A gamekeeper (often abbreviated to keeper) is a person who manages an area of countryside to make sure there is enough game for shooting, or fish for angling, and who actively manages areas of woodland, moorland, waterway or farmland for the benefit of game birds, deer, fish and wildlife in general.
Typically, a gamekeeper is employed by a landowner, and often in the UK by a country estate, to prevent poaching, to rear and release game birds such as common pheasants and French partridge, eradicate pests, encourage and manage wild red grouse, and to control predators such as weasels, to manage habitats to suit game, and to monitor the health of the game.
Today, some five thousand full-time gamekeepers are employed in the UK, compared to as many as 10,000 at the beginning of the 20th century. In addition, there are many people who spend their leisure time and money rearing game and maintaining habitats on their own small shoots.
There are several variations in gamekeeping:
- Lowland keepers: rearing pheasant and partridge and managing lowland habitats.
- Upland keepers: managing moorland for grouse in upland areas.
- Stalkers: keepers who specialise in the stealthy pursuit of deer, mainly in the uplands of Scotland.
- Gillies/river keepers: keepers who manage rivers such as the River Spey for trout and salmon.
Gamekeepers and country sports enthusiasts hold that gamekeeping is an essential part of countryside conservation. Two thirds of the UK rural landmass is managed for shooting. The shooting industry creates £1.6 billion. £250 million is spent on conservation as a result of shooting.
The League Against Cruel Sports estimates some 12,300 wild mammals and birds are killed on UK shooting estates every day and sees gamekeepers as playing a key role in the destruction of wildlife. On the other hand, the shooting industry says that gamekeepers are vital wildlife conservation workers in the countryside. The National Gamekeeper's Organisation (NGO) claims that nine times as much of the British countryside is looked after by gamekeepers as is in nature reserves and National Parks.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has criticised the poisoning of birds of prey on some shooting estates. This is probably the most controversial of all topics surrounding the gamekeeper. However, this is now rarer than in its heyday, due to better knowledge of the ecology of birds of prey, and cases are generally condemned by the shooting community. The red kite is now widespread in England and Wales owing to persecution until recent years. It survived in South Wales and the increase in numbers was enhanced by controlled releases of birds in empty areas.
Scottish Gamekeepers Association
In 1997, as a result of months of adverse media criticism of gamekeepers, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) was formed with a goal of promoting the work of gamekeepers and developing training in the area of law and best practices in the field of game management. The SGA chairman is Alex Hogg, a gamekeeper from Scotland .
The National Gamekeepers Organisation
In 1997, the National Gamekeepers Organisation (NGO) was set up for the same reasons and in addition they felt that the main shooting association was not representing the keepers properly. The NGO now has some 15,000 members. The NGO run industry-based training for keepers and were the first organisation to react to EU legislation with regards to game meat hygiene producing a course for experienced keepers and stalkers which had approval from the Food Standards Agency. The NGO continue to promote gamekeeping, stalking, shooting and fishing. Its chairman is Lindsay Waddell, a gamekeeper from Co. Durham. The NGO also have dedicated moorland and deer branches.
Some colleges in the UK now offer courses in gamekeeping up to and including diploma level. One of these is the Northern School of Game and Wildlife at Newton Rigg, Cumbria, England.
- Conservation officer
- Game preservation
- Game warden
- Gamekeeper's thumb
- North American Game Warden Museum
- Alec Scudder in Maurice by E. M. Forster
- Mellors in Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
- Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter series
- Tom Redruth in Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
- Phillip White in Lark Rise to Candleford
- Several characters past and present in the BBC Radio 4 soap opera The Archers e.g. Andrew Gach
- Joseph in Hautot and His Son by Guy de Maupassant
- William Crowder in The Boscombe Valley Mystery by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- The Gamekeeper by Barry Hines
- Kincade in Skyfall
- Golly Mackenzie in Monarch of the Glen
- "The Gamekeeper at Home" by Richard Jefferies - 1878
- National Gamekeeper's Organisation - About gamekeeping
- "Shooting Politics, episode 1, 19th August 2009". fieldsportschannel.tv. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
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- League Against Cruel Sports - Consequences of the Shoot
- BASC - The Gamekeeper: Professional Countryside Manager
- National Gamekeepers' Organisation Charitable Trust
- RSPB - Which birds are threatened
- Scottish Gamekeepers
- NGO website.
- School of Game and Wildlife at Newton Rigg College