A gamekeeper (often abbreviated to keeper) is a person who looks after 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 pheasants and grouse, to control predators such as foxes, to manage habitats to suit game, and to monitor the health of the game.
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 much 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.
In 1997, as a result of months of adverse media criticism of gamekeepers, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) was formed. The goal of this organization is to form a professional group which will help to promote the work gamekeepers do and to develop training in the area of law and best practices in the field of game management.