Paltry Fine for Cabrach Estate Gamekeeper who Shot Trapped Buzzards

According to a report in the Press and Journal, on 27 April 2006 a gamekeeper on the Cabrach Estate in NE Scotland shot two buzzards he had caught in a crow trap and was seen burying them down a nearby rabbit hole. The keeper, David Scott, was subsequently charged and due to the seriousness of the offence, the matter was fast-tracked by the Fiscal. He appeared at Egin Sheriff court in May 2006, pleaded guilty and was fined a paltry £200 when potentially the fine could have been ten times this level.

Apparently an additional 11 buzzards that had been shot were found buried in rabbit holes near the crow trap, according to the RSPB’s 2006 Annual Persecution Report.

From the Press & Journal, 9 May 2006 (written by Raymond Shewan):

A Gamekeeper shot two buzzards which had become caught in a trap designed to control crow numbers, Elgin Sheriff Court heard yesterday.

It was claimed that David Scott, 40, killed the protected birds of prey rather than risk injury trying to release them.

His solicitor, William Park, said Scott now realised he had not chosen the right course of action in shooting them.

Fiscal depute Geoff Main told the court that witnesses walking on the Cabrach estate, near Dufftown, had seen a trap containing two crows and two buzzards and had watched as Scott drove up in a Land Rover before shooting the buzzards and disposing of them in rabbit holes.

Mr Park said Scott was an under-keeper on the estate which had a serious problem with carrion crows and hooded crows killing the chicks of ground-nesting birds, including grouse.

The estate had given its keepers permission to trap crows and it had seven traps which were designed to lure them with a live decoy.

On April 25 Scott, of the Kennels, Cabrach Lodge, had checked one of the traps and found two buzzards which had found their way in, attracted by rabbit bait put down for crows.

Mr Park said Scott, who admitted two charges of breaking wildlife and countryside legislation by intentionally killing the buzzards, was in a situation where he had to make a choice of what to do.

He said one option would have been to open the trap and release the birds, but that would also have meant releasing the crows.

Alternatively, he could have gone into the trap – which measured 6ft by 6ft by 5ft – to manually remove the buzzards, although Mr Park claimed that would have put him at some risk of “significant harm”.

“In the circumstances, he elected to shoot the birds,” said Mr Park. “He realises the decision he took was a serious error of judgment on his part and one he must accept responsibility for. He realises that such offences can provoke strong feelings, but there was no cruel intent or malice on his part.”

Sheriff Robert Brodie said he found it difficult to understand Scott’s decision to shoot two protected birds.
He noted that Scott was a first offender and fined him £200


Eight years earlier, police raids in February and March 1998 reportedly revealed widespread poisoning across the estate – 10 rabbits, 6 pigeons, 6 grouse and 2 hares were laced with the lethal poison Carbofuran and laid out on the hill. Three illegal pole traps and an owl whose legs had been smashed by a trap were also reportedly found, along with a dead peregrine in the back of the estate’s landrover. Tests revealed the peregrine had been poisoned with Carbofuran. The head gamekeeper was convicted at Elgin Sheriff Court in October 1998 and was fined £700.

The estate is reportedly owned by multi-millionaire Christopher Moran, a businessman with an interesting past. See here for details.

2 Responses to “Paltry Fine for Cabrach Estate Gamekeeper who Shot Trapped Buzzards”

  1. 1 Dave Dick
    March 5, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    One of the most shameful aspects of this case was that the court accepted without comment the gamekeeper’s mitigation that he had to shoot the buzzards which were caught in his crow cage [a very common side effect of these totally indiscriminate traps] because he was afraid they would attack him if he went in!!…Cycnical or what?…this should forever be known as “the wimps excuse”.

    A bird ringer needs a licence and years of experience to work a live trap to catch, ring and release birds of prey…a gamekeeper needs only tell the police he is using such traps on his estate or shoot.

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