PROPOSALS TO limit the number of dogs used in fox control to two would make fox management in many parts of Scotland ‘impossible’.

This was the message sent to the Scottish Government by Scottish Land & Estates in response to their consultation on the use of dogs to control foxes and other wild mammals in Scotland.

SLaE argue that protecting livestock, wildlife and game from predation by foxes must be considered in any changes to legislation around fox control and believe the Scottish Government’s proposals contradict the conclusions of the expert independent review by Lord Bonomy.

A spokesperson for Scottish Land & Estates said: “Organisations whose members are responsible for humanely managing the Scottish fox population to protect livestock, wildlife and game, are united in calling for no limit on the number of dogs that can be used when searching for foxes in accordance with the law.

“The experience of limiting to two the number of dogs that can be used in England and Wales since 2002, especially in forestry and rough terrain, is that it is ineffective and this was clearly confirmed in the report of the Scottish Government’s own expert, the Right Honourable Lord Bonomy,” they continued.

“We would urge Scottish Government not to go down this route as it will render fox management almost impossible in many parts of Scotland, with massive impact on lambs, poultry and all ground nesting birds, and with no welfare benefit to the fox.”

The rural business organisation believes that ambitious plans to increase woodland cover across Scotland could lead to a rise in fox numbers, and with it, a need for greater predator control.

Read more: Fox protection proposal a 'slap in the face' for farmers

“It has been proven numerous times in controlled experiments that two dogs even in a small wood are ineffective in flushing a fox,” SLaE wrote in its response to the consultation. “In large forestry blocks or rough upland terrain it is essentially a waste of time, and this is where many foxes live.

“More woodlands are being planned across Scotland so this will be an increasing issue. They are likely to be predominantly on better and lower ground, nearer to stock therefore the need for control of foxes will become even more of an imperative. Similarly with the increase in agroforestry where agricultural land and forestry will be interspersed, there will be an increase in the need for predator control.”

SLaE added that the management of foxes is necessary for protecting vulnerable species, such as ground nesting birds as well as livestock and game. It argued that the Scottish Government has an obligation to ensure that farmers can continue to protect their livestock and that all land managers can look after wildlife, and stated that the latest proposed limits on hunting techniques would undermine the ability to do that without any clear welfare benefit for the fox.