Preservationists step up efforts to save Catalonia's endangered capercaillie
Only 800 left after experiencing a steep population decline due to human activity
The capercaillie, known as the 'gall fer' (iron rooster) in Catalan, that roam northern Catalonia's forests are now in danger of becoming extinct.
With only around 800 left, the species has suffered a steep population decline of up to 70% in some areas over the past 15 years due to human activity – such as skiing or mountain racing – as well as competition for food from other herbivores, and was declared endangered last fall.
"An encounter with a human or an unleashed dog is a problem for the capercaillie because it stresses them," biologist Guillem Mas of the Paisatges Vius environmental group told the Catalan News Agency (ACN).
"This makes them release hormones that make them more vulnerable to parasites and lowers their food intake," he said, a phenomenon that causes a host of health issues.
Because of this Paisatges Vius preservationists have begun to intensify their efforts to save the capercaillie as part of the PeriFer initiative, which includes improving signage on paths and ski slopes in order to preserve the undergrowth, barring cars from certain mountain roads, and installing bird diverters on overhead power lines and fences.
Seven roads, such as in Rasos de Peguera or Serra d'Ensija have been closed to vehicle traffic, while parts of northern Catalonia's forests have been cordoned off completely to keep humans - and other large herbivores - out.
"We think that people will be cooperative if they are informed of the issue," Mas said, adding that this was "fundamental" to the species' survival, but also called on further help from authorities as the bird has completely disappeared in certain areas.
"The future of the capercaillie will not be the same everywhere," he said. "It will be able to survive in some places but it won't in others."