Predation and grouse conservation

Predation is important for black grouse populations, either through direct mortality on adults, but usually more importantly through mortaility of chicks. Many avian and mammalian species predate on grouse, with red foxes Vulpes vulpes and corvids highlighted as being particularly important predators of grouse nests (Merta et al. 2009). Studies have shown that predator removal (mesocarnivores and corvids) can increase grouse reproductive success (Kauhala et al. 2000; Summers et al. 2004), though not all studies have seen a pattern (Baines 1996).

Predation has become more important as a conservation threat as large-scale land-use changes have increased predation pressure on black grouse; nest predation is higher in fragmented forest habitat (Kurki et al. 2000) and key predators such as red foxes favour logged habitats (Borchtchevski et al. 2003). The reintroducion or natural return of large carnivores to some European countries may be beneficial for grouse popualtions due to subsequent control of meso-predator communities (Elmhagen et al. 2010).

Fox and grouse lek

Image is kindly provided by Magnus Carlsson/Taiga Vision (


Baines, D. (1996) The implications of grazing and predator management on the habitats and breeding success of black grouse Tetrao tetrix. Journal of Applied Ecology, 33, 5462.

Borchtchevski, V.G., Hjeljord, O., Wegge,P. & Sivkov, A. (2003) Does fragmentation by logging reduce grouse reproductive success in boreal forests? Wildlife Biology, 9, 275282

Elmhagen, B., Ludwig, G., Rushton, S.P., Helle, P. & Linden, H. (2010) Top predators, mesopredators and their prey: interference ecosystems along bioclimatic productivity gradients. Journal of Animal Ecology, 79, 785-794.

Kauhala, K., Helle, P. & Helle, E. (2000) Predator control and the density and reproductive success of grouse populations in Finland. Ecography, 23, 161-168.

Kurki, S., Nikula, A., Helle, P. & Lindén, H. (2000) Landscape fragmentation and forest composition effects on grouse breeding success in boreal forests. Ecology, 81, 1985-1997.

Summers, R.W., Green, R.E., Proctor, R., Dugan, D., Lambie, D., Montcrieff, R., Moss, R. & Baines, D. (2004) An experimental study of the effects of predation on the breeding productivity of capercaillie and black grouse. Journal of Applied Ecology, 41, 513-525.