Gamekeepers want sea eagles, kites, buzzards, sparrowhawks & ravens added to General Licences

Further to this morning’s blog about RSPB Scotland’s damning response to SNH’s General Licence consultation (see here), we said we’d write a separate blog about some of the other responses that SNH received.

SNH has now published all the responses, and they’re well worth a read: all-responses-to-snh-general-licence-consultation-2016

There are many organisations and individuals calling for ravens to be added to the General Licences (no surprise) and, yet again, there are a number of requests for buzzards and sparrowhawks to also be added, which would allow these species to be casually killed across Scotland without any monitoring or regulation, although some have suggested these raptors should be on ‘regional’ General Licences to limit the casual killing to a particular area. How thoughtful.

One of the reasons given for adding ravens and buzzards to the General Licences was this: “There are arguably too many of them around and they cloud the skies in our local area“.

Here’s a photograph of some ravens and buzzards clouding the skies:

Actually, this is a photograph (by Richard Barnes) of Dunlin flocking on the coast of North America but it could just as easily be a plague of swarming raptors over a Scottish grouse moor, if you happen to be a pathological raptor hater stuck with an 18th century attitude, that is.

Take a look at the consultation response from Garry MacLennan. Surely not the same Garry MacLennan, Head Gamekeeper at Invermark Estate? Aren’t raptors supposed to be ‘thriving’ there? Perhaps the headline should have read ‘Raptors are thriving on Scottish grouse moors and we want licences to kill them’.

Also have a look at the responses from Iain Hepburn (the same Iain Hepburn as the head gamekeeper at Dunmaglass Estate?), Duncan Mackenzie and Calum Kippen (the same Corrybrough Estate gamekeepers who attended the recent meeting between the Cairngorms National Park Authority & the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association?). Aren’t these the gamekeepers who want licences to monitor and ring raptors? Don’t they see a bit of a conflict of interest there if they also want licences to kill these raptors?

Best of all though, is the response from Bert Burnett (presumably of the SGA). Bert suggests that ravens should be added to the General Licences and argues that regional general licences “could be rolled out for various species that may start to cause problems like sea eagles and kites etc“. Ah yes, that very serious problem of sea eagles mistaking small children for prey.

Of course, these calls for licences to cull raptors are nothing new. Scottish (and English) gamekeepers and land owners have been asking for these for 20 years (see here, here, here, here, hereherehere). So far, SNH has resisted but given Natural England’s recent capitulation on buzzard-killing licences, how much longer before we see the same in Scotland?

28 Responses to “Gamekeepers want sea eagles, kites, buzzards, sparrowhawks & ravens added to General Licences”

  1. December 22, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    You might also like to comment on the Glen Tanar Facebook page where a couple of locals are suggesting that all raptors are killed by those people supposedly monitoring them…

  2. 2 Peter Shearer
    December 22, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    So the new enlightened gamekeepers are the same as the old unenlightened gamekeepers after all! That comes as a real shock!

  3. 3 Iain Buik
    December 22, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    As the crown office and Fiscals office do not have the bottle to procecute shooting, poisoning , trapping of birds of prey after all the meticulous investigations by police, what difference is a general licence to a gamekeeper who will continue to blast them out of the skies with minimal risk of being caught. The biggest deterant is getting more people out in the wilds monitoring what is going on, watch the keepers, the greatest problem is lack of evidence,lack of witnesses that will come forward and speak, the more people watching and reporting will certainly reduce the amount of bird of prey deaths.

  4. December 22, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    Be prepared for this to get a lot worse !

    Since many raptor species are now regaining much former territory & density, their enemies are feeling under pressure since their views & pressure from their employers [ the real enemy of raptors ] have not fundamentally changed.
    They have proved themselves well able to remove Hen harriers from Grouse moors, but the expansion of Goshawk, both Eagle species, Buzzard, Kite, Raven & others at the same time as bag – expectations being ridiculously high sets the scene for a period of increasing criminality.
    When all raptors were beaten back close to extinction by blanket keepering, the situation could be maintained without huge efforts.
    The annual output of young raptors now seeking range expansion means that the keepered estates now have a constant flow of raptors into them, also linked to the huge increase in forest cover in many surrounding areas.
    The drain on populations will be high in this scenario if the agencies , police etc do not fundamentally change their approach and we are not to see sink populations becoming even more prevalent.
    I remain optimistic however !
    After more than 40 years in raptor survey & protection I am astonished at how most species have increased exponentially from tiny populations with all the help & reduced environmental contamination that has occurred.
    The Grouse moors & some other driven game shoots are now fairly limited black holes in the raptor map compared to former times [ yes, really ! take a look at the relatively small size of the total area of rotationally burnt heather moorland in question on satellite maps !] & they will increasingly be under public & therefore political pressure in future.
    When I started monitoring Goshawk, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Honey buzzard & many others from the 1970’s onwards, I would not have dreamed that the current population levels were achievable within 4 or 5 decades.

    We have at a rough estimate some 10,000 more large raptors breeding in the UK [ not even including Buzzards or Ravens ] annually than at the time when I first started survey & protection work.

    Add on the increased non breeding & annually fledging numbers of over 20,000 & this is even more impressive.
    Yes, that is over 30,000 more large raptors in the UK at the end of the breeding season this year than in 1970 !

    This doesn’t include the other successes of Hobby, Sparrowhawk etc.

    Yes there are problems with numbers in 2 Harrier species, Kestrel & maybe Merlin.

    All should take heart looking at this outcome but of course……

    Keep up the pressure !

    • December 22, 2016 at 7:17 pm

      I can’t see any reason for optimism in the uplands. All the gains are in the lowlands and the uplands away from intensive grouse moors. One doesn’t balance out the other.
      I am deeply worried about the future especially as the government agencies appear to be infiltrated by the grouse lobby. The only hope is technology.

  5. 6 IDC
    December 22, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Just how dumb do you have to be to be a gamekeeper or worse a representative?

    • 7 crypticmirror
      December 22, 2016 at 7:50 pm

      Thick enough to believe mediaeval feudalism is the best way to run a society, given the amount of forelock tugging they have to do to the laird.

      • 8 Phil Senior
        December 25, 2016 at 9:33 pm

        !!!! Very sad, but very well said. How true. Whilst we have a bunch of cloned Royals who support this kind of mediaevalism it’s going to be a long haul into the 21st century for this tiny minority of throwbacks.

    • December 23, 2016 at 10:54 pm

      Basically, (note that BASC, scally and ill are included in that word – just an observation) the people involved in destroying our raptors have probably never really grasped what nature is about, they will not understand why other people see what they do as a problem. Something hasn’t ‘clicked’ in their grey matter to let them know of their wrongdoings. They see what they do as right, a behaviour that will have been ingrained in them since they were lads, perhaps following in their father’s footsteps. Similar to the bird killers in Malta, it will take a few generations, and much education, before grouse keepering is consigned to the history books.

  6. 10 fancystoats
    December 22, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    The attitude of these people really does beggar belief. Do they really believe that the rest of us, the landless peasants, etc should have no say over what happens to these birds and the land over which they range? These birds are there because of the unstinting efforts of people like sennen bottalack, because of the scientists that discovered the links between pesticide usage and raptor mortality and because of the people that campaigned for change and protection.

    While raptor populations north and south of the border have grown and contrinue to grow, we owe a debt of gratitude to those that made that happen. I, for one, will not stand by and let these gains be lost due to the arrogance and stupidity of the current occupiers of our land.

    These are OUR birds and they can’t have them!

  7. December 22, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    I know a pheasant shoot near me has licence to kill buzzards. buzzards get shot anyway but its just tooo quiet without them. a certain strata of society isn’t happy unless they are out killing wildlife. do people on here, want to see foxes shot?

  8. 15 Jimmy
    December 22, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Basically the keeper lobby want to legalise what most of them are doing anyway

  9. 16 Doug Malpus
    December 22, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    What have the shooting folk got instead of brains. The thought process is primed with a hate of anything that might take the odd bit of gun fodder. They all are prepared to say that what they do is sport and hunting. To me it is neither. It is a sick form of killing and only for greed and profit.

    We need to become a plague of people prepared to watch these criminals and record what they do and hopefully bring them to justice.

    It is long past time to get rid of driven game shooting and bring down this sadistic and wasteful way of killing for fun.

    In the summer I explored the West coast of Harris, Outer Hebrides for 8 days by sea kayak. In all that time I saw no raptors. This is the domain of a large shooting estate, is that the problem there?

    Around South Uist and Barra I was pleased to see Eagles of both species every day for 10 days, my best day was 5 white tailed eagles with 3 of them together (presumed youngster and two adults). Other species included peregrine and kestrel were quite common too.

    A sad world,


  10. 17 Nimby
    December 22, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    I can only conclude that SNH must be anti wildlife tourism then? One might also wonder if the wildlife slaughter income received into shooting estates is deemed to outweigh other (wildlife tourism) lost revenue?

    Shame on SNH but also on a Scottish Government prepared to allow SNH to step back into the dark ages of feudalism ….

    We have to push to see public funds for public benefit and private moorland should not be eligible unless perhaps a threshold criteria is achieved? This would be monitored by independent group with free access to all areas and the authority to invite other bona fide stakeholders to participate in legitimate survey & monitoring?

    Tragic but no real surprise, not what but who you know still?

  11. 18 Tony Warburton MBE
    December 23, 2016 at 12:07 am

    I want gamekeepers put on the General Licence too!

  12. 19 Iain Gibson
    December 23, 2016 at 1:52 am

    We need to treat this seriously, and to their credit RPUK already does so. However I worry slightly at the number of comments which treat this news as an opportunity just to sling mud at the game shooting industry, which could give an impression of mindless hatred. I must admit that I share the feelings of anger and frustration, and have probably been quite liberal at times in expressing these feelings.

    For at least 50 years now I have been critical of the RSPB’s, and other nature conservation bodies’ disproportionate attitude towards certain predators and scavengers, in particular foxes and crows. And for all these 50 years I have been completely ignored. The reputation of these animals has been so deeply rooted in society that even some devoted conservationists take for granted the belief that they have to be controlled to allow more benign species to survive. I keep hoping that RSPB et al will change this Victorian remnant of an attitude through time, but sadly just last week I read that the RSPB is committed to killing foxes and crows on one of their northern reserves, to assist the conservation of Curlews and other breeding wader species.

    The reputation attached to predators and scavengers is so deep-rooted that even serious scientists fail to question it, not only reinforcing the perception itself, but encouraging the shooting community to mention it at every opportunity. Scientific research and even carefully presented observations are seriously lacking, but those that do exist have almost all tended to show that the impact of foxes and crows is no more significant than that of magpies on songbird populations. Even the impact on agriculture is far less significant than imagined (and I use that term carefully) – foxes do not attack and kill healthy lambs, and crows’ predation of other birds’ eggs or nestlings has very little significant effect that cannot be mitigated by conservation management measures.

    The case of the Raven is a classic example of unjustified demonisation of a species. more to do with Edgar Allan Poe or Alfred Hitchcock than modern science. Large and black with a deep sinister voice, it is almost asking to be portrayed as a dark and ruthless killer. However sorry to disappoint the zombie-loving brigade, but the bird is far less sinister than it is usually portrayed. The late Derek Ratcliffe’s excellent monograph The Raven (1997) should be compulsory reading for all naturalists, gamekeepers and farmers, and the few available examples of modern observational studies quickly dispel the bird’s undeserved reputation.

    The recent scaremongering about vast flocks of Ravens descending onto fields of lambing ewes and killing their lambs is a gross exaggeration of reality. It has long been known that wandering flocks of immature birds will focus their foraging activities in discreet areas, not necessarily the same area from one year to the next. As yet unpublished observations have suggested that during the spring and early summer these flocks build in numbers at certain sites, while the surrounding countryside for miles can be virtually devoid of these non-breeding flocks. The tentative conclusion, based on considerable evidence, is that these large flocks congregate in areas with high densities of lambing ewes and field voles. Their foraging activity can be divided into feeding on afterbirths, scavenging lambs (or full-grown ewes) which have died of natural causes, and foraging in dense grass where field voles are plentiful. Field vole populations were particularly high across northern Britain between the mid 1980s and 2008, a period during which Buzzards, Kestrels, Short-eared Owls and even Hen Harriers thrived in areas lacking persecution by grouse shooting interests. The same applied to Ravens.

    Yet SNH naively believes the hype being promoted by shooting interests that Ravens, Buzzards, etc should be placed on the General Licence lists because their populations are overwhelming other areas of biodiversity. SNH has always been quick to claim that their policies are based on scientific evidence, so before they even start to proceed down the line of killing predators and scavengers, fresh scientific research is urgently needed to demonstrate that nature is far more resilient than man likes to give it credit for, and that temporary successes for certain species are evidence of natural fluctuations in populations rather than imaginary plagues caused by man’s lack of intervention. It’s clear that gamekeepers on being consulted by SNH have over-reacted to being threatened by scientists and conservationists calling for them to stop illegally killing raptors. It’s time to get our own house in order and remove all our own prejudices against predatory or scavenging animals. We need good science now more than ever before.

    • 20 Les Wallace
      December 26, 2016 at 9:41 am

      Brilliant piece Iain. The videos of raven’s ‘attacking’ sheep when they were almost certainly picking at the remains of afterbirths from a ewe’s rear end were laughable. Ravens like buzzards have committed the terrible crime of making a bit of a comeback. It seems the evidence for crows having a detrimental effect re others species is really, really slim, it’s just been traditional to kill them and because they were perceived as common was permitted. It also set a bloody awful precedent to allow angling interests to kill so many cormorants under the general license. With too few exceptions angling clubs are terrible at ripping out the cover fish need to feed, breed and hide in just so it’s a bit easier to cast a line. This must have a very negative effect on fish populations, but the cormorants get the blame. There should be a mandatory requirement for any water applying to kill cormorants to have a minimum area with weed beds, dead wood in water before it’s even considered. They can hardly rush to point the finger at a native predator when they have done so much ecological damage to the base of the food pyramid.

      No foxes on Mull, yet lamb mortality is the same me as on the mainland. I’ve seen a run full of dead chickens after a fox got in, but I knew that was going to happen because the whole construction was not fox proof from the beginning. The same farm had a terrible problem with rabbits biting through irrigation piping, yet foxes were shot for….being foxes. The case for predator control is a lot weaker than it’s usually considered and gets very small indeed when we get back a wider range of predators, but of course who hates the thought of the return of goshawk, sea eagle and lynx?

  13. December 23, 2016 at 9:09 am


    Another thoughtful and well-informed post. It’s me, Alick Simmons again. We need a public debate to find an alternative to what passes for wildlife ‘management’ in this country. Decisions cannot be left to unaccountable land occupiers and I advocate a framework to govern decision-making supported by evidence and involving the citizen.

    You might like to read this: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_g1ylsLQa95TXVoRWJpc0ozWm8/view?usp=drivesdk. Let me know what you think.

    Merry Christmas.

  14. December 23, 2016 at 9:21 am

    Whilst at one level calls to legitimise the killing of kites, eagles etc is bad news, I suspect that if the shooting fraternity keep up such pressure then they may well find that they have just “jumped the shark”. Insulated by their particular social circle and feeling untouchable, in part thanks to their influence in parliament, I think that they fail to realise just how strong is the distaste for their sport in the wider society (and not just amongst urbanites). The idea of allowing the legalisation of the wholesale slaughter of birds of prey runs so fundamentally against the founding tenets of the RSPB that they will have no choice but to fully mobilise their membership and the public to campaign strenuously against such a measure. The gloves will have to come off on both sides rather than, as at present, just one. Pushing for widespread killing of protected raptors will also fundamentally undermine the claim that gamekeepers et al are the ‘guardians of the countryside’, ‘true conservationists’, etc. and bring still further focus on illegal killings. In short, I think that the backlash against such proposals will be far stronger than the field sports lobby realises and that, ultimately, the vox populi will win that fight.

  15. December 23, 2016 at 9:34 am

    So what these people are saying is “we are really successful at hosting raptors on the land we manage, we love raptors (Gift of Grouse nonsense). In fact, so successful we need to kill them all (Genera Licence consultation).”

    Freddy Mercury was right. Too much love can kill you.

  16. 24 Marc F
    December 23, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    And we all know what we think about gamekeepers…😡😡

  17. 25 Muriel green
    December 23, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    Scottish Government are very obviously appeasing land owners and sporting estates.
    There can be very few people that don’t actually know the truth about the extent of killing of protected wildlife.

    The credibility of the police and SNH continues to be seriously damaged by their obvious reluctance to admit or deal with the issue.

    This is only going to get worse for them as technology advances and becomes cheaper.

    60 to 80 golden eagles are illegally killed in Scotland every year.

    This can only be denied and ignored for so long.

    Larson trapsvhad to undergo stringent testing before being approved. Clam traps have been permitted for use with very little testing. Injury or breaking feathers or specialist again hunters will most certainly have and impact.

  18. 26 Karen White
    December 23, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    What a sad and backward world this is when animals are still being killed for fun. Species have gone extinct in this generation more than any other.

  19. December 23, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    The more I read this blog, and Mark Avery’s too, the more despondent I become about the future of our nature.
    Who are these outfits that include the word ‘Natural’ in their title?
    Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural England; it appears to me that they do everything possible to help the cause of the grouse shooting industry, and other game shooting interests.
    For that is exactly what it is; an industry; the production of goods or related services within an economy, in this case surplus numbers of gamebirds.
    And, of course, the government is there to help industry to proliferate, and if that means that nature gets in the way of industry then it is hard luck nature.
    Under the present system of government I do not believe that the UK’s nature will ever feature highly on the agenda, in fact it features quite the opposite, lowly.
    One fine day, perhaps in the distant future, we will look upon these ‘wildlife unfriendly’ times as a travesty, in the same way we see racism and child abuse, but when that time comes it may well be too late as we will have lost much of our natural heritage.
    Scottish Unnatural Heritage and Unnatural England are more apt titles for these industry-pushing public bodies.
    Merry Christmas everyone.

  20. 28 Janet pearson
    December 23, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Some cruel people want to kill any creature that moves. These cresturesums have right to live. Badgers are needlessly murdered. TB is prevalent in countries where the banger doesn’t exist. Foxes are bred and let loose by the horrible hunting brigade. They love to see foxes ripped to pieces whatever has happened. ?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog Stats

  • 7,516,845 hits


Our recent blog visitors