William Powell Country

Grouse Moors and Bulgy Eye


Article written by 11 August 2014
Bulgy Eye

We are now in a situation where the GWCT estimate that at least 80% of the Grouse Moors in the North Pennines, and 50% of all Moors in the North of England are affected by Bulgy Eye and last year several incidents were also found in the Lammermuirs in Scotland.

Bulgy Eye (Cryptosporidiosis) is a disease in this form particular to Red Grouse. It is incredibly contagious not only between birds, but also it can be transmitted from one infected area to another. Given that certain areas such as the North York Moors, the Peak District and most of Scotland, do not currently appear to have got the disease, it is important that everyone involved in Grouse Shooting in 2014 and beyond, does all that they can to prevent the spread of this very unpleasant disease which not only causes considerable suffering to the birds affected but can kill large numbers. If a Moor does not currently have it, then it does not want to get it!

The Scientists are convinced that peat which is contaminated in any way by Bulgy Eye (excretion or droppings), which might find its way onto 4-wheel drive tyres, boots/wellingtons, leggings, shooting equipment, etc. are all that is needed to spread the disease to a previously uninfected Moor. That means that if you are shooting in the main Pennine Chain (which runs from North of say the M62 to the Cheviots), as well as the Trough of Bowland, the Durham Moors and quite a few others one day, and then you go and shoot on a clean/previously unaffected Moor shortly afterwards, you could be the carrier which spreads the disease.

We obviously cannot stop the disease spreading naturally i.e. grouse moving from a diseased to a previously uninfected Moor, but for instance given the location of the Peak District and the North York Moors which are separated from the main North of England Moorland block as well as the separation of other Moors within Scotland from the Lammermuirs, then it would appear to be perfectly feasible to either prevent the spread of the disease or at least delay the spread for some considerable time by upping our bio-security. What we do know is that if we do nothing, then the disease will as it has already done in such a short period of time (2010 until now), spread to pretty well every Moor in the UK.

What can we do?

i. We do know that no normal disinfectant is strong enough under normal usage to kill the disease. Therefore soaking a pair of wellingtons overnight in Dettol or similar will not work. However, we believe a specialist veterinary disinfectant called Bi-oo-cyst will kill Cryptosporidium Oocysts if they are thoroughly washed in it long enough. After thoroughly scrubbing clean wellingtons/boots/waterproof trousers/equipment, etc., they should be washed in this solution (clearly you need to check there are no adverse effects on the item). It should be noted that Bi-oo-cyst should not be used on clothing e.g. Shirts, breeks due to the strength of the disinfectant. This is probably the only product that will have any effect. Therefore we strongly advise everyone who is going to shoot Grouse this year, loads or is otherwise involved on both affected as well as unaffected Moors buys some of this Bi-oo-cyst and uses it very regularly as below. You can get it from veterinary suppliers or some vets.

ii. We do know that hot water (above 65 degrees) pressure washing, does work. We therefore strongly recommend that every vehicle which goes onto a Moor at the start of the day is carefully pressure-washed before it gets onto the Moor. Tyres and the undersides of the vehicle should all be pressure-washed as completely clean as possible using a high quality detergent if possible. The use of pretty well any detergent improves the kill rate of the Oocysts, so mixing in a detergent to the pressure washer will greatly improve its effectiveness. However, please make sure the run-off does not pollute any water courses.

iii. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no way of cleaning dogs so as to ensure that they are free of all dirt, peat etc. (and it apparently only needs a very very small quantity indeed of peat, bird faeces, excretions, to carry the disease) but we do know that normal washing of a dog is ineffective. Putting your dogs into a river/stream/lake after a day’s shooting on an infected Moor is absolutely useless and indeed may help to disseminate infection downstream!

However, as much as it pains shooting people to not have their dog with them (and the same with beaters, pickers-up, flankers etc.), it makes absolutely no sense to work a dog on an infected Moor (or on a Moor in an infected area even where the Moor may not think it has the disease, but where the disease could be present) and then take the dog to a Moor or an area which does not currently have the disease. Shooting in the main Pennine Chain or the Lammermuirs one day and then moving to another currently clean Moor or area the next, is an ideal way to spread the disease.

The reality is that if you are shooting on an infected Moor or a Moor in an infected area (and some owners/keepers either will not know their Moor has the disease or will not want to admit it!) and then the next day or even several days later, going to a “clean” one, do not take your dog(s) to both. It is as simple as that.

iv. Making sure that your gunslip, cartridge bag, dog, spike or anything else that you use on a Moor one day, are thoroughly cleaned, which means removal of all dirt etc., so that there is no risk of any infected “dirt” being dropped onto another Moor on the “next” day’s shooting. Please note that the disease will apparently live in dirt quite happily for quite a long period of time and therefore if you do not clean an item which has dirt on (say a muddy cartridge bag or gun sling) and it is next used a week or two weeks later, that could still allow the disease to be spread.

After cleaning all the mud/peat off thoroughly, please wash all your equipment in very hot water (above 65˚) and then with Bi-oo-cyst.

v. It is likely that some grouse that are affected by Bulgy Eye may have no apparent symptoms i.e. the eye is not swollen and there is no discharge from the nasa orifices etc. Therefore you need to ensure that all dead birds that you take after shooting on a Moor are treated with considerable care as these could very easily be carriers. Grouse are perfectly safe to eat if they are diseased, but it is good practice that birds should not be left lying in a vehicle where they could be in contact with shooting equipment, footwear, clothing etc. By far the best way of dealing with this is to put shot birds in a carrier bag or similar at the end of a day’s shooting, so that they are self-contained.


Because we did not know what we were dealing with, we have probably helped to spread the disease over the last two or three years. Bulgy Eye is a very unpleasant disease which not only kills a large number of grouse, but it is also contagious. Any moor that is not affected, does not want to be. Whatever we can do to help prevent the spread of this disease, we should do and whilst we cannot control every method by which it may be spread, we can definitely help prevent the spread by human activity on or after shoot days.

Please will you rigorously observe the above when you shoot this season and encourage everyone else to do so.
If you want any further information, please contact William Powell Sporting on
01295 701701 or email;

James Chapel (james@jmosborne.co.uk), Chris Maxted (chris@jmosborne.co.uk), or Mark Osborne (jmo@jmosborne.co.uk)

Mark Osborne - FRICS, FAAV, MBAE

Mark Osborne is founder and Managing Director of JM Osborne & Co. and has been a qualified Chartered Surveyor and Land Agent for over 30 years. He trained on two large traditional landed estates (Chatsworth and Castle Ashby), before s.. Read more.

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