Azara Blog: Winter sports allegedly having negative impact on capercaillie birds

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Date published: 2008/03/03

The BBC says:

Researchers have warned that winter sports tourism is raising stress levels among rare capercaillie birds.

The Swiss study found activities such as ski-ing, snow-shoeing and hill walking could harm the birds' fitness and their ability to breed.

The turkey-sized bird, which is a member of the grouse family, has been brought back from the brink of extinction in Scotland.

Numbers across Europe have also been dwindling as tourism figures rise.

Writing in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology, the study's authors, who carried out their research in the German Black Forest, said skiing activity could affect the bird's body condition and overall fitness.
Study author Dr Lukas Jenni, of the Swiss Ornithological Institute, said: "Ski tourism affects both habitat use and stress hormone levels in capercaillie, and this could adversely affect their body condition and overall fitness.

"Because of this, we recommend that managers keep forests inhabited by capercaillie free from tourism infrastructure and retain undisturbed forest patches within skiing areas."

In Scotland, where all ski-developments are above the tree-line of the Caledonian forests where capercaillie are found, hill walking activities could also be problematic.
Just over 1,000 breeding pairs of capercaillie can currently be found in Scotland.

Various conservation management programmes are working to boost numbers which have dwindled from 20,000 pairs 30 years ago, putting it at risk of future extinction.

Surprise, yet again the bird brigade thinks the world should stop just in case somehow people are impacting the lives of some bird species or other. The statement that "numbers across Europe have also been dwindling as tourism figures rise" is a feeble attempt to try and justify the sweeping conclusion of the article, but is just a classic confusion of correlation and causation. They could equally have found a correlation with temperature and concluded, equally without proof, that the decline is all down to climate change (and no doubt in other circumstances some scientist or other would try to spin it that way). Or they could have picked a zillion and one other things which also no doubt correlate quite well with capercaillie numbers. Hopefully this one, rather weak, study will not be allowed to unilaterally determine public policy.

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