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……