Goose Damage


The following table lists reports compiled by Scottish Office, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Officials. The reports document the effect Barnacle geese were having on Powhillon and its adjoining Site of Special Scientific Interest and were written at the request of Ministers so that they could determine whether or not a licence to shoot the birds was necessary. The reports also formed part of a national study on the effects of goose grazing. Barnacle geese are protected by the EU Bird Directive, Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979, however the protection afforded to the birds by the directive has boundaries and exceptions. In terms of Powhillon (an agricultural holding) the protection ended when it could be proven that the geese could potentially cause serious damage to the crops and livestock foodstuffs. The reports were written to establish if the geese were inflicting damage and provide evidential proof of the requirement for a licence if any.

YearOfficialDateSerious Damage RecordedlinkSnippet
1986 John M Riddet 21 February 1986 No issuing a license to take the geese could not be countenanced at present time
1989 John M Riddet 06 October 1989 No this will buy us time - perhaps 2-3 weeks - during which time, it will become obvious that the scaring is not effective
1990 J M Johnston 25 January 1990 No the pastures at Powhillon are being regularly grazed by significant numbers of geese, resulting in a shortage of available grazing for stock
1990 Ian Campbell 23 April 1990 Yes there is little doubt on the evidence of the visible geese droppings that serious agricultural damage is taking place
1990 John M Riddet 01 November 1990 Yes the merse, which is of course, included in the Upper Solway Flats and Marshes SSSI is suffering now from serious agricultural damage
1991 J M Johnston 26 March 1991 Yes it is my opinion that the geese wil heavily graze the pastures at Powhillon as soon as the land dries up enough to allow grass growth to begin. This would in itself be justification for issuing a licence to shoot geese.
1992 J M Johnston 26 March 1992 Yes We have certainly failed to respond to Mr Quinn's previous licence application and, in more normal circumstances, I would recommend issue of the licence without delay.
1993 Iain M Matheson 03 March 1993 Yes It is recommended that a licence be granted to Mr Quinn to allow him to take or kill geese - all species.
1993 Ian Campbell 04 March 1993 Yes I consider that it is quite unrealistic to insist on further scaring which has so patently and repeatedly failed in the past.
1993 Iain M Matheson 01 April 1993 Yes The firm recommendation from the agriculture point of view remains one of granting a licence.
1993 Iain M Matheson 01 October 1993 Yes There is no doubt in my mind that serious agricultural damage by the geese will occur again.
1994 John M Riddet 07 October 1994 Yes From an agricultural viewpoint, therefore, I believe there is strong justification for issuing a licence now.
1994 Ian Campbell 14 October 1994 Yes I would have thought that on the history of this case the evidence is sufficiently strong to issue a preventative licence now
1994 J White 17 October 1994 Yes Overall the grazing capacity of the farm is being reduced by the geese, probably more by the polluting effect at this stage than by eating the grass.
1995 R Scott 19 April 1995 Yes On inspecting the merse it was found to be well contaminated, some areas heavier than others, but hardly a square metre of clean ground.
1995 John M Riddet 11 September 1995 Yes There can be little doubt that he is correct in that more guns would be more effective but there are political difficulties in agreeing to more.
1995 John M Riddet 18 October 1995 Yes I believe that serious agricultural damage has already occurred on the merse/ damage which could have been minimised had this department not been so slow in responding to the application request.
1996 John M Riddet 25 October 1996 Yes I recommend a licence be issued to Mr Quinn to take Barnacle Geese over any part of Powhillon farm.
1997 A J Robertson 26 May 1997 Yes I was also shocked by the state of Powhillon and feel that the damage being caused by the geese and the landlord/ tenant dispute cannot go on any longer if there is ever to be any resemblance of normal farming on the unit.
1997 John M Riddet 11 July 1997 Yes Severe agriculture damage is still occurring on Powhillon.
1997 John M Riddet 03 November 1997 Yes Whether he is allowed to or not, subsequent to that case is immaterial, as he may be quite at liberty to agist other business's livestock on Powhillon.
1998 G Caldwell 21 October 1998 Yes The situation has reached a sorry impasse and the farm has a derelict look about it. The annual pantomime of application/ refusal has become a bit of an irrelevance inthe absence of any farming.
1998 A J Robertson 09 November 1998 Yes I mention it again simply to record that this is not the same as saying that "the farm was not able to carry stock or be cropped" as you state in your letter.

Shoot to KillOnly means to prevent damage

  • Although Powhillon was at the forefront, the true cost of Barnacle geese to Powhillon was never quantified and no compensation was ever received.  There are reports (such as The Economic Cost of Invasive Non-Native Species on Great Britain) that estimate the general cost to be £14.90 per goose. The recorded number of geese at Powhillon was 13,700 which equates to an annual cost of £204,130. These costs represent the economic loss and would not prevent the destruction caused by geese.

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Barnacle Geese lifting off Powhillon

Damage to SSSI cause by Barnacle geese feeding

Geese faces and devastation to lush grassland

In loving memory 'Sky'. Died 15 March 2005, aged 18

'Sky' naturally had a dislike of geese

Shooting Trial

  • Goose Shooting Trial | Wader Habitat Destruction

    In 1993, Daniel Quinn of Powhillon farm won a landmark case for all occupiers of agricultural holdings. On 17 December 1993, he was acquitted of four charges related to shooting protected wild geese without licence, even though he had intentionally done so. Three of the charges were for contravening the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Section 1(1)(a), by shooting two protected Barnacle geese and one Pink-footed goose. The remaining charge was for breach of the peace.

    Daniel Quinn was found not guilty of all four charges because he was shooting in order to prevent his crops (which by definition included grassland) from sustaining serious agricultural damage. Section 4(3)(c) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 “permits the killing or injuring of any wild bird if the action is necessary to prevent serious damage to livestock, foodstuffs for livestock, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, or fisheries.”

    Read more

License Applications

  • Since the removal of wildfowlers from Powhillon's foreshore, the Svalbard population of Barnacle geese sheltered and fed on Powhillon and its adjoining Site of Special Scientific Interest. They would migrate to the area in September and stay until April the following year. Within that period;- October, November, February and March saw the greatest numbers of geese with up to twelve to thirteen thousand descending onto the pastures with the average count for the aforementioned months from 1986 to 1996 being six to seven thousand. R Hill & Co applied twice a year for a licence to shoot the birds in order to prevent serious damage occurring. They applied in September in preparation for the huge influx of geese throughout October and November, then again in January for the pending onslaught during February and March. Following the advent of the EU Bird Directive, Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979, and subsequent Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and amendments which incorporated the European legislation into UK law, Minister’s became responsible for maintaining current bird populations but in doing so had powers to derogate should damage be inflicted to local fauna, flora or inhabitants. With the population of Barnacle geese increasing significantly and serious damage occurring to Powhillon’s grasslands and SSSI, R Hill & Co applied to Ministers for licences to control the Barnacle goose population as listed in the following table.

    YearOfficialApplication DateDate of ResponseOutcomelinkExplanatory
    1986 John M Riddet March 1986 8 April 1986 Refused By 1986, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and Nature Conservancy Council had managed to eradicate wildfowling from the foreshore of Powhillon farm and as a result Powhillon lost an invaluable source of protection in terms of pest control. Geese began to encroach onto the holding’s pastures and under the terms of Section 16(1)(k) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Danny applied for a licence in order to prevent serious agricultural damage occurring to R Hill & Co’s livestock feed. Department officials refused the application and instructed him to adopt recommended scaring techniques of littering the fields with flags, whirlies, bangers and barrels. In the meantime they would monitor the situation and record the effect the geese were having on the pastures. Danny stuck with trialling scaring techniques for the next few years but they were expensive, totally ineffective and an absolute waste of time and effort to R Hill & Co and to the tax payer.
    1989   December 1989 No reply No reply   At the end of 1989 it had become patently obvious that the recommended scaring techniques were absolutely useless. The population of Barnacle geese descending onto Powhillon was increasing and the damage to the pastures was becoming more and more noticeable. Danny in good faith applied for a licence again believing that because he had made every effort to scare the geese and proved that it hadn't been successful, the balance of argument would favour granting a licence. Local officials attended the farm to inspect the condition of the pastures and the decision was referred to the Scottish Office Agriculture and Fisheries head office. No response was ever obtained.
    1991 J M Johnston 21 February 1991 No reply No reply Several local department officials visited the farm throughout 1990. Serious agricultural damage to the grasslands of Powhillon had become clearly apparent to all and Danny applied again on 21 February 1991, for a licence to protect the area. Yet again no response was given.
    1992 J M Johnston 20 March 1992 No reply No reply On 20 March 1992 Danny phoned the Dumfries branch of the Scottish Office Agriculture and Fisheries department to enquire as to whether or not a decision had been made on his application dated 21 February 1991. He also asked whether or not he was likely to receive an answer to an application for this year. The decision was referred to head quarters who again failed to respond.
    1993 David H Brown 08 September 1993 15 October 1993 Refused For three years the Scottish Office Agriculture and Fisheries department ignored R Hill & Co's applications. Serious damage was occurring to Powhillon and its SSSI, and as the population of Barnacle geese reached twelve to thirteen thousand the destruction spiralled. Faced with another year of being blanked by the department Danny believed he was left with no alternative and after taking legal advice started shooting Barnacle geese. He was charged on 11 March 1993 for shooting protected wild birds without a licence and had his shotgun seized the same day. The trial was scheduled to be heard on 17 December 1993 however the Barnacle geese returned to Powhillon during September and began to inflict further serious agricultural damage to the grasslands. Danny applied again on 8 September 1993 and for once got a response from David Henry Brown, Principle Agricultural Officer who accepted that serious agricultural damage was likely to occur but after consulting Scottish Natural Heritage he refused the application.
    1994 David H Brown 07 January 1994 12 January 1994 Single license granted Danny was acquitted on 17 December 1993 by Sheriff Cameron who ruled that in light of the fact that Powhillon and its SSSI were suffering serious agricultural damage, Section 4(3)(c) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 permitted the occupier to shoot to kill without requiring a licence. Sheriff Cameron also condemned the Scottish Office Agriculture and Fisheries department for failing to issue a licence whilst knowing and admitting that serious damage was occurring. Even though Danny no longer required a licence, R Hill & Co faced further court actions brought by their landlords the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and applied for a licence in order to strengthen their position for the pending interdict in the Court of Session. R Hill & Co also applied for the licence because they knew that one gun was not going to curb the damage. R Hill & Co had a farm to run and during this period they were embroiled in numerous legal actions. They certainly couldn't afford to have Danny shooting all day, every day. R Hill & Co’s belief was that if Ministers wanted to protect wild birds then responsibility for controlling and ensuring that the geese weren’t having a detrimental impact, resided with them. By applying for a licence the Scottish Office Agriculture and Fisheries department would have to continue to send officials to the farm and record the damage within their internal reports. These reports would then highlight to Ministers the plight of the old pasture and the holdings other grasslands and give them another aspect to consider rather than the blanket protection the bird lobbies and the Nature Conservancy Council were claming had to exist. On 12 January 1994 Danny was issued with a licence to shoot to scare. It wasn’t in line with what the court ruled however it was a start. It was also issued under close scrutiny from the authorities and R Hill & Co thought that the results of the study would at least highlight to officials the need for greater control over this particular species of goose.
    1994 Iain M Matheson 11 March 1994 17 March 1994 Extension refused In spring of 1994, Barnacle geese once again enveloped Powhillon and its Site of Special Scientific, causing serious agricultural damage. It was clearly obvious that one gun wasn't enough to prevent the destruction. R Hill & Co therefore applied to extend the number of persons allowed to shoot to five but were refused.
    1994 David H Brown 22 September 1994 11 November 1994 Additional person granted Serious agricultural damage was still occurring at Powhillon and R Hill & Co were finding it extremely difficult to find time to deal with the increasing numbers of legal actions whilst trying to prevent serious agricultural damage to the pastures let alone run the farm business. R Hill & Co therefore applied for a licence with more than one named person. A licence was granted naming a maximum of two persons but restricted shooting to only one person at a time.
    1995 David H Brown 09 September 1995 24 October 1995 Granted - same terms as previous year   A licence naming two persons with the restriction that only one person is allowed to shoot at any one time was re-issued. Serious agricultural damage was still occurring at Powhillon and one gun was proving to be ineffective in defending the occupier’s right to prevent serious damage to his crops.
    1996 David H Brown 08 March 1996 15 March 1996 License revoked Danny returned his licence on 8 March 1996 because the restrictions that it imposed meant that he couldn't prevent serious agricultural damage being sustained to the holding's grasslands and SSSI. Danny asked for it to be reviewed considering the continued damage but the department ignored his plight and immediately revoked the licence.
    1996 Francis M Reid 04 October 1996 28 October 1997 Still being considered When the Barnacle geese returned at the end of September 1996 Danny applied again hoping that the department would grant him a licence which would allow him to prevent damage. An entire year after submitting the application a response was finally obtained from Francis M Reid whereby she stated that the application dated 4 October 1996 wasn't rejected but that the Ministers were still considering the merits of the application when the period for issuing it had expired. Unlike previous years the failure to respond this time around was far more cynical and sinister. Following the release of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Amendment) Regulations 1995, Danny couldn't take it upon himself to shoot geese in order to prevent serious agricultural damage to crops. The addition of subsection 5 to section 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 meant that although Danny was able to prove serious agricultural damage he still wouldn't be able to shoot until the Ministers had deliberated his request and provided him with a response.
    1997 Francis M Reid 04 September 1997 22 April 1998 Refused at end of season Ministers yet again waited until the end of the season before responding to R Hill & Co's application.
    1998 Francis M Reid 06 March 1998 05 June 1998 Geese had already departed Even though Ministers were advised that serious agricultural damage had occurred they called for a further inspection at which time the geese had left and therefore a licence was no longer required. R Hill & Co had won the right to prevent (and we stress the word prevent) serious damage in the Sheriff's Courts. Lord Sewel was intentionally abusing his position and demonstrating how perverse the amended Act is by deliberately denying R Hill & Co the right to prevent serious agricultural damage. You can't prevent an action after it has happened.
    1998 Francis M Reid September 1998 23 October 1998 Refused "no agricultural activity" It was to be our last application and for once we received a response within a semi-reasonable time frame but only because Ministers had found another excuse. Following the removal of R Hill & Co's entire herd of cattle and subsequent prosecution of Danny for failing to sufficiently feed the herd, Ministers refused to issue a licence because it was deemed that the farm and its pastures were no longer required for agriculture. Yet again they ignored the plight of the habitat in the interests of conserving one non-native species of bird.