09
Mar
17

1,000 birds killed despite General Licence Restriction at Raeshaw Estate / Corsehope Farm

Regular blog readers will know that in November 2015, SNH issued two General Licence restriction orders on the Raeshaw Estate and neighbouring Corsehope Farm in the Scottish Borders (see here). This was in response to alleged raptor persecution crimes (see here), although there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a prosecution and the estates have denied any responsibility.

The General Licence restriction orders were supposed to last for three years, starting 13 November 2015 and ending 12 November 2018. However, since being implemented, these restriction orders have been on and off as Raeshaw Estate mounted a legal challenge against their use. This legal challenge resulted in a judicial review, which was heard in January 2017, and we await the court’s findings.

Meanwhile, unbelievably, SNH issued two so-called ‘individual licences’ (see here) – one to Raeshaw Estate and one to Corsehope Farm, allowing the gamekeepers to continue the activities they would have undertaken had the General Licence restriction orders not been imposed (i.e. killing so-called ‘pest’ bird species). In our view (here) this was a ludicrous move because it totally undermined the supposed ‘sanction’ of the General Licence restriction. RSPB Scotland shared our view (see here).

SNH responded by saying the individual licences represented “robust regulation” (see here) and argued that the use of the individual licences would be “closely monitored” and that the gamekeepers would be “under tighter supervision” than they would have been if using a General Licence (see here).

As a reminder, here are copies of the two individual licences:

Raeshaw Estate individual licence here (valid 10 June 2016 – 31 December 2016)

Corsehope Farm individual licence here (valid 1 July 2016 – 31 December 2016)

As a condition of each individual licence, the estates had to submit to SNH, within one month of the licence expiry date, a log of all activities undertaken under each licence.

Last month we submitted an FoI to SNH asking for copies of these logs, as well as asking for details of the number of visits SNH staff  had made to the two estates to check for licence compliance (you know, that ‘close monitoring’ and ‘tight supervision’ SNH had been promising). What we discovered validates all our earlier concerns about this so-called ‘sanction’.

Here are the two logs submitted to SNH by the gamekeepers, detailing what species they’d killed, where, and when. The first log is for three crow cage traps placed on Raeshaw Estate and the second log relates to a single crow cage trap situated on Corsehope Farm (believed to be operated by Raeshaw Estate gamekeepers):

In total 294 rooks and 706 jackdaws were killed between 19 July and 25 August 2016. This amounts to 1,000 birds.

SNH staff undertook one compliance check visit for each estate. Both visits took place on 25 August 2016. The visit to Raeshaw Estate took 2.5 hours and the visit to Corsehope Farm lasted for one hour.

We’ve mapped the position of the four crow cage traps (note that the grouse moor at Raeshaw Estate lies directly to the west of these traps (the dark brown area).

These findings raise a number of questions and further concerns:

  1. The licence returns only refer to two species of birds that were caught and killed using four crow cage traps. Are we to believe that no other form of avian ‘pest control’ took place on either land holding between 10 June and 31 December 2016 (the duration of the individual licences)?
  2. For what ‘purpose’ were 294 rooks and 706 jackdaws killed? According to the individual licences (see above), the purpose was to “Prevent serious damage to livestock, foodstuff for livestock, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, fisheries or inland water” and in the case of the Corsehope Farm individual licence, also to “prevent the spread of disease“. Can SNH explain the specific purpose of allowing these birds to be lawfully killed (i.e. if it was to protect livestock, what was the livestock and what threats do rooks and jackdaws pose? If it was to protect crops, what sort of crop and what threats do rooks and jackdaws pose? etc etc).
  3. What steps did SNH take to ensure that these 1,000 birds were not killed in order for the estates to produce artificially high densities of gamebirds for shooting? (This would be illegal).
  4. Why were 294 rooks allowed to be killed when this species has suffered a 37% decline in Scotland between 1995-2014, which would trigger a formal Amber listing if the listing criteria were applied at a Scottish level instead of a UK level (as pointed out to SNH by RSPB Scotland here)?
  5. Does SNH believe that one visit (per estate) for the duration of these six-month long individual licences equates to “close monitoring“, “tighter supervision” and “robust regulation“. If so, how?
  6. What did SNH staff do on their 2.5 hour visit to Raeshaw Estate? Did they just visit the three known crow cage traps or did they search the rest of this 9,000 acre estate to search for unlicensed (and thus illegal) traps?
  7. What did SNH staff do on their one hour visit to Corsehope Farm? Did they just visit the one known crow cage trap or did they search the rest of this farm for unlicensed (and thus illegal) traps?
  8. Are we still expected to believe that a General Licence restriction order is an effective sanction for alleged raptor persecution crimes, and if so, how?

We’ll be asking these questions to the SNH licensing team. If you want to join in, here’s their email address: licensing@snh.gov.uk

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57 Responses to “1,000 birds killed despite General Licence Restriction at Raeshaw Estate / Corsehope Farm”


  1. 1 lothianrecorder
    March 9, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    Fascinating, had no idea these estates were such a massive sink for corvids; NB – in Lothian we did a full rookery survey in 2013, this found 6555 AON, a 21% decline from the previous full survey in 1975. Ray Murray did similiar in Peebleshire (Borders) and found 3494 AON, a 29% decline; NT44 was in neither of above, but immediately adjacent to both.

    Views on Rook impact on agriculture have varied, these are some words from my species account for our South-east Scotland tetrad atlas:

    “While shooting no doubt continues, the evidence from other corvid species suggests that “vermin” persecution in the wider countryside has been generally diminishing in recent years (cf. Magpie expansion to agricultural areas, and health of population of Carrion Crow). Rooks are of course a rather different case, perhaps treated more favourably due to their acknowledged beneficial effects in consuming agricultural pests, despite being “big black birds” which seem to be uniformly disliked by gamekeepers. Historically, views on the value of “control” have consequently been mixed. Some literature notes that due to its perceived beneficial effects on crops the Rooks was less heavily persecuted than other corvids in the nineteenth century (Historical Atlas). Indeed D’Urban & Matthew (1892) mentioned that in Devon some landowners had found it necessary to re-establish the species after finding that their crops failed in the absence of pest control provided by Rooks. The BTO study immediately post-war, which gave rise to the 1944-46 census, was also motivated by the desire to better understand the Rook’s impact on agriculture and whether anything should be done about it (Fisher 1947). The report concluded that the Rook did indeed do more harm than good, although harm was greater at some times of the year than others, but considered that the harm was insufficient to warrant any control measures. Little et al. (2001) consider its effect on agriculture as probably neutral, “taking not only newly-sown crops, cereals and vegetables, but also their invertebrate pests”. Several authors note that when persecution is undertaken at colonies, effects might briefly affect those localities but these will often be restocked from elsewhere and there is unlikely to be any significant impact on populations at national scale (Gimona & Brewer 2006, Marchant & Gregory 1999).”

    It would be helpful to have some historical data on numbers trapped, so far I have been working in a complete vacuum regarding this type of control, all we normally have is purely anecdotal…

  2. 2 Dave Dick
    March 9, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    The neighbouring farmers should be suitably appalled – jackdaws and rooks amongst the best insect pest controllers they’ve got. Do we believe these figures though?….a cynic might think they were exaggerated to make them look effective and that they had a real “corvid problem”. No carrion crows caught??.We all know they are very effective raptor catchers, particularly for the common buzzard – no record of those captures of course. A total useless shambles of a licensing system….and like many european countries, these traps should be banned anyway.

    • 3 lothianrecorder
      March 9, 2017 at 3:47 pm

      >> Do we believe these figures though?

      This is a good question! In the 20 tetrads on lower ground in NT44 the peak counts from breeding atlas (2007-13) sum to 424 birds, an average of 21 per tetrad, so they are certainly fairly numerous in the area, no evidence of a local depression on the abundance map. None were recorded in the 5 tetrads on higher ground, including those south of Raeshaw NT44A-D…

    • 4 lothianrecorder
      March 9, 2017 at 7:13 pm

      I’ve had a look at the Carrion Crow data for NT44, the sum of the peak tetrad counts during breeding season is 138 individuals, present in all 25 tetrads (and probable/confirmed breeding in 20, not the 5 on high ground) so about 1/3 as numerous as Jackdaw, but less prone to flocking obviously…

  3. March 9, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    The more you learn about driven grouse moors the worse it gets.
    I second DD, no Carrion Crows is hard to believe.

  4. 6 Gordon Milward
    March 9, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    I would really like to know about the reply you get.

    • March 9, 2017 at 3:58 pm

      Hi Gordon,

      We’ll be publishing any response we get.

      You can also email them yourself and ask them the same questions or pose different questions. The more correspondence SNH receives about this, the better.

  5. 8 BSA
    March 9, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    In my experience they have always killed rooks and jackdaws in large numbers at crow traps so these figures are quite believable. They could also however just be trying to wind people up with their outrageous behaviour. You are dealing with, in every respect, pretty low grade people in an industry with no professional standards so you need very tight regulation to avoid this kind of shambles. Little chance of that though.

  6. 9 Simon Tucker
    March 9, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    Given how pro-EU Scotland is supposed to be – what are they doing allowing these derogations from the Birds and Habitats directives? General Licences should be scrapped and in their place landowners / gamekeeprs should have to prove up front that they have a specific problem with a specific bird / mammal and apply for a specific control order for that one bird or mammal.

    Killing of wildlfie for no good reason is endemic in the farming and keeping communities and there needs to be a proper re-education of the sick souls who are lucky enough to earn their living from the land.

  7. 10 Keith Morton
    March 9, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Like other folk leaving comments here, I was also struggling to put these figures in context (i.e. no carrion crows? – no reported by-catch? – is this a typical catch of social corvids wherever these types of trap are used right across Scotland? – and many other thoughts including, yes, are they bigging up the numbers for some strange purpose?) By rights, this ought to stir SNH into action to get their licensing game in order, but there is no sign that they have any intention of addressing the ever more obvious gaping holes in their approach. To highlight just one of many, many issues raised by the GL shambles, if this level of killing is typical of CCT operations country-wide, it ought to make SNH reconsider their persistent refusal to require returns from GL users. They otherwise appear to have no concern whatever about what are potentially huge levels of additional mortality, facilitated by their own licensing system, but which they have no interest in measuring. That policy looks ever more untenable. But don’t hold your breath, complacency and obfuscation will no doubt continue to be the order of the day.

  8. March 9, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    I’ve sent off an email to licensing at SNH as you suggest with a few amendments. I’ve also added the following question: “Can you supply data to show that such “serious damage” has occurred previously at these two locations, such that a licence to kill 1000 birds was warranted?” It seems to me that some grounds for issuing these licences should be present, rather than just “we always do it and can we have a licence please?”

  9. March 9, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    it seems logical that in addition to the numbers killed, they should be able to say what the original population was and what the population now is. They should specifically be able to quantify the problem including the financial cost. Then they should be presenting there scare/deterrence strategy and explain why its not working.

    Of course, as good conservation managers they would naturally have a target population density… which of course could not be zero as they are only trying to control, not extinguish.

    The GL approach is a joke. BUT this non-restriction, coupled with virtually zero oversight and appalling level of reporting is an INTERNATIONAL embarrassment.

    Roseanna, we don’t have to keep Westminster’s standards, lets keep pace with the rest of the world.

  10. 13 Winston Roberts
    March 9, 2017 at 6:27 pm

    RPUK – I would also add to your second point that, in addition to providing information on the purpose for granting the licences, Section 16 (1A)(a) of W&C A 1981 requires that the authority must not grant the licence “unless it is satisfied that, as regards that purpose, there is no other satisfactory solution”. How did SNH satisfy itself that no other satisfactory solution was available?

    Not a great point admittedly but the answer may demonstrate what possible alternative solutions are available. If such a situation arose again, if there was sufficient support, it may be worthwhile obtaining an Opinion from an Advocate to see if Judicial Review against the decision to grant the licence would be feasible. I appreciate that there has been supportive comments from Roseanna Cunningham about addressing wildlife crime but I think the most direct action for change is court action.

    • March 9, 2017 at 6:38 pm

      “How did SNH satisfy itself that no other satisfactory solution was available?” is an excellent point, thank you.

      • 15 lizzybusy
        March 10, 2017 at 10:21 pm

        I don’t know if the licence principles are the same in Scotland but in England …

        According to the Licence Consultation document issued by Natural England in 2014:

        “Licences are only issued for specified purposes which are set down in the
        relevant legislation and only if certain specific criteria are met. Natural England
        applies five general principles to all its licensing activities; these are:

        a. There is a genuine problem to resolve or need to satisfy for which a
        licensing purpose is applicable;
        b. There are no satisfactory alternatives;
        c. The licensed action will contribute to resolving the problem or meeting the
        need;
        d. The action to be licensed is proportionate to the scale of the problem or
        need;
        e. The licensed action will not have an adverse effect on the favourable
        conservation status of any habitat type or species within its natural range.”

  11. 16 keen birder
    March 9, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    What the hell are they killing Jackdaws and Rooks for ??, these dont do any harm to Game, theyll be a load of young birds, dead easy to catch in big cages, shame on you, .I said earlier that these licence restrictions were not worth the paper they were written on. They can sometimes have an inpact on growing ripening barley, but certainly not grouse or pheasants. pah

  12. 17 Dave Fleming
    March 9, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    1000 birds in a little over 3 weeks?

    You do wonder why they were killed (I note they use the euphemism ‘taken’, leaves you wonder where they took them, for a picnic?) – was there any scientific reason for it, or just because they always have done so?

    Questions like that directed at gamekeepers and farmers usually gets the reponse that you ‘don’t know the ways of the countryside’

    You would have thought that the threat period for young birds would have been over by late July.

  13. March 9, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    Apart from the obvious conclusion that this is the unacceptable face of regulation, since there are no real targets/ justifications or proper monitoring it raises another important question that the public may not be aware of….
    Which other species will be drawn like wasps to jam by these traps ?
    Eagles & sometimes Goshawks, particularly young birds in the non – breeding population will be an obvious [ deliberate ] bi – catch & this has been demonstrated previously.
    Has modern trap design made it impossible for raptors to enter ?

    One thing’s for sure – if they go in they ain’t getting out !

    Proper licencing of shoots must bring with it strict monitoring if this type of cage – trapping is to persist.
    Hopefully the unjustified nature of these culls will eventually render them illegal anyway, never mind the use of meat baits being reintroduced which I understand is on the cards ?

    We’re in a very long war but at least the individual future battles are now being publicised more widely.
    I know that the wider public has no idea what goes on on grouse moors from my conversations even with hill – walkers in Scotland & elsewhere who have spent their lives in the hills – just not in the right secluded locations !
    I had an eye – opening discussion with such a group from Glasgow recently who had walked great distances over the Highlands for decades in some of the most raptor – poor areas of criminality & they were convinced that egg – collecting is the real threat to large raptors in Scotland !

    The truth must be made more widely available.

    I look forward to these sort of kill statistics being brought to public attention.
    Is there more that we can do to publicise this state of affairs ?

    Keep up the pressure !

    • March 10, 2017 at 12:08 am

      Hi Sennen,

      Meat baits have already been reintroduced (for use in clam traps) in SNH’s 2017 General Licences, even though SNH’s own research has demonstrated that the use of meat in these traps will attract raptors. It’s beyond a joke.

  14. March 9, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    I find it strange that the total was a conveniently precise one of 1,000 birds. This seems odd or am I missing something obvious?

  15. 22 tom raven
    March 9, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    looks like a complete fabrication of numbers. whatever way this is viewed it just gives greater clarity that the current systems are beyond farcical.

  16. 23 D Riley
    March 9, 2017 at 10:20 pm

    The licence for Raeshaw Estate says that they can only kill carrion crow up until 30th June. Maybe this is why their cages ‘magically’ didn’t catch any of them in July/August! Perhaps they let them go….

    I also not that Corsehope Farm didn’t appear to comply with the licence conditions by stating how the birds were caught although it does mention s ‘decoy in cage’ at the bottom. Still, this is a sick joke. Do they expect anyone to believe these figures?

    • March 10, 2017 at 12:05 am

      Hi D Riley,

      Corsehope Farm did comply with that particular licence condition as they’d already notified SNH of the crow cage trap’s grid reference (we know this from other correspondence we’ve seen) so there was no need for them to include that info in the licence return.

  17. 25 heclasu
    March 9, 2017 at 10:20 pm

    Looking at the two ‘returns’ you printed makes me suspect collusion between the two writers before they submitted them. The absence of any carrion crows in either, emphasizes the point to my mind. They are, as ‘anand’ states above, ‘taking the piss’.

    I may be wrong, but don’t these traps require to be inspected daily?

  18. 29 Andy
    March 9, 2017 at 11:40 pm

    These licences are not worth the paper they’re printed on. You might as well send old chip paper. Nobody reads them or takes any notice.
    There must be a few people at SNH sat about getting paid for doing nothing.

    • 30 John F. Robins
      March 18, 2017 at 8:17 pm

      Andy, At least with the General Licenses there’s no waste of paper as all anyone has to do is read the signed licences posted on the SNH website and, as long as they obey the rules they can go off and kill as many birds as they want without even having to print out a licence or tell anyone how many birds they have killed and why they have killed them. The General Licenses don’t even have the worth of a greasy chip wrapper!

  19. 31 John F. Robins
    March 10, 2017 at 6:34 am

    For several years Animal Concern has been unsuccessfully calling for a review of the whole General Licence system as it allows anyone who reads a General License on-line to kill an unlimited number of circa 20 species of native wild birds without having to prove that they have a good reason to kill the birds. The figures above came as a bit of a shock as I did not realise just how many birds were being killed in Scotland under General License. I thought it might be as many as tens of thousands per year but it looks as though my guestimate was extremely low.

    The figures above also indicate that Larsen trappers using specific licences do not have to report the number of non-target species caught and released.

    The whole system stinks and we need to find some politicians willing to make an issue of this instead of leaving it to Government Departments, Government Ministers and Civil Servants whose relationship with landowners and gamekeepers is closer than that of ticks on a deer.

  20. March 10, 2017 at 9:12 am

    For interest and perspective, in England I sometimes research online how much public money a particular ‘farming’ enterprise is receiving, which would be for sustainable land management and conservation. One example, the first Purple Emperor butterfly location in Suffolk for many decades, and the land agent would not allow volunteer insured monitoring access (relating to costs) nor has the butterfly been included in any simple management plan as far as is known ~ both of which would seem to be reasonable expectations to enable sustainable management and conservation. The estate receives nearly £1 million per annum in public funds for sustainable management and conservation, which was a big surprise to quite a few people involved, few of whom realised the information is available online.

    Regarding Scotland, what are the themes for land based payments, and how much, if any, money do these particular estates receive?

    This might also be of relevance to raptor persecution ~ were the wider public more aware of the scale of any public funding involved, questions might be asked as to value for money. I have found that Natural England gives far more regard to those in receipt of payments, rather than species of conservation concern or the public who are paying, and I know of a similar case in Wales where a friend has struggled to halt negative management for a fully protected species designated as ‘vulnerable’ across Europe.

    • 33 js
      March 10, 2017 at 11:02 am

      The current CAP subsidy scheme ends in 2020. By then we will have left the EU. Then is our chance to create a scheme that actually works for the environment, society and the active farmers. I am all for providing subsidies – but for active management i.e conservation, ecosystem services etc. We need to stop handing out direct subsidies for merely occupying land!!!

      • 34 lizzybusy
        March 10, 2017 at 11:51 am

        During the parliamentary debate over Mark Avery’s petition to van driven grouse shooting MPs were suggesting that leaving the EU could present shooting edtates to receive UK grants for the ‘conservation’ work they do. I stopped watching after 2 hours as the only MP supporting the petition was Kerry McCarthy. The shooting industry has a huge support from MPs.

    • 35 Carole
      March 10, 2017 at 11:28 am

      Could you give info. on how to access this information online, please?

  21. 37 lizzybusy
    March 10, 2017 at 11:55 am

    With such inadequate ‘monitoring’ the time has come for applicants for individual and class licences to be required to monitor catches with video footage of the traps and trap trigger counters. That’s the only way I can think of to really see what’s going on and to ensure that, even when videos ‘fail’ that at least catch rates will be accurate.

    • 38 js
      March 10, 2017 at 4:34 pm

      The compliant trap operator would have nothing to fear by doing this. It would actually be pretty straightforward for a crow cage. Maybe one day, trap operators will be able to sit at home and flick on the ‘trap cam’ and see whether they need to traipse up the hill or not to despatch any targets or release non targets.

  22. March 10, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    gamekeepers just saying problems with other birds, corvids xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx. Gamekeepers are opur biggest pest . Supported by landowners just as fox hunting is and si now found to be the cause of bTB bacteria spreading across the countryside. ie, not badgers. lets now see how NFU and DEFRA run to the aid of landowners to continue their killing of our wildlife.

  23. 40 Iain Gibson
    March 10, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    I have argued for many years that there is no justification for persecuting any crow species, and what little serious (and objective) research has been carried out backs this up. The problem is that even quite experienced ornithologists, especially within the academic sphere, seem content to believe the traditional regard in which these species are held by the various “custodians of the countryside” who like to kill them. On arguing the case with senior RSPB Officers in the past (and more recently), the general attitude has been “If we can’t prevent the persecution of Schedule 1 species, what hope do we have of getting crows protected?” I feel this is an unnecessarily negative and pessimistic approach to the whole problem of species prejudice and wildlife crime.

    As Local Recorder for the Clyde area, I too have noted a significant decline in the breeding Rook population. Jackdaws have been less affected; for example, in winter roosts the ratio of Rook:Jackdaw used to be approximately 2:1, whereas more recently it is closer to 1:3. In my experience with local gamekeepers, when they virtually wipe out Carrion Crows within their patch (increasingly aided by other Countryside Alliance supporters), they tend to switch to Rook as the principal crow target species. This could possibly explain the absence of Carrion Crow in the trapping results on the two estates, although none at all seems highly unlikely.

    If we continue to base our arguments on sound science, I believe that we need to be far more objective when it comes to the crow family and the myths and misunderstanding applied to them by lovers of country lore and traditional ignorance. The whole General Licence legislation needs serious review.

  24. March 11, 2017 at 12:26 am

    I have been thinking around the licence returns issue… the fact being that the licence holder does not have to record or submit any information until the end of the licence period. This renders any inspection visit pointless.

    The licence holder could get a licence to “take” 25 Jackdaws over the period of the licence and all they have to do is submit a torn fag packet at the end of the licence period which says “I shot 25 Jackdaws… honest”.

    In practice the licence holder can kill and destroy 25 Jackdaws everyday, until the unlucky day (when or if) they are inspected… and Mr SNH or the policeman count the corpses on the farm on that day.

    It is important to remember that gamekeepers are notorious for being bad record keepers and are well known for their criminal behaviour (the SGA chairman recently reminded us that the SGA exists to support criminal members in trouble with the law.) So trusting them is beyond reason.

    It would seem that SNH should be looking for a better way to help keep the keepers on the right side of the law. Surely it would not beyond reason to require the keepers to maintain an up to date online diary (which includes negative returns). At least this way an inspector would know how many Jackdaws had been killed .. if the online returns say the have taken 20 of their 25 and the inspection finds them killing another 10… they are busted.

    Similarly if they record 2 months of nil returns and on the day of an inspection 10 corpses are found, this would be sufficiently suspicious to with-hold a future licence.

    • 42 Iain Gibson
      March 11, 2017 at 10:11 am

      You seem to be ignoring the fundamental question of why Jackdaws should be culled at all. I don’t think it’s advisable to go down the line of providing gamekeepers with helpful hints as to the best methods of culling bird species, when there is no reasonable scientific justification for doing so in the first place.

    • 43 lizzybusy
      March 11, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      They’re not bad record keepers when it comes to grants and subsidies! 😉

  25. 44 Amy. Ratteray
    March 11, 2017 at 1:45 am

    This is a disgusting display of Victorian gamekeeping attitudes. Let’s not pretend that there is any need to kill jackdaws and rooms on this scale.

    They know that we know what they know. Complete farce.

    SNH are part of this problem and have absolutely no way or intention of protecting Scotland’s wildlife.

  26. 45 Harris Keillar
    March 13, 2017 at 8:37 am

    Sent.

  27. 46 Andrew
    March 14, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    If it is not within the General Licence to take these species to protect game birds how come it is only gamekeepers (anyone know of many exceptions) that trap these birds in this way?

    • 47 Iain Gibson
      March 14, 2017 at 11:56 pm

      Good point Andrew, but they can easily get away with it by stating that they are killing Rooks and Jackdaws “for conservation purposes”, even though conservation in this case means generating an unnaturally high population of Red Grouse, for shooters to kill come the 12th of August. Or they can pretend to be doing it to conserve breeding waders and other moorland birds. It is simply ridiculous to imply that these species impact at all significantly on moorland breeding birds, and note that they were all killed in August, after the breeding season. During dry summer weather Rooks in particular move up onto the wet moors to feed, as the ground where they would normally forage can be desiccated after a long dry spell. For legal purposes, the term “conservation” needs to be more clearly defined, because crudely removing predators from the ecosystem is a form of anti-conservation.

      • 48 John F. Robins
        March 15, 2017 at 3:47 am

        I have dealt with cases in Glasgow and Bearsden where Larsen Traps were used, quite legally, in domestic gardens “to conserve songbirds” under a General License. They were used to catch corvids, especially magpies, which were killed by being neck-wrung or bashed against a wall. When I reported a trap which had been used illegally the police gave the owner advice on how to use it legally and then told me my informant (who went into a garden to release a fox cub from the Larsen Trap which had been left unchecked for a long weekend) would be charged with criminal damage if I tried to take the matter further.

        • 49 Gordon Milward
          March 15, 2017 at 8:55 am

          John – I’m an ex-cop and believe any damage case wouldn’t get off the ground providing any damage caused to release the fox was only that necessary to do so and the reason for doing was for the animal’s welfare.

          • 50 Andrew
            March 16, 2017 at 1:28 am

            and presumably the damage would have to be substantial and not for example one squashed cabbage . They have trouble enough making proper efforts to follow up wildlife crime so … ah yes, that’s different.

          • 51 John F. Robins
            March 18, 2017 at 9:05 pm

            Hi Gordon, I’ve dug out the file from 2010. The owner admitted not having checked his Larsen trap when he was away from Friday to Monday pm. My informants had entered the garden to release the young fox which had got in and eaten the decoy bird (and perhaps any trapped birds). The reply I received from the Strathclyde WLO was:

            “The local WCO reports that there was no specific offence committed here but that Mr XXXXXXX has been warned about future use and to ensure he follows best practise.

            We will revisit soon to ensure that is the case.

            Also, Mr XXXXXXX reports that his traps are being tampered with. If you hear a whisper about who is doing this can you let them know that they are committing an offence an Mr XXXXXXX wants them charged if arrested.”

      • 52 Andrew
        March 16, 2017 at 1:20 am

        So, how come it is only gamekeepers (anyone know of many exceptions) that trap these birds in the name of conservation?
        No reply necessary!
        Is there not grounds for a prosecution given it is obvious that there is no conservation benefit in killing these species in the circumstances you describe? Is there not sufficient scientific evidence?

        • 53 John F. Robins
          March 18, 2017 at 8:37 pm

          Hi Andrew,

          The conservation reason is to protect songbirds. Indeed there is a charity set up which promotes songbird survival. A classy comment from their website is:

          “SongBird Survival was set up because a number of people identified a major flaw in the UK’s management policy for songbirds.

          In the 1950s and 1960s, when songbirds were still numerous, careful management of predators by farmers, gamekeepers, smallholders and estate managers produced a stable population of songbirds.”

          Find and visit their website. There’s a lovely picture of a Sparrowhawk under the headline “Progressively Less Control Of Predators”!

          Go to their comments page and you will think you’ve had a trip back in time on a TARDIS.

          • 54 Andrew
            March 21, 2017 at 12:37 am

            And we all believe the conscientious gamekeeper is going to spend time and money on the conservation of songbirds.

            • 55 John F. Robins
              March 21, 2017 at 1:38 am

              It’s quite clever really. While countryside corvids are being culled by ‘keepers and farmers their city cousins are being killed off by people who know nothing about the natural balance of predator prey interactions. If you don’t want townies to criticise you for killing corvids to protect fat factory farmed foreign pheasants the best way to do that is to demonise the birds and brainwash urban dwellers into believing crows and magpies will eat native songbirds to extinction.

            • 56 Iain Gibson
              March 21, 2017 at 4:14 pm

              And what is their solution to the problems facing songbirds? More predator control, of course.

  28. 57 Andrew
    March 16, 2017 at 2:04 am

    If these traps are supposed to be visited every day are we supposed to believe that after the visit on 28th July to the Slades trap nothing was trapped on the 30th, 31st July or 1st of August but between the 2nd and 3rd August 33 rooks and 142 jackdaws were trapped. I assume on any visit trapped birds are supposed to be dealt with and not left to thrash around in the trap for days on end.
    Any book publishers out there looking for new fiction writing talent?


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