Ptarmigan hunters in Iceland might be disappointed

Hunting of Iceland’s favourite Christmas table bird, the ptarmigan, could be banned outright following a warning from The Icelandic Institute of Natural History.

RUV reports that there are various signs the hunting of the grouse-like bird is no longer sustainable. One option the The Icelandic Institute of Natural History recommends is stopping all ptarmigan hunting.

The Icelandic Institute of Natural History can only make recommendations to the Minister for the Environment to decide on. This time the Institute has provided three options:

One option is to stop all hunting, because research suggests hunting is unsustainable and hunting practices are causing ptarmigan deaths outside of the actual individuals which are shot. Environment minister Svandis Svavarsdottir is exploring her options.

The Icelandic Institute of Natural History’s second possible option is to regulate hunting the same as last year; when it was only allowed for 18 days. The Institute would also wish to impose a six-bird maximum on each hunter. The problem with that option is that the very limited monitoring and enforcement on ptarmigan hunting would make the six bird rule very hard to police.

The third option is a severe curtailing of hunting which stops short of a total ban. That option is not explained in great detail in the media.

The number of ptarmigan in Iceland has been on the decline for several years and this year’s severe cold snap in springtime had a serious impact on the birds in northeast Iceland, where a third of female ptarmigans failed to raise any chicks this summer.

The Icelandic Institute of Natural History report also claims that there is evidence to suggest hunters’ activities cause more ptarmigan deaths than the ones actually shot. The birds are particularly sensitive to the disturbance hunters cause.

The Institute report states, however, that the management of ptarmigan hunting has been generally good in recent years and the total number of birds shot has gone down; although more birds have been taken than recommended in some years.

The hunting of ptarmigan was previously outlawed between autumn 2003 and autumn 2005.

(Large main page photo: Jafro // Wikimedia Commons)