Since this weekend, it is no longer possible, in France, to shoot a capercaillie. The decree, prohibiting, everywhere on the metropolitan territory, the hunting of this capercaillie, was published Saturday in the Official Journal, more than three months after the injunction of the Council of State to the government to put an end to this practice. which put the species at risk.
For France Nature Environnement, this battle was not easy. Because for years, when the local associations members of the movement, which demanded the suspension of capercaillie hunting before the administrative courts, won, the prefectures… represented orders which authorized shooting again. Finally, after the breakage of several dozen disputes, the State has, little by little, dropped the case, in most departments. Except in the Hautes-Pyrénées, and in Ariège, in Occitanie, where hunting this species, symbol of the mountains, was still allowed. A decision, on June 1, of the Council of State, whistled the end of this showdown.
A species in “decline”
From now on, “capercaillie hunting is suspended throughout metropolitan France for a period of five years”. However, this period may be shortened “if new data show a sufficiently favorable evolution in the conservation status of the capercaillie”. Because it is the worrying “decline” of the species that is at the heart of this ban. “In the Pyrenees, capercaillie populations have been divided by five since the 1960s,” says Dominique Py, member of France Nature Environnement, in charge of hunting and wildlife. “It is on the French red list of threatened species from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Museum of Natural History. It is classified as vulnerable. »
Hunting the capercaillie had “several effects”, devastating for the species. “First, of course, the direct destruction of adults,” continues Dominique Py. But also the strong disturbance of the species, particularly fragile in winter, that hunting caused. “It was still difficult to understand that when a bird is on a red list, we continue to hunt it”, is surprised this member of France Nature Environnement.
“It’s a first step”
But if a five-year ban should, perhaps, offer this species “a little respite” and allow it to reproduce a little more quietly, it will not be enough, notes Dominique Py. “In five years, the capercaillie will not replenish its numbers, which have been collapsing for fifty years,” she explains. It’s a first step. But there should also be a little more rigor in planning permissions. When it comes to extending ski slopes over capercaillie habitats, for example. To best defend this capercaillie, its inclusion on the list of protected species would be a real step forward, explains Dominique Py. It’s the next fight.
But for hunters, this ban is not a good idea at all. In a press release, published on June 2, the day after the decision of the Council of State, the National Federation of Hunters (FNC) regretted that a more pragmatic solution had not been implemented. As in the Pyrenees, where “the prefects had issued decrees setting the harvest quotas at zero in order to take into account the results of counts and calculations of abundance indices by hunters and the OFB [Office français de la biodiversité]. By this quotient, the federations [de chasseurs] implemented the adaptive management of this species with, in good years, around fifteen specimens taken, and in bad years for the species, like this year, a quota of zero”. The FNC even deplored, in this press release, that the ban on hunting would not lead to the gradual disappearance of the species, so much, it noted, hunters “are the only ones to finance and act in the development habitats of this species.