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Grouse moor management vital in the fight against Lyme disease

6th June 2017

The Moorland Association welcomes the new research by the University of Glasgow into the impact of high deer numbers and Lyme disease, which affects both humans and animals.

The research revealed that the correlation is indeed positive despite previous arguments that it was conservation activities such as woodland planting which has increased the risk of the disease. The increase is now understood not to be linked to the planting itself but to the rise in deer numbers which larger areas of forest can lead to.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread to humans and animals by infected ticks. At the turn of the century there were only around 250 reported new cases of Lyme disease in the UK each year, but now the NHS says the figure is between 2,000 to 3,000 and some charities claim the actual number could be as high as 45,000.

Simultaneously, the British deer population has grown to approximately 1.5 million, believed to be at its highest level in 1,000 years. Deer have no natural predators and in 1963 the Deer Act prevented them being hunted without a licence.

The Moorland Association believes that this points to yet another example of the benefits of grouse moor management. The deer populations on Scottish grouse moors are carefully controlled thereby helping to limit incidences of Lyme disease in humans, a benefit to both the general public and the NHS.

Whilst deer are not as relevant to English moorland, the environment created by bracken beds has been shown to favour tick with up to 70% of all activity in heath and dry moorland areas associated with bracken dominated habitats. Grouse moor management helps to reduce the spread of this invasive and potentially damaging species. Moorland Association members have treated over 65 square miles of invasive bracken to stop it swamping and killing other moorland plants.

Reduced tick prevalence as a result of “tick mops”; treating sheep with a solution that kills ticks or prevents them from feeding, is another highly effective method used to prevent the spread of disease on moorlands.

Technological innovations and developments continue to help in the battle against the scourge of ticks which live in bracken. Work is currently underway on an all-terrain intelligent weed spraying robot, with inbuilt plant identification data as well as research into the use of drones for chemical application.

Grouse moor managers continue to invest in the control of tick numbers. This in turn helps reduce the spread of tick borne diseases in both grouse and wader species and help protect visitors and their dogs.

For further information please use the links below:

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Did You Know?

75% of of the world’s remaining heather moorland is found in Britain – but this area declined alarmingly over the latter part of the last century. The Moorland Association was set up in 1986 to coordinate the efforts of moorland owners and managers to halt this loss, particularly in England and Wales.

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