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Game and wildlife management

Game and wildlife management involves the management of upland, lowland, woodland and wetland game and wildlife species, including partridge, grouse, pheasant and deer. The industry manages game populations to maintain shooting based field sports. The game and wildlife industry is common in all rural areas. Sporting estates are across the UK and vary in size and sporting activity.

There are concerns about the ageing workforce as a large number of people employed in this area are approaching, or have reached, retirement age, and there are not enough new entrants to the industry or experienced employees to replace them.

Key statistics:

  • There are approximately 24,000 full-time equivalents in England working in the industry, in around 11,450 businesses.
  • The workforce mainly comprises volunteers, part-time workers and those employed on a seasonal basis.
  • It is estimated that an average business has 19 paid workers (or 3.2 full-time equivalents) and 3 volunteers (or 0.4 full-time equivalents).
  • 65% of the workforce has a level 2 or above qualification.

Jobs in the industry include: estate/land manager, under-keeper/under-stalker, assistant keeper/stalker/ranger, conservation wildlife manager, game keeper, fisheries manager, fishing ghillie (attendant), beater, ranger, gun dog handler, game rearer, game farm manager, pony person/stalking ghillie

Entry requirements for this industry vary depending on the job role. Some jobs require no formal qualifications. However, relevant qualifications and experience can be an advantage, especially for higher paid job roles. Technical/specialist roles may require specific qualifications and/or experience, but some employers may invest in training a suitable individual. Volunteering or taking seasonal/temporary work can improve employment opportunities. There are good opportunities for those wishing to change career.

Drivers of change in employment are:

  • Climate change – In the long term, businesses within game and wildlife management will need to respond to climate change through improving sustainability skills, increasing accountability, planning longer term, protecting surrounding landscapes and scarce water supplies, and supporting bio-diversity.
  • Rural and urban regeneration – Legislation, such as the Countryside and Rights Of Way Act 2000, has improved accessibility to the countryside, which in turn impacts on land management skills.
  • Economic change – Economic changes affecting shooting and countryside management are wide ranging. Consumer demand also has an impact – with many supermarkets now selling game such as venison or pheasant.
  • Globalisation – Affects the daily performance of businesses primarily through changes in global economic and social conditions (e.g. oil prices, carbon footprint, market recession).
  • Food safety – Consumers within the UK continually require that food products carry respected quality standards. The influence of game meat and hygiene legislation and increased concern over food traceability issues means there will be an increased requirement for qualified persons/specialists to advise and deal with such issues.
  • Health and safety – given the size of the industry, including the activity of volunteers, there are problems in managing, standardising and enforcing health and safety policies and practices.
  • Labour supply – Skills intensification has also led to skill gaps/shortages within the workforce.

The current and future skills that will become increasingly important include:

  • Business and management skills (e.g. animal/budget/event management)
  • Technical/job specific skills (e.g. deer stalking and carcass handling)
  • Essential skills (e.g. literacy, numeracy, communication and customer relations)

There are skills needs for the following:

  • Beater and dog handlers require skills such as: estate maintenance, habitat management, pest and predator control, weapon safety and shooting, carcass handling and preparation, customer care, map reading, and basic first aid
  • Game keepers, beat keepers and stalkers require skills such as: people management, health and safety management, game population assessments, shoot day organisation and control, communication, intermediate first aid, and budget control
  • Head stalkers and land managers require skills such as: managing game populations, managing weapon safety and shooting, managing deer, managing resources, managing people, managing security

National and regional data:

  • Scotland – There are an estimated 5,300 full-time equivalents in the regional workforce, in around 2,300 businesses.
  • South West – There are an estimated 5,100 full-time equivalents in the regional workforce, in around 2,600 businesses.
  • South East – There are an estimated 5,100 full-time equivalents in the regional workforce, in around 1,600 businesses.
  • East of England – There are an estimated 3,900 full-time equivalents in the regional workforce, in around 2,600 businesses.
  • North West – There are an estimated 2,700 full-time equivalents in the regional workforce, in 750 businesses.
  • East Midlands – There are an estimated 2,000 full-time equivalents in the regional workforce, in around 1,250 businesses.
  • West Midlands – There are an estimated 1,700 full-time equivalents in the regional workforce, in around 900 businesses.
  • Yorkshire and the Humber – There are an estimated 1,600 full-time equivalents in the regional workforce, in around 700 businesses.
  • North East – There are an estimated 1,500 full-time equivalents in the regional workforce, in around 800 businesses.
  • Northern Ireland – There are an estimated 1,100 full-time equivalents in the regional workforce, in around 1,300 businesses.
  • Wales – There are an estimated 700 full-time equivalents in the regional workforce, in around 700 businesses.
  • London – There are an estimated 80 full-time equivalents in the regional workforce, in around 150 businesses.

Pay scales in this industry are variable, so the following only provides an indication of the annual salary paid to some full-time positions:

  • Gamekeepers can earn from around £11,000 to £18,000. Employers often provide free or cheap accommodation and a vehicle.
  • Countryside ranger working for a local authority can earn from around £16,000 to over £20,000
  • Estate worker can earn around £14,000, rising to up to £22,500 with experience and into supervisory position

Further information on salaries can be found on the Defra website.

Source: Lantra AACS LMI report 2010