Grouse shooting cancelled at Balmoral due to shortage of birds

Camilla Tominey
The Queen inspects a Royal Regiment at the gates of Balmoral ahead of taking up summer residence at the castle. - PA

It has long been one of the highlights of the royals’ calendar but it will be a less Glorious 12th for the Queen this year after grouse shooting was cancelled at Balmoral due to a shortage of birds.

The extreme weather and an outbreak of heather beetle, which has decimated food supplies in the Scottish Highlands, has been blamed for the decision to cancel all grouse shooting on Her Majesty’s estate in Aberdeenshire.

It comes after many moors in the north of England and the Scottish borders had to abandon planned events last year in order to allow the grouse stocks to recover.

But they have not recovered enough at Balmoral, where the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York shoot regularly during the grouse season from August 12 to December 10.

A royal source said: “It is a real blow to the royals’ summer holiday plans because grouse shooting is usually the main activity for the royals and their guests.

A member of a shooting party holds a hunted grouse on the Rottal Moor on the opening day of the Grouse shooting season on Monday Credit: RUSSELL CHEYNE /REUTERS

“Although the Duke of Edinburgh doesn’t shoot after having a heart stent fitted several years ago, Prince Charles and Prince Andrew both shoot and the Queen enjoys accompanying the shoot and having a picnic.

“The torrential rain has put a stop to fly fishing on the River Dee so there it not much to do up in Balmoral at the moment.”

Boris Johnson is understood to be preparing to visit the 93-year-old monarch at her private home near Ballater, which is set in 50,000 acres, over the August bank holiday weekend.

Dr Adam Smith, Scotland director of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, said: "We haven’t finished our grouse counts yet but there are plenty of moors the length and breadth of Scotland reporting a poor breeding year.

“There’s a wide range of factors, the heather quality being one. A lot of moors have been affected by heather beetle outbreaks which have affected food supplies for grouse.

“It’s also been a funny year of weather in that it was exceptionally dry for the first four months of the year and then latterly, appallingly wet. We’d started out with some hope and cautioned last year against over shooting but the situation hasn’t turned itself around enough in Scotland.”

The shortage of grouse last year was the worst in over a decade, with half of grouse shoots across England and Wales cancelling their entire 2018 shooting programmes.

Last year, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation admitted there were “no guarantees shooting will resume last year” after extreme weather was compounded by reported high numbers of parasites contributing to the deaths of grouse chicks.

A royal spokeswoman confirmed: “Grouse populations are cyclical and to retain and preserve stock there will be no shooting this year.”

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