A POOR grouse shooting season is expected to have a major knock-on effect on Yorkshire businesses.

An average of 75 per cent of shoot days are due to be cancelled because of low stocks of red grouse, according to the Moorland Association.

And it claims that while the much-reduced shoot programme is a blow for country sports lovers, the real impact will be felt by local businesses in remote rural communities who rely on income generated by grouse shooting in the shoulder months of the tourist season.

Rural businesses in England and Wales on average receive a direct injection of £15.2m annually from grouse shooting visitors during the season.

But the association says hotels, pubs, restaurants, game dealers, contractors and other ancillary businesses will this year lose millions of pounds of revenue due to the lack of grouse shooting customers during the season which this year runs from August 13 to December 10.

It said one business, the Sportsman’s Arms Hotel in Wath near Harrogate, has already seen cancellations amounting to £30,000 and is expecting more to follow.

Director Amanda Anderson,said: “The forthcoming season is likely to be very poor and short, but it is a timely reminder that the red grouse is a wild bird.

"We can only manage its habitat, but we cannot control the weather.”

However she added: “The good news is that despite the poor shooting prospects, grouse estates across the country continue to invest a million pounds a week all year round in the conservation of the moorlands to the benefits of a wide range of flora and fauna, including vulnerable ground nesting birds such as the curlew, red grouse, merlin, lapwing and ring ouzel.”

Red grouse are wild birds and cannot be reared; as such they are at the mercy of mother nature.

The intense cold in February brought by the Beast from East followed by a prolonged drought impacted the growth of heather, the red grouse’s principal food source, resulted in a shortage of birds.

The association said that only when there was a healthy surplus of red grouse could they be harvested for shooting.