More wildlife destruction on more Scottish grouse moors

Yesterday’s blog showing images of wildlife carnage photographed on a grouse moor in the Moorfoot Hills, south Scotland has caused quite a reaction and a few blog readers have been sending us their own grisly photographic evidence from walks in the hills.

As we said yesterday, this wildlife destruction is characteristic of what you’ll find on many grouse moors, especially those that are intensively managed for driven red grouse shooting, where it’s not unusual to have 2,000+ traps set out to kill native wildlife (just because shooting estates want to maximise the number of grouse available for ‘sport’ shooting). As we saw yesterday, and as you’ll see in today’s blog, these traps are indiscriminate and often catch non-target species.

This is routine, every-day wildlife carnage on driven grouse moors. Or as Rob Sheldon (@_robsheldon) described it on Twitter yesterday, ‘collatoral damage’. Red grouse is king and anything that gets in the way of red grouse production will be killed.

The photographs also sparked a lot of discussion about whether a trap was lawfully or unlawfully set. It’s a complex issue, the legislation is mostly ambiguous and debate is set to continue on each and every case. However, a good overview of the legislation relating to tunnel traps (shown in yesterday’s and today’s blog) can be found here, written in 2016 by former Police Wildlife Crime Officer Alan Stewart.

The following photographs come from three different grouse-shooting estates in the Angus Glens. It’s hard to believe they’re not historical photographs from a by-gone Victorian era, but no, the traps were photographed in 2013 and 2015, and the stink pit was photographed last week.

Stink pits are locations where animal corpses are dumped and the stench of rotting flesh is used to attract in other predators that are then killed and added to the pile. Incredibly, this disgusting practice is entirely unregulated and still legal although last year the Scottish Government announced two reviews of stink pit use (see here), including as part of the current review of grouse moor management (see here) which is due to report next spring.


18 Responses to “More wildlife destruction on more Scottish grouse moors”

  1. 1 Keith Brockie
    July 6, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    I don’t think that is a ‘stink pit’, it is a burial pit for getting rid of deer legs/heads etc which will be eventually be filled in.

  2. 2 Dougoutcanoe
    July 6, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    It took me a while to work out what the animal was in the tunnel trap – an endangered RED SQUIRREL. Such callous and unthinking killing of anything they don’t like, with a bit of collateral damage for good measure.

    Time to stop these idiots with guns, traps and poisons.

    Brainless thuggery!!!!


  3. 3 Greer Hart, senior.
    July 6, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    I was once involved in taking part in environmental youth exchange projects with Eastern European countries, and on one of these, I was escorted to a tent, where a few tables contained photographic evidence of atrocities committed by Nazi supporters, against their fellow country people. One such picture contained a man being sawn in half, whilst being held down on a table. My subsequent studies revealed more such horrendous cruelty. The pictures in RPS today of poor animals in contorted states or held in vicious traps, reminded me of my experiences in Eastern Europe. There is a book entitled, “Eternal Treblinka”, by Jewish witnesses of similar atrocities. The book’s purpose is to show the empathy those Jewish survivors had for animals being transported, as they had been in cattle trucks, to the slaughtering points. The narrative weaves in and out of human and animal suffering through time. A good number of people who have survived the various hells created by sadistic people in power, have become involved in animal welfare and conservation of Life on this planet.

    My own experiences have taught me that some of the worst villains are people of high culture and education, who should know better, when making economic/political decisions, that those decisions have to be implemented, and those given that task, may have no scruples whatsoever on how they fulfil their work. “I AM ONLY DOING BY JOB”, has been the usual excuse by many such people, whether killing animals or people.

    Those in Scotland/UK who practice blood sports invariably come from exalted financial positions and have received the best education. Below them is an underclass of copycats, who mimic their moorland antics in the form of gun clubs or whatever outlet which satisfies their blood lust. Our politicians are to blame, as they have supported wanton slaughter of wildlife, claiming that shooting estates bring great economic benefit to rural areas, and help massage some political party’s image with the public that they are adding wee bits to the GDP. Those of us who want a better world, most certainly do not want such people to represent us. If is time the caring public, and their numbers are legion, awoke and used their muscle and power of choice, to throw such people out of the governance of this poor wee country of Scotland, and get its political parties to enlist more determined people who will not tolerate attempts to take them in, by the blandishments and false claims of those involved in blood sports that have grossly offended public decency. The recent campaign to save Coul Links from USA Trump-lookalikes, wanting a golf course on triple protected land, evoked replies from MSPs that talked down to better informed and ethical people, with a uniform statement that the decision to allow that development was an example of democracy at work, as the final decision was made by ONE LOCAL COUNCILLOR on the Highland Planning board, thinking it was a great idea, when it was blatantly a pass the buck. However, Ministers will still have to make a final decision due to the level of public and scientific concern. That should be the last nail in the coffin for the present Government in Scotland, for if they cannot protect Scotland’s wildlife from persecution and our priceless and unique habitats, when what are really intending for Scotland long term? Semaphore instruction waving huge Saltire flags seems to be as far as they go, in having real interest of what constitutes Scotland – its mountains, glens, lonely places, islands, habitats, local histories etc. Vicious traps, poisons and the bullet should have no place in Scotland, and neither should billionaires of any description who are here to destroy our heritage, and further tightening of the noose we have had for the past 700 years of a landowning hegemony.

    • 4 Mr T
      July 6, 2018 at 3:43 pm

      That’s one of the best replies I’ve read on any blog. It needs a much wider audience than just here. For the record I am pro Scottish Independence but I’m watching the current Government very closely just now. We live in interesting times.

      • 5 carol
        July 9, 2018 at 11:53 pm

        I would wholeheartedly agree with yr praise of Greer’s letter- I would suggest RSA thinks again because our present government seems to have strayed very far from being progressive in the field of animal welfare

    • 6 BSA
      July 7, 2018 at 7:31 pm

      I’d suggest you acquire a little sense of perspective and a less self righteous tone. Associating what is happening on grouse moors with Nazi atrocities is ridiculous and insulting to the victims of these atrocities and your glib association of the Scottish Government with the abuse on grouse moors and indirectly with nazi atrocities is a smear.

      ‘Mountains, glens, lonely places’ etc etc etc etc may be your romantic idea of what constitutes Scotland but the Scottish Government has to deal with a rather more complicated and adult country of many legitimate competing interests and it has to deal with politics as ‘the art of the possible’. As someone who was involved in the raptor persecution issue for decades I’d say they have made fair progress on that issue but your perspective as someone ‘better informed and more ethical’ may be better than mine.

      I have never seen the Scottish government waving huge saltires or semaphoring anything. I’ve seen them pursuing over several years a programme of decent humane policies at the limit of their existing powers. I’d expect any decision they might make on the Coul Links case to comply with their obligations under the Habitats Regulations and I’m sure that if you find fault with their decision you will be able to tell us why in terms of these regulations.

  4. 7 George M
    July 6, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    As a past resident of the Angus Glens I can see that things haven’t changed that much. The stink pits appear to have less variation in them however. At that time a pit situated a half a mile or so from Shinfur, had in it every variety of animal and birds, from roe deer, rabbits, blackback gulls to stoats and foxes. They had it surrounded by tree limbs and various sizes of branches dotted small tunnels leading in with wire snares liberally scattered around. This was also very close to where I spotted a wildcat on more than one occasion. Twice in ten days I found illegally set fenn traps sitting unenclosed beside ruins, the perfect position for resting raptors, and baited with rabbit. I photographed and reported them at the time. After the first complaint to Tayside Police I received both a visit and a letter from them advising me that the offending Estate had been warned that any repeat would be followed by further action. Ten days later I found a second illegal trap in a similar position around a mile or so from where the first one was found. I reported that too. I heard no more about it though my wife bumped into the local Wildlife Policeman at the time and when the subject came up he advised her not to worry as he “knew who was causing all the trouble.” I believe he meant he knew who was complaining and reporting these issues. He never made any contact with myself, the complainer… they sent beat bobbies. Around the same time I was approached by a local and informed how much “grousing” meant to the local economy.
    Aye, a Brigadoon zeitgeist richt enough.!

  5. 8 Dylanben
    July 6, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    It is apparent that the whole issue of so-called tunnel traps, snares and decoy crow traps requires a comprehensive review. My recent experiences have highlighted several specific points which require urgent examination:
    – the total absence of any definitive measurements for tunnel entrances or the means of achieving them;
    – the failure to define what actually constitutes an acceptable tunnel. To my mind, 50mm square-aperture welded wire mesh is too open to be an acceptable material. I have heard of lambs getting feet caught in traps made of this material;
    – in England it is not a requirement to have a stop fixed on a snare to prevent it completely closing. This can result in non-target species being caught by the foot and dying a miserable death.
    – it is a requirement that decoy birds used in Larsen traps should have appropriate shelter that provides effective protection from rain and direct sunlight under the prevailing and anticipated weather conditions and that the perch should be sheltered. I have yet to see a Larsen trap on which I would regard these criteria to have been met. A small square of aluminium or a strip of plywood is the customary token provision.
    Not good enough.

  6. 9 Les Wallace
    July 7, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    The images of the rabbits have brought to mind something that I mentioned on Mark Avery’s blog. In Hugh Warwick’s excellent book ‘Linescapes’ on page 179 – 180 he recounts an experience he had in Northumberland whilst doing research for BBC Wildlife Magazine. He kept noticing dead rabbits at the side of the road at pretty regular intervals. When he mentioned this at a local pub he was told it was done by game keepers who wanted to attract raptors to the carrion along busy roads so they’d get run over – thereby avoiding ‘illegal persecution’. This wasn’t his supposition it came from others – would sound like a tall story or urban myth in other contexts, but here it’s all too plausible. The very recent pic of a mistle thrush dead in a tunnel trap has been reposted and reposted and reposted so at least that bird didn’t die in vain as so many others must have done – this won’t help the DGS propagandists one little bit and it’s so easy to see why they just don’t like non shooters out on the hill conveniently blaming them for missing BoPs and of course fires.

    • 10 Paul V Irving
      July 8, 2018 at 8:53 am

      Nothing surprises me about the uncaring attitude to our wildlife the ” grouse industry” has to anything other than grouse bags, I’ve never liked (or thought they should be legal) Fenn traps in wire covered tunnels there are too many non targets caught ( however much we dislike it this is legal for stoats, weasels and rats) and there is no standards of tunnel. Over the years I too have seen traps containing various passerines, young rabbits and several young grouse, in “proper” stone or wooden tunnels one sees the occasional rabbit but no birds. To my mind they should all be banned but failing that wire covered tunnels should certainly be banned under all circumstances.
      On the issue of fires, in the early 2000s I and a colleague sat on a hill in early April watching for harriers and saw the keepering team of 3 burning, with the head keeper driving the tractor towing flail that cut round areas to be burned. The other two were lighting and minding the fires, when they left two were still smouldering in the middle but of course they were flail cut round. We returned to following more windy day and around those two fires the moor was alight and the keepers and other helpers were trying to put them out ( no we didn’t help, we were definitely persona non gratia on that estate and with their history I wouldn’t under almost all circumstances- the newish person with us was told we wouldn’t p–s on the keepers if they were on fire!) eventually there were apparently 17 fire crews there and it burnt a flat top of about 4 sq km during the day it took to put it out. In the local press the following week walkers were blamed for starting it by carelessness with cigarette ends and a letter explaining the truth was not published!
      Oh and we did find the harriers.

      • 11 lizzybusy
        July 10, 2018 at 6:54 pm


        You may be interested to learn that Fenn traps (seen in these tunnel trap photos) will become illegal in 2019. Why? Because the AIHTS (Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards) will come into force. Under this long awaited legislation certain spring traps and snares will be made illegal for catching certain fur bearing animals. The shooting industry (or as the government preferred to call them at EU meetings discussing the issue “small family run businesses”!) have fought this for many years. This agreement was first raised in the 1990s. It will make the trapping of stoats using Fenn traps illegal. The Fenn traps will be replaced by New Zealand DOC traps and Goodnature A24 traps. Both traps apparently kill the victims more quickly and humanely than Fenn traps as they smash down on the head or neck rather than the back.

        Unfortunately the A24 traps were designed to kill hedgehogs. In fact these self setting gas powered traps continue killing until the gas cannisters runs out so huge numbers of animals can be killed before the user has to check the mechanism of the trap. The British Hedgehog Society has been campaigning against the use of this trap fearing it could have a devastating impact on hedgehogs populations.

        If you look up “AIHTS Fenn Traps” you’ll find a government consultation document which sets out the pathetic proposals for their use. No training needed. No daily inspections. No license for use. No monitoring. No reporting of non target victims. No vicarious liability. Same old same old.

        The good news is it will cost millions to replace the Fenn traps – unless they find some loophole. We’ll see.

        • 12 Paul V Irving
          July 11, 2018 at 8:16 am

          Cost is the excuse that the UK government is using in last ditch attempts to delay implementation of this international agreement. I’d not be holding my breath over when if ever it comes into force in the UK.

  7. 13 Tom Gun
    July 9, 2018 at 5:52 pm

    Truly disgusting that such destructing can be permitted to be carried out in the name of game management.

    On a side note not sure why quoting Alan Stewart has any weight. Tayside has to be one of the worst areas in Europe for wildlife crime. This is the current position has been the position for a great many years in part due to the reluctance by police to partner work, choosing instead to promote personal agendas and the old fashioned police attitude of ” it’s my ball and no one else can play.

    This attitude continues to harm advancement of wildlife crime in general.

  8. 14 lizzybusy
    July 10, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    One trap not mentioned much is the drop trap. This is a metal box trap with a flip floor which drops the victims into the box. There’s no requirement to do daily inspections or provide food or water. Predators and prey fall into the trap and are basically left in the box to die if starvation or being eaten by predators caught in the trap. I’ve found birds, reptiles, mammals both prey and predators. Totally indiscriminate vile tools of the shooting industry.

    • 15 Paul V Irving
      July 11, 2018 at 8:19 am

      Drop traps are mainly indeed almost exclusively used to catch rabbits and it is a legal requirement under various animal welfare regulations that live catch traps are inspected at least once every 24 hours.

      • 16 Carol
        July 11, 2018 at 7:28 pm

        Thank you for raising awareness of these further grotesque and barbaric instruments used to boost profits of the grouse shooting iindustry.
        Are these box traps generally dug into ground, or can a little more about where they tend to be placed be given please

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