A project to help save endangered capercaillie birds in the Cairngorm foothills will need the co-operation of walkers and other forest users to prevent the endangered specials being disturbed it was revealed yesterday.
Conservationists are hoping to expand the species’ woodland habitat and alter recreation management to safeguard its future.
But pet owners will have to change their walking patterns in a bid to mitigate the threat to chick numbers in certain areas.
The recommendations come from the first phase of the Capercaillie Framework which was led by the Cairngorm National Park Authority (CNPA).
The capercaillie population is estimated to have dropped from 20,000 in 1970 to about 1,000 in the space of about 40 years. The National Park is the remaining stronghold for the bird, with at least 80% of the national population.
The CNPA will be asked during a public meeting in Boat of Garten on Friday to progress to the second phase of the project. This will involve working directly with land managers and communities to develop specific proposals at key locations.
Justin Prigmore, Capercaillie Framework project manager, said: “The most potentially damaging activity is dog walking and dogs being off their leads.
“Public awareness will be a vital part of conservation efforts as human disturbance is a known factor influencing the capercaillie population. We will need the help of communities that are near to capercaillie habitat to support the conservation work, which might involve using different routes for dog walking or cycling during the nesting season.”
Hamish Trench, director of conservation and visitor experience at the CNPA, said: “Expanding the capercaillie population in Strathspey is critical to the species future in Scotland. In the long term habitat expansion and improvement is key, but we also need to manage other pressures including disturbance.”
Helen Todd, campaigns and policy manager at Ramblers Scotland, said: “If you are taking access you do it on the basis you have responsibilities. You don’t wan’t to trash the very land you are walking through but at the same time it is not a blank sheet to close down huge areas of forest, so there needs to be a balance with involving the community and making sure it is recognised that people will take on board reasonable restrictions in areas at certain times.”