As we have written in previous years, the decision to introduce any form of predator control (lethal or non-lethal) is something we never take lightly. It’s always based on evidence and guided by the RSPB’s Council-agreed policy.

The RSPB’s approach to any type of predator control means that we first seek evidence of a problem, check whether there is a non-lethal solution and if so implement that. In many cases this does the job needed.

But non-lethal methods, whilst always the preferred way of doing things, are not always practical. Lethal vertebrate control on RSPB reserves is only considered where the following four criteria are met:

  • That the seriousness of the problem has been established;
  • That non-lethal measures have been assessed and found not to be practicable;
  • That killing is an effective way of addressing the problem;
  • That killing will not have an adverse impact on the conservation status of the target or other non-target species.

If we can satisfy ourselves of all these things, then we can be sure to make the right decision.

Continuing our openness and transparency on this subject, the figures are presented below for our last reporting period (Nov 2019-Oct 2020).

Vertebrate control summary on RSPB reserves for 2019/2020 (2018/2019 in brackets)



Number killed



16 (16)

72 (100)

Water Vole & ground nesting bird conservation

Red Fox

38 (41)

353 (509)

Wader, tern, Black Grouse & Crane conservation

Grey Squirrel

1 (2)

48 (76)

Red Squirrel conservation

Brown Rat

n (4)

Numbers not specified

H & S around buildings


1 (1)

303 (185)

Damage to crops

Fallow Deer

5 (5)

69 (44)

Woodland habitat restoration

Muntjac Deer

4 (3)

72 (49)

Woodland habitat restoration

Roe Deer

8 (8)

409 (254)

Woodland habitat restoration

Red Deer

10 (10)

578 (588)

Woodland habitat restoration

Sika Deer

1 (3)

219 (251)

Woodland habitat restoration

Carrion/Hooded Crow

1 (14)

69 (418)

Wader, tern, Black Grouse & Capercaillie

Barnacle Goose

0 (1)

0 (29 nests, 133 eggs)

Tern and Avocet conservation

Canada Goose

0 (2)

0 (56 nests (site 1), 43 eggs (site 2)

Air safeguarding

Greylag Goose

0 (1)

0 (485 eggs)

Air safeguarding

Herring Gull

2 (2)

20 eggs (26)

Roseate and Sandwich Tern conservation

Lesser Black-backed Gull

2 (3)

2 shot (2), 142 eggs (113)

Roseate and Sandwich Tern conservation

Greater Black-backed Gull

0 (1)

0 (1 shot)

Roseate and Sandwich Tern conservation

For more information on how the RSPB's network of 224 nature reserves across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, read the latest RSPB Reserves Report. The report brings together all the information about the wildlife on the RSPB’s nature reserves and it reports on the ups and downs of the bird breeding season, together with other wildlife highlights.