The illegal killing of birds of prey in the Cairngorms National Park

Many people think of the Cairngorms National Park as a wildlife haven. It’s what many expect of a National Park; indeed, it’s what we should all expect of a National Park.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) promotes it as such (this screen grab taken from the CNPA website):


But just how much of a ‘wildlife haven’ is it?

Here’s the gruesome reality.

The following list, which we’ve compiled from various data sources but predominantly from the RSPB’s annual persecution reports, documents over 60 illegal raptor persecution incidents inside the Cairngorms National Park (CNP) since 2002. (The Park wasn’t formally established until 2003 but we’ve included 2002 data as the area had been mapped by then). This list includes just the crimes we know about. How many more went unreported/undiscovered?


Feb: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Tomintoul

Mar: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + 2 rabbit baits. Cromdale


Apr: 3 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + 2 grey partridge baits. Kingussie, CNP

Jun: Attempted shooting of a hen harrier. Crannoch, CNP


May: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cuaich, CNP

Nov: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Cromdale, CNP

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale, CNP


Feb: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale, CNP

Feb: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale, CNP

Mar: 3 x poisoned buzzards, 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Crathie, CNP


Jan: 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Dulnain Bridge, CNP

May: 1 x poisoned raven (Mevinphos). Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

May: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Morven [corbett], CNP

May: 1 x poisoned raven + 1 x poisoned common gull (Aldicarb) + egg bait. Glenbuchat, CNP

May: egg bait (Aldicarb). Glenbuchat, CNP

Jun: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Glenfeshie, CNP


Jan: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Glenshee, CNP

Apr: Illegally set spring trap. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

May: Pole trap. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

May: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Tomintoul, CNP

May: Illegally set spring trap. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Jun: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit & hare baits. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Jun: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Jul: 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Ballater, CNP

Sep: 1 x shot buzzard. Newtonmore, CNP

Sep: 1 x shot buzzard. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP


Jan: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Nr Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Mar: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Nr Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Nr Grantown-on-Spey, CNP


May: 2 x poisoned ravens (Mevinphos). Delnabo, CNP

Jun: rabbit bait (Mevinphos). nr Tomintoul, CNP

Jun: 1 x shot buzzard. Nr Strathdon, CNP

Jun: 1 x illegal crow trap. Nr Tomintoul, CNP


Apr: Pole trap. Nr Dalwhinnie, CNP

Jun: 1 x pole-trapped goshawk. Nr Dalwhinnie, CNP

Jun: Illegally set spring trap on tree stump. Nr Dalwhinnie, CNP

Sep: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Glenlochy, CNP

Oct: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Nr Boat of Garten, CNP


Jan: 1 x shot buzzard. Nr Bridge of Brown, CNP

Mar: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Glenbuchat, CNP

Apr: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran & Aldicarb). Nr Bridge of Brown, CNP

May:  1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Glenbuchat, CNP

May: 1 x shot short-eared owl, found stuffed under rock. Glenbuchat, CNP

Jun: 1 x shot peregrine. Pass of Ballater, CNP

Aug: grouse bait (Aldicarb). Glenlochy, CNP

Sep: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon, CNP

Nov: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon, CNP


Apr: 1 x shot short-eared owl. Nr Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Apr: Peregrine nest site burnt out. Glenshee, CNP

May: Buzzard nest shot out. Nr Ballater, CNP


Jan: White-tailed eagle nest tree felled. Invermark, CNP

May: 1 x shot hen harrier. Glen Gairn, CNP

May: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat, CNP


Apr: Satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat, CNP

May: Armed masked men shoot out a goshawk nest. Glen Nochty, CNP


Sep: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Lad’ found dead, suspected shot. Newtonmore, CNP


May: 1 x shot goshawk. Strathdon, CNP

Jun: Illegally set spring traps. Invercauld, CNP

In addition to the above list, two recent scientific publications have documented the long-term decline of breeding peregrines on grouse moors in the eastern side of the National Park (see here) and the catastrophic decline of breeding hen harriers, also on grouse moors in the eastern side of the Park (see here).

And let’s not forget the on-going massacre of mountain hares, taking place annually within the boundary of the National Park (e.g. see here, here).

So, who still thinks the Cairngorms National Park is a ‘wildlife haven’?

With over 40% of the National Park covered by driven grouse moors, it’s anything but. The next blog will explore how the Cairngorms National Park Authority has failed, so far, to effectively address the illegal killing of birds of prey, but there is a small chink of light ahead…..more shortly.

UPDATE 7/9/16: How to stop the illegal persecution of raptors in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

29 Responses to “The illegal killing of birds of prey in the Cairngorms National Park”

  1. 1 Leslie Etheridge
    September 6, 2016 at 11:59 am

    For Cairngorms National Park Authority read Cairngorms National Persecution Authority.

  2. 2 Mr Greer Hart, senior
    September 6, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    The Elephant, the Rhino, the Lion are three of the iconic animals facing extinction in the wild in the next 20 years, and there has been a massive outcry against this attritional “war” against wildlife in other countries. Even Austalia has a threat to the magnificent Cassowary in the Daintree Forest, due to hunters’ dogs running rampant and killing the young birds. Trophy shooting from the Trumps and hunting with bows freeks are taking their toll of the Big Game species, and pet traffickers and animal products for human needs procurers, are ransacking the forests of Asia and leaving them bird silent and empty of monkeys, pangolins and anything that a price on it.

    But what about glorious Scotland, so much boasted about with its Golden Eagles and other land wildlife, plus our rich marine wildlife treasures. BUT, waith a minute, the slaughter in the Cairngorm National Park is a disgrace for a supposedly advanced thinking country, with the killing of our Birds of Prey, Mountain Hares etc., flagrantly and illegally so. Our shooting equivalents of the persecuters of wildlife elsewhere on this vale of tears planet, run the roost and have done so for far too long. In the past, the Scottish people were compliant to this rural barbarity of the gamekeeper in his role of exterminating angel, but there is no excuse now – all has been revealed about what goes on on what should be publicly owned landscape. The present government has proved useless in redressing this suppression of wildlife to suit the shooting “industry” and its debateable best use of land case for its continued existence. Its politicians are always ranting about what they are going to diversify the economy and create jobs and growth. Well, why not thell the shooters to buzz off where cannot adhere to the law on wildlife conservation, and allow the innovative/creative individuals who could make a better and more humane use of our heritage. A start would be to expel the presence of these characters from the Cairngorm National Park, and an investigation set up to see what connection they have with local politicians and others who are obviously working to maintain vile blood sports to the detriment of Scotland’s reputation as a hard trying to become humanely run nation.

  3. September 6, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    Another brilliant post by RPUK.
    It just occurred to me that there isn’t a wikipeia page for you guys.
    Perhaps the blog is enough but posts like this could be highlighted.

  4. 9 BSA
    September 6, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    It’s great to see you challenging the CNPA’s complacent and shoddy marketing of Scotland’s environment.

  5. 10 steve macsweeney
    September 6, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    It’s a bloody disgrace! How much worse could it be.Well done RPUK for constantly making us aware.
    Gamekeepers are the dogshit we scrape off our shoes.

  6. 11 Chris Roberts
    September 6, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    Living in the CNP this blog is close to my heart so thank you RPUK, for bringing to light what is an absolute disgrace. Birds of prey, once seen over the Aviemore area are now conspicuous by their absence, so on the east side of the park the situation is surely even worse. All driven grouse moors should be banned, but to tolerate them in a national park is beyond comprehension. However until governments are prepared to legislate on these killing fields – what hope is there?

  7. 12 Secret Squirrel
    September 6, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    I’ve said it before but ”National Park’ is simply a marketing and planning mechanism. I didn’t think we needed them in Scotland and I still don’t. The increasing restrictions on freedoms in the Lomond and Trossachs park point to this. Before long, I expect to see restrictions designed to prevent pesky naturalists from accessing parts the landowners don’t want us to see on grounds of ‘public safety’ or ‘preserving the landscape’

  8. 13 Jim duke
    September 6, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    Zero tolerance for the morons that think this is fun–where is anything safe and protected nowadays. Stop it!!! Bloody disgrace.

  9. 14 against feudalism
    September 6, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    On the couple of occasions I have contacted the CNPA, when asked about wildlife crime, and the massacre of hares, their reply was that ” we don’t own the land, so there is nothing we can do ” I do not believe that is true, rather, that the will from senior management, is not there ? How much does this paper exercise cost us ?

    Raptors have completely disappeared from the eastern side of the park, and yet the estates are hoovering up increasing amounts of subsidy and rural development grant money, WE are paying for the complete extinction of our wildlife, so that sick individuals can shoot other wildlife, and farmed pheasant…… remind me, what century is this ?

    Time to ban ALL shooting in the national parks, if not across Scotland. Ban all ‘gamekeepers’, wildlife crime 90+% sorted.

    If you have not come across it, there is a very good blog, looking at the Scottish national parks,


    • 15 Alex Milne
      September 6, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      I too have contacted CPNA and was pleasantly surprised at the response. They have made several strong statements and contacted estates directly, as previously noted by RPUK. I agree that they could do more, but they are by far the best of all the UK national parks, all of whom are similarly affected by persecution. I believe Grant Moir is acting so strongly at present that the Park Authority Board may try to curb him.
      He is hampered by the SNP government who seem to rate the employment on grouse moors well above the raptor persecution. If only their statements were as strongly worded and took some meaningful action…

      • 16 against feudalism
        September 6, 2016 at 8:46 pm

        With respect Alex, strong statements have achieved nothing. They have been having meetings, issuing statements, condemning wildlife crimes for 10 years now….. and NOTHING CHANGES ?

        When you say ” and contacted estates directly “, who are they contacting ? very few estate owners actually live on the estate, few live in Scotland, some indeed, hide behind offshore trusts etc. So the only point of contact is the factor, so that the important owners do not have to bother with mundane people and things, they are hired lackeys, who’s only job is to make money, they really don’t care, and as I said……. NOTHING CHANGES ?

        The factors used to shake their heads, and mutter ‘one or two bad apples’, and then go back to their business of extermination, now, they are muttering ‘wildlife extremists’, and continuing with the extermination….. and the park issues a ‘strong statement’ ?

        What are we getting for our money ? a few ‘pretty’ signs, a few footpaths, an extra, un-needed, unwanted and unaccountable layer of planning, and a bunch of overpaid, apologist, bureaucrats. Wildlife crime has accelerated in the last 10 years .

        There are scientists and conservationists there, who are I am sure, appalled at what is going on, but they cannot change things it seems. Roseanna Cunningham needs to take the CNPA, and shake all the deadwood out.

        The park have had 10 years, and achieved nothing, sack the lot of them. An estate that is committing wildlife crime, is a criminal, not a ‘stakeholder’

        RPUK…. if this is too ‘strong’, please feel free to edit :) thanks.

      • 17 Marco McGinty
        September 7, 2016 at 1:42 am

        “He is hampered by the SNP government who seem to rate the employment on grouse moors well above the raptor persecution. If only their statements were as strongly worded and took some meaningful action…”

        They have introduced Vicarious Liability and there is also the recently enacted Land Reform. They are also considering a licencing system for shooting estates, they are considering granting the SSPCA additional investigatory powers, and they held a poisons amnesty.

        That would suggest that they are taking raptor persecution with a hint of seriousness.

  10. 18 AnMac
    September 6, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    I think a move should be made to entice the large estates to move away from the ‘shooting’ fraternity as a money earner and think about changing it to ‘wildlife’ safari type tourism.
    As someone who has spent much of my life doing this I know that there are people out there who would ‘pay’ to come to Scotland from abroad (they already do) and enjoy our mountain landscapes with it’s associated birds and animals.
    There already exists many small companies who advertise this type of holiday so the problem would be how can the estate owners and they co-exist.
    There may well be a way forward for the estate owners supplying the habitat and wildlife and the wildlife experts conducting the tours. I am sure this is what happens in other parts of the world.
    It is certainly something to think about for the future.

    • 19 Marco McGinty
      September 7, 2016 at 12:24 pm

      “I think a move should be made to entice the large estates to move away from the ‘shooting’ fraternity as a money earner and think about changing it to ‘wildlife’ safari type tourism.”

      I’ve been saying this for years. They could adopt the walked up system of shooting (whilst maintaining the same pricing structures as they have for driven grouse shooting), and allow for wildlife tourism opportunities, raptor watch points, wildlife hides, etc.

      This would only increase their revenues, not to mention the additional rural employment potential, but alas, their outdated views of wildlife, their wanton desire to kill as many things as possible in any given year, and their sheer hatred of predators, means that very few will make the sensible changes.

  11. 20 Karen Lupton
    September 6, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    I was recently lucky enough to be taken high up into the highlands near Ballater in a 4×4. The place was awash with wildlife…..well, red grouse!! Other than a couple of ptarmigan there was nothing else to be seen. Eagles, osprey and sea eagles all conspicuous in their absence. Heartbreaking and, frankly, an embarrassment.

  12. 21 Dylanben
    September 6, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Last night I watched a recording of one of the programmes featuring the Highlands, recently broadcast by the BBC. It featured the CNP and showed some superb footage of wildlife. However, there wasn’t a single hint of the persecution problems which wildlife has faced in the area for decades, if not longer. I can understand the producers of such programmes wishing to steer clear of controversy for a variety of reasons. It is time, however, for the false impression purveyed by such programmes to be balanced up by some serious, challenging footage showing what things are really like though – to be honest – I’m not sure who would take it on.

  13. 22 Damion Willcock
    September 6, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    Another excellent post RPUK. So Scotland’s greatest national park cannot prevent illegal slaughter of iconic species. A disgrace.

  14. 23 Jimmy
    September 6, 2016 at 11:35 pm

    Its like those parks you here about in African war zones that have been cleaned out by poachers and other criminals. The only difference here is that the criminals are better resourced and connected

  15. 24 janetjohnson20
    September 7, 2016 at 9:39 am

    Scotland is considered a worthwhile tourist destination because of its beautiful scenery and its wonderful wildlife. I for one do not want to visit again while this wanton destruction is being allowed to continue. It has changed my feelings towards Scotland and I am sure is similarly affecting other would be visitors. This is a great shame for the many people who make their living through tourism, most of whom probably don’t agree with the killing. If the government wont take action on any other basis then the financial aspect needs to hit home. Why destroy one of your prime assets?

    • 25 Jimmy
      September 7, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      Well between this and plastering windfarms everywhere its certainly dented my enthusiasm for visiting the place seeking a genuine wilderness/wildlife experience

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