Exclusive By Rob Edwards Environment editor
Sunday 20 April 2014
The Cairngorms National Park Authority has been accused of endangering one of Scotland's rarest birds by backing big housing schemes and promoting tourism.
Four-fifths of the UK's dwindling population of capercaillie live in the national park, but experts have said the birds are suffering because of escalating interference from residents and visitors.
According to Dr Robert Moss, a wildlife biologist who has made a lifelong study of capercaillie, the national park is "conflicted" on the issue and ignores the advice of its own ecologists.
Moss is the lead author of a new scientific study of three woodlands in the Cairngorms area showing that capercaillie are very vulnerable to human disturbance. The birds stayed hundreds of metres away from places where people entered the woodlands, and at least 70 metres from tracks though the woods.
The study, published in the journal Wildlife Biology, said that capercaillie avoid much larger areas where dogs often stray from tracks, and in the most disturbed woods retreat to centres of trackless boggy ground for refuge.
Capercaillie populations have declined from about 20,000 in the 1970s to fewer than 2000 now, partly because of increased human disturbance.