Don't rouse the grouse: Capercaillie crackdown on wildlife crime

Campaign launched warning people not to interrupt endangered bird during fragile breeding season.

Wildlife officers are venturing off the beaten track in a bid to crack down on people disturbing the endangered capercaillie.

This time of year is critical for the distinctive species of giant grouse.

There are only 542 of the birds left in Scotland and – with an increasingly fragile breeding season – anyone who interrupts them faces not only endangering the species but is also committing a criminal offence.

Police Scotland wildlife crime officers are working with the Cairngorms National Park Authority and RSPB Scotland on the campaign ‘Lek It Be’ – named after the birds’ famous courtship ritual, known as a Lek.

They also want to educate people to leave the capercaillie alone.

Jonathan Clarke, wildlife officer at Police Scotland, said: “We have spoken to a few people over the past few days.

“We are now in April, which is key season for the birds. A lot of people are aware and are acting completely sensibly but in previous years there have been instances where people have been charged for disturbing capercaillie so it is something we take very seriously.”

Carolyn Robertson from the Cairngorms National Park Authority said: “We are doing patrols in the woods in the early morning when capercaillie are active and breeding so what we are doing is asking people to give them space and stay out of sensitive areas.”

“They are the biggest grouse in the world and have an amazing courtship display which is what people know them for.”

“They are a bird of the old world – they have been in these forests since the Ice Age so they are one of the things that we desperately want to hold on to.”

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