Suspicious meat baits on a Highland grouse moor

A few months ago one of our blog readers sent us a series of photographs and a report that a large number of meat baits had been found placed along a 250m estate boundary fence on a Highland grouse moor.

The meat baits had attracted the attention of a number of red kites, buzzards and corvids, and a dead corvid was found on the ground next to one of the baits.

Some of the baits (but not all) appeared to have a coating of white residual powder. Given the history of raptor persecution in the area, there was some suspicion that this might have been an attempted poisoning incident. Placing poisoned baits along a boundary fence is a technique that has been used on other grouse moor estates (e.g. see here).

We encouraged the witness to contact the police and a Police Wildlife Crime Officer attended the scene the next day (good response time). Several baits were collected to be sent for toxicology tests and the results were later confirmed as negative.

Unfortunately, the Police WCO also called the head gamekeeper while at the scene and asked why meat baits had been placed on the fence line. The gamekeeper’s response was along the lines of ‘It’s diversionary feeding and if you want any more information speak to my lawyer’.

In this instance, illegal poisoning was not proven (it’s a shame the dead corvid wasn’t sent for testing) and perhaps it was just a simple case of lawful, diversionary feeding. However, it could have been a prelude to something much more sinister but as the WCO had already alerted the estate staff that the baits had been found, it was a missed opportunity for further evidence gathering. The upside is that the estate was made aware that members of the public, and the police, were paying attention to estate activities.

If you’re out and about, it’s well worth taking a walk along estate boundary fence lines……


14 Responses to “Suspicious meat baits on a Highland grouse moor”

  1. 1 crypticmirror
    April 15, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    Who cab we call to deal with it if we do find it? I mean, if the cops are so incompetent as to consult a potential suspect then what is the right authority? Who you gonna call?

    In London in the 70s and 80s if you reported illegal activity (drugs and so on) at certain warehouses the old Met would call up the warehouse owner or manager and let them know in advance of a raid too so evidence would vanish and the cop would get an envelope full of used twenties (and the complaining witness would get a kicking, if they were lucky). Of course eventually the corruption in the Met was cleared up.

    I’m not alleging any sort of bribery and corruption here, just saying that in urban areas police calling the owners or managers used to happen too.

  2. April 15, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    I see the criminal classes making their presence known through their law breaking activities in the Herald today. irresponsible and untrustworthy…. centre of a major police probe? They should get together and form an organisation to help get themselves out of the jail…oh they already did….

    Upright members of the community everyone of them… t

  3. 3 lothianrecorder
    April 15, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    More data needed on which baits were tested then – presumably including the ones with signs of white powder? If the crow had been shot why did gamekeeper not volunteer it for testing, would have shown pellets?

  4. 4 Gordon Milward
    April 15, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    The WCO needs his/her backside kicking. Do the police ring murder suspects and interview them over the phone? NO! Do they phone burglars and do likewise? NO! Wildlife crime should be no different to any other type of offence. There appears to be lower expectations when it comes to wildlife matters, and also greater wilingness to accept below-par law ‘enforcement’.

  5. 6 Secret Squirrel
    April 15, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    I suppose the crow could have been killed by a buzzard etc. Interesting response from the keeper. Talk to my lawyer always made me suspicious.

    • 7 Dougie
      April 15, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      Was that actually said ? We don’t that. Seems to me that in all this wildlife crime business there seems to be an awful lot of people on the side that one would hope could be trusted that cannot.

  6. 8 Jo
    April 15, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    Why on earth wasn’t the dead corvid sent for toxicology ….. presumably the bait beside it was?

  7. 9 Jimmy
    April 15, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    It appears it is now up to members of the public to police these types!!

    • 10 crypticmirror
      April 15, 2017 at 11:01 pm

      The public have always needed to police the police, but sadly so few are prepared to do so. The idea that PC Murdoch is never wrong and complaining folk need a thick ear is far too prevalent.

  8. 11 lizzybusy
    April 15, 2017 at 11:02 pm

    Looking at the crow, it appears to have its feathers ruffled in several places and the feathers at some of those points appear to be reddish coloured. The tail, wings and foot are at strange angles and the tail appears to be broken. I wonder if this bird had been shot rather than poisoned? Presumably, if it had been poisoned, it would have died a prolonged death and the chances of it dying right next to the poisoned bait would have been low. If the bird had died elsewhere, I suspect the chances of the bird being found on a Heather moor would have been quite remote.

    • April 16, 2017 at 1:14 am

      If the bait had been laced with Strychnine it is highly likely that the Crow could have been found on, or very close to, the bait, but then surely even a Keeper wouldn’t be stupid enough to leave a Strychnine laced bait lying around unattended … or would they?

  9. 14 Brendan Moore
    April 16, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    Phoning the gamekeeper prior to toxicology testing is naive and stupid.

    What did the police officer think the response would be if they were poisonous baits and any response would be inadmissable at a future trial.

    If they did test positive and contained a poisonous chemical what was the chance of any more being found in possession of the gamekeeper after phoning him.

    Simply because a poisonous bait is found on land does not mean the landowner or anyemploy is responsible.

    Another example of a case being doomed to fail from the start

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