Crofting in the Uists is under threat from a goose population rising out of control, public meetings held by the Scottish Crofting Federation in North Uist and Benbecula heard last week.
“Crofters’ complaints about the goose problem are not new,” said Derek Flyn, Chair of the Federation, “but it is now reaching devastating proportions in the Uists. Crops of cereal and grass are being ruined by grazing and fouling by geese. A crofter will wait on tenterhooks for the crop to ripen, balancing this against the risk of the geese coming. If he is unlucky, just when the crop is capable of being harvested they move in and completely destroy his field in hours.”
As a breeding bird the Greylag goose could once be considered rare in British terms; in 1986 it was estimated that there were around 700-800 breeding pairs in the UK, of which around 150 were breeding in the Outer Hebrides . At that time, North Uist crofters were seeking to control the spread of Greylag geese which they claimed were causing them substantial agricultural losses. Now the Uists are year-round home to more than 10,000 greylag geese and that population is growing.