Fox vs Pheasant
August 15, 2019

I’m the first to admit that I’m no wildlife photographer. I wish I was, but I don’t have the skills, equipment or patience to get good wildlife shots. But even I can get a half decent picture of a pheasant from time to time; they are, after all, one of the most visible creatures in rural Suffolk.

Whether pheasants count as wildlife is debatable. They've been a part of the English countryside since at least the 15th Century, but it's estimated that as few as 10% of pheasants are now truly wild, with the majority being raised by gamekeepers and having food provided after release. Foxes, on the other hand, are undeniably wild and more difficult to spot. So far, I have only photographed dead ones. Like the pheasants, they often fall victim to road killing, but they’re also frequently shot as vermin, like the one in this photograph. Populations of foxes increase in line with populations of their prey, such as rabbits and ground nesting birds, so they frequently come into conflict with the perceived interests of hunters and even conservationists.

Land that is protected for sporting use is often also rich in wildlife and it’s frequently argued that sporting utilisation is the best form of conservation. Mixed cover crops and herbal leys provide food and habitat for wildlife and game birds, and can also fit well with good soil management in crop rotations and reduced chemical inputs. It all seems to make sense. My only question, seeing so many pheasants around our countryside, is what impact they might be having on other native wildlife, apart from the foxes who obviously enjoy the feast (until they get shot). The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust have done studies that suggest the impact is minimal. But one would expect their studies to say that. However, the RSPB also seem to be generally supportive of managed shoots and their contribution to the conservation of wild bird species.

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