Coll and Tiree.

Applications are now open for the scheme in North Uist, Coll and Tiree, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has announced.

The scheme will compensate farmers who allow Greenland barnacle geese to graze undisturbed in protected areas of the islands, so they will cause less damage elsewhere.

Johanne Ferguson, SNH’s Outer Hebrides operations manager, said: ‘Wild geese are an important part of Scotland’s nature, but their increased numbers have been challenging for farmers and crofters. It’s still a significant issue in some areas, with a difficult balance to make between conservation and farming.

‘I’d encourage crofters and farmers to see if they’re eligible for this new scheme, which will both reduce goose damage to crops elsewhere and help conserve geese. We’re happy to answer any questions and help with applications at our local offices in Uist and Lochgilphead.’

The scheme covers approximately 400 hectares on North Uist and 250 hectares on Coll and Tiree, and will run from October 2019 to May 2021.

To be eligible, agricultural land must lie within an area of high barnacle goose use, be permanent or rotational grassland and in a suitable condition to attract barnacle geese. On Uist, eligible land must be outside mainland areas of North Uist, as agreed with the Uist goose group.

To check whether your land may be eligible, go to the Uist, Coll and Tiree webpage on the SNH website.

Application packs will be available to download from the SNH website. The deadline for applications is 16 September 2019. For more information, contact either:

For Uist applications: Johanne Ferguson, Uist Office, tel 0131 314 4182 e-mail johanne.ferguson@nature.scot.

For Coll and Tiree applications: Colin MacFarlane, Lochgilphead Office, Tel 0131 314 2688 E-mail – colin.macfarlane@nature.scot.

Crofters whose land is not eligible under the scheme may apply for a bag limit to help scare geese and reduce crop damage.