Typically, a gamekeeper is employed by a landowner, and often in the United Kingdom by a country estate, to prevent poaching, to rear and release game birds such as common pheasants and French partridge, eradicate pests, encourage and manage wild red grouse, and to control predators such as weasels, to manage habitats to suit game, and to monitor the health of the game.
Today, some five thousand full-time gamekeepers are employed in the UK, compared to as many as 10,000 at the beginning of the 20th century. In addition, there are many people who spend their leisure time and money rearing game and maintaining habitats on their own small shoots.
There are several variations in gamekeeping:
Gamekeepers and country sports enthusiasts hold that gamekeeping is an essential part of countryside conservation. Two thirds of the UK rural landmass is managed for shooting. The shooting industry creates £1.6 billion. £250 million is spent on conservation as a result of shooting.
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.