Following the news that illegally-set spring traps were found on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park (see here), the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association has issued a statement.
A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “This is the first we, as an organisation, have heard about this so we will take time to make the appropriate inquiries. The SGA is an organisation which advocates best practice and condemns wildlife crime.”
Not exactly an unequivocal condemnation of this wildlife crime, is it? This case is a little bit awkward for the SGA, given their close ties to Invercauld Estate (SGA Vice Chair Peter Fraser worked on Invercauld Estate for 43 years).
Perhaps, like Invercauld Estate, the SGA is going to deny this crime ever happened, a bit like they did when they ‘investigated’ another disgusting wildlife crime (here is the crime, here is the SGA’s response) and another disgusting wildlife crime (here is the crime, here is the SGA’s response).
Or perhaps this time they will admit the crime happened but will suggest that the ‘evidence was planted’, a bit like SGA Vice Chairman Peter Fraser did in this interview when asked about the discovery of three poisoned buzzards and a poisoned raven that were found on Invercauld Estate in 2005 (no prosecutions, natch).
And talking of the SGA condemning wildlife crime, we’re still waiting for a statement from them about the conviction of Scottish gamekeeper William (Billy) Dick, successfully prosecuted for killing a buzzard on the Newlands Estate by throwing rocks at it and then repeatedly stamping on it (see here). At the time of Dick’s conviction, the SGA refused to comment until Dick’s appeal had been heard. As you know, Dick’s appeal was rejected a week ago and his conviction still stands (see here), so where’s the SGA’s condemnation of this gamekeeper’s crimes and where’s the information about Dick’s SGA membership status? Was he an SGA member? Is he still an SGA member?
The SGA’s commitment to condemning and tackling wildlife crime doesn’t look at all convincing, does it? And if it doesn’t look convincing to us, how does it look to the SGA’s membership? Will they think their great leaders are standing strong against illegal raptor persecution and doing all they can to apply peer pressure to eliminate it? On the above evidence, that’s unlikely.
In relation to this morning’s news (here) that illegally-set traps have been discovered on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park, the following statement from Invercauld Estate has just appeared on GWCT’s twitter feed:
This is staggering! In one paragraph the estate is denying that this crime ever happened, but then in the next paragraph suggests that if it did happen the evidence was probably planted by someone trying to discredit the grouse shooting industry. Really? Really? Seven hours to think about it and that’s the response? Really?
The RSPB, the SSPCA, and two witnesses (the hill walkers) say it happened (full statement here).
Cabinet Secretary for the Environment Roseanna Cunningham believes it happened and has said, “It is difficult to see their use [the illegally-set spring traps] as anything other than a blatant and criminal attempt to target protected birds of prey” (full statement here).
Grant Moir, CEO of the Cairngorms National Park Authority also believes it happened and has asked for a meeting with the Head Trustee of Invercauld Estate, the Sporting Partner on Invercauld Estate, and Police Scotland to improve enforcement measures (full statement here).
So, Police Scotland, over to you. Was evidence of illegal activity found on Invercauld Estate? Emails please to Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham who leads on wildlife crime for Police Scotland: ACC.CrimeMCPP@scotland.pnn.police.uk
When you’ve sent your email, please consider signing THIS PETITION calling for the licensing of all gamebird hunting in Scotland.
When you’ve done that, please consider signing THIS PETITION calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting.
Further to today’s news that illegally-set traps have been found on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park (see here), we are interested in the SSPCA’s role in this investigation.
As you’ll recall, RSPB Scotland notified the SSPCA about the severely injured gull caught by both legs in two spring traps. An SSPCA Inspector attended the scene (utilising powers under the Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Act) and was able to put the poor suffering bird out of its misery. However, the SSPCA Inspector did not conduct a wider search of the area for evidence because their current powers do not permit that.
Instead, the wider search was delayed until Police Scotland could attend (Police Scotland does have the authority to undertake searches of land to look for evidence of offences committed contrary to the Wildlife & Countryside Act). Now, this delay is NOT a criticism of Police Scotland’s actions in this case (they were on site relatively swiftly and invited both the SSPCA and RSPB Scotland Investigations to assist with the search. That’s a big improvement on some previous cases).
But, the problem of the SSPCA’s limited powers are clear in this case.
When the multi-agency search did take place ‘a few days later’, ‘clear evidence was found that eight similar traps had been deployed, attached to stakes and baited with dead rabbits, in a line stretching two hundred metres across the moor. It was also evident that these traps had been removed very recently’.
Whichever criminal had set these two traps that caught the gull was given the time to remove those further eight traps before the Police turned up.
How ridiculous is it that the SSPCA Inspector wasn’t allowed to walk two hundred metres across the grouse moor to retrieve those eight additional traps (and any other evidence that the criminal may have left lying around)? It’s plainly bonkers! Instead, there was an inevitable delay while the Police sorted themselves out (again, not a criticism in this case), allowing the criminal to distance him/herself from the crimes.
As many of you will know, on 1 Sept 2016 it will be two years since the closure of the Scottish Government’s public consultation on increased investigatory powers for the SSPCA. Three Environment Ministers later and we’re still waiting for a decision (see here). It’s pathetic.
RSPB Scotland has today issued a press statement about the discovery of illegally-set traps found on a Royal Deeside grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (see here).
On 27 June 2016, two members of the public found a Common Gull that had been caught by the legs in two spring traps that had been positioned next to a dead rabbit that had been used as bait. The gull was distressed and bleeding profusely. The hill walkers called RSPB Scotland, who immediately alerted Police Scotland and the SSPCA. An SSPCA Inspector quickly attended the scene and the gull was found to have two broken legs. The bird’s injuries were so extensive it had to be euthanised.
Several days later, a multi-agency (Police Scotland, SSPCA, RSPB Scotland) search was undertaken on the grouse moor, ‘where clear evidence was found that eight similar traps had been deployed, attached to stakes and baited with dead rabbits, in a line stretching two hundred metres across the moor. It was also evident that these traps had been removed very recently’.
The press statement continues, ‘Police Scotland officers later spoke to a number of people involved with the management of the land on which the traps were found, but the identity of who had set the traps could not be established‘.
According to the press statement, the two hill walkers had found the distressed gull on “the northern slopes of Geallaig Hill, a few miles north west of Ballater“.
According to Andy Wightman’s fantastic website Who Owns Scotland, Geallaig Hill lies within the boundary of the Invercauld Estate. Using Andy’s data, we’ve created this map to show the position of Invercauld Estate within the Cairngorms National Park and the location of Geallaig Hill within the boundary of Invercauld Estate.
This is not the first time illegally-set spring traps have been found on Invercauld Estate. In 1997, a gamekeeper was fined £120 after admitting to illegally setting a spring trap to catch a rook (see here).
Spring traps can (currently) be used legally to catch stoats, weasels, rats etc BUT ONLY if they are placed inside a natural or artificial tunnel with a restricted entrance to minimise the risk of catching a non-target species. There are frequent reports of their illegal use on some shooting estates to trap birds of prey (e.g. set in the open next to a bait, or attached to the top of a post to turn them in to pole traps) – some recent examples can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and of course the recent and now infamous Mossdale Estate traps here.
There’s a lot to discuss about this latest crime, and we’ll be doing just that in a series of blogs later this afternoon.
In the meantime, well done to the two hill walkers who reported this crime, well done to the SSPCA Inspector for a quick response, well done to the Police Scotland wildlife crime officers for a quick, multi-agency follow up and search, and well done to RSPB Scotland for a timely press release.
UPDATE 2.30pm: Illegal traps on Invercauld Estate part 2 here
UPDATE 4.45pm: An astonishing statement from Invercauld Estate here
UPDATE 23 July 2016: SGA statement re: illegal traps found on Invercauld Estate here
The Angus Glens Moorland Group, part of the grouse shooting industry’s ludicrous propaganda campaign The Gift of Grouse, has been on a charm offensive.
They’ve recently hosted visits for three MSPs, who’ve all been taken for a ride across the Angus Glens grouse moors. The idea, presumably, was to depict grouse moor management techniques in a highly favourable light.
The three visiting politicians were Mairi Evans (SNP), Alex Johnstone (Conservative) and Liam Kerr (Conservative).
One of the three MSPs took to social media after his visit, and you can see the charm offensive had clearly worked on him:
To be fair to Liam Kerr, he can only go on what he was told/shown on the day. What a shame MSP Andy Wightman (Scottish Greens) wasn’t along for the ride. He undoubtedly would have had some uncomfortable questions for these estates. Questions like, ‘How do you explain the following?’:
2004 May, near Edzell: long-eared owl and two short-eared owls starved to death in crow cage trap. No prosecution.
2004 May, Invermark Estate: peregrine nest destroyed. No prosecution.
2006 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.
2006 April, Easter Ogil: poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.
2006 April, Easter Ogil: poisoned tawny owl (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.
2006 May, Glenogil Estate: poisoned rabbit bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.
2006 June, Glenogil Estate: poisoned woodpigeon bait (Carbofuran). No prosecution.
2006 June, Glenogil Estate: Traces of Carbofuran found in estate vehicles & on equipment during police search. No prosecution. Estate owner had £107k withdrawn from his farm subsidy payments. This was being appealed, but it is not known how this was resolved.
2006 July, Millden Estate; poisoned sheepdog (Lindane). No prosecution.
2007 November, Glenogil Estate: Disappearance of radio-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘Bird N’ coincides with tip off to police that bird allegedly been shot. No further transmissions or sightings of the bird.
2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned white-tailed eagle ‘White G’ (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.
2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned buzzard (Bendiocarb). No prosecution.
2008 May, ‘Nr Noranside’: poisoned mountain hare bait (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.
2008 May, Glenogil Estate: 32 x poisoned meat baits on fenceposts (Carbofuran, Isophenfos, Bendiocarb). No prosecution.
2008 October, ‘Glenogil Estate: poisoned meat bait on fencepost (Carbofuran). No prosecution.
2009 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.
2009 March, Glenogil Estate: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). No prosecution.
2009 April, Millden Estate: poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). No prosecution.
2009 July, Millden Estate: poisoned golden eagle ‘Alma’ (Carbofuran). No prosecution.
Back in June we blogged about a ‘Scarey Man Birdscarer’ that had been filmed on a grouse moor in the Angus Glens (see here).
Here’s another one, filmed approximately a mile away from the first one, also in June. (Thanks to the contributor who sent these videos).
And just in case these weren’t enough to scare off any prospecting hen harriers (or any other ground-nesting birds for that matter), here’s another set of banger ropes found hanging on a gatepost on the same estate. We’ve blogged about how these work here.
Criminal proceedings continued on 15 July 2016 against landowner Andrew Walter Bryce Duncan, who is alleged to be vicariously liable for the crimes committed by gamekeeper William (Billy) Dick in April 2014.
Gamekeeper Dick was convicted in August 2015 of killing a buzzard on the Newlands Estate, Dumfriesshire by striking it with rocks and repeatedly stamping on it (see here). Mr Dick was sentenced in September 2015 and was given a £2000 fine (see here). Mr Dick attempted to appeal his conviction but this was refused on 15 July 2016 (see here).
Here’s a quick review of the proceedings against Andrew Duncan so far:
Hearing #1 (18th August 2015): Trial date set for 23rd Nov 2015, with an intermediate diet scheduled for 20th Oct 2015.
Hearing #2 (20th October 2015): Case adjourned. November trial date dumped. Notional diet hearing (where a trial date may be set) scheduled for 18th January 2016.
Hearing #3 (18th January 2016): Case adjourned. Another notional diet & debate scheduled for 11th March 2016.
Hearing #4 (11th March 2016): Case adjourned, pending the result of gamekeeper Billy Dick’s appeal. Another notional diet scheduled for 4th April 2016.
Hearing #5 (4th April 2016): Case adjourned, pending the result of gamekeeper Billy Dick’s appeal. Another notional diet scheduled for 3rd June 2016.
Hearing #6 (3rd June 2016): Case adjourned, pending the result of gamekeeper Billy Dick’s appeal. Another notional diet scheduled for 17th June 2016.
Hearing #7 (17th June 2016): Case adjourned, pending the result of gamekeeper Billy Dick’s appeal. Another notional diet scheduled for 15th July 2016.
Hearing #8 (15 July 2016): Case adjourned. Another notional diet scheduled for 2 August 2016.
Vicarious liability in relation to the persecution of raptors in Scotland (where one person may potentially be legally responsible for the criminal actions of another person working under their supervision) came in to force four and a half years ago on 1st January 2012. To date there have been two successful convictions: one in December 2014 (see here) and one in December 2015 (see here). One further case did not reach the prosecution stage due, we believe, to the difficulties associated with identifying the management structure on the estate where the crimes were committed (see here).