Archive for the '2017 persecution incidents' Category

24
Nov
17

Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Manu’ disappears in North Pennines

RSPB press release:

ANOTHER RARE HEN HARRIER GOES MISSING

Police and the RSPB are appealing for information following the disappearance of a satellite-tagged hen harrier near Carlisle.

The harrier, named Manu, was one of a nest of two chicks monitored and protected by the Northumberland Hen Harrier Protection Partnership and tagged as part of the RSPB’s EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE+ project in July this year.

Manu’s tag had been functioning perfectly until it suddenly stopped on the morning of 18 October 2017. Data from Manu’s tag indicated he had been in the same location near Denton Fell, on the Cumbria/Northumberland border, for around three weeks. The last signal was sent from Blenkinsopp Common at 0958hrs and he has not been seen or heard of since.

A search was conducted by RSPB Investigations staff but no tag or body was found. Northumbria Police were informed and have made enquiries but with no leads forthcoming.

Hen harriers are one of the UK’s rarest raptors with only three successful nests recorded in England in 2017.

Tim Jones, RSPB Assistant Investigations Officer said: “Hen harriers are facing an uncertain future: these spectacular birds should be flourishing in places like Cumbria and Northumberland but we are down to just a handful of pairs. So it’s alarming when yet another bird unaccountably vanishes like this.”

Andrew Miller, Head of Programmes and Conservation at Northumberland National Park, and Chair of the Northumberland Hen Harrier Protection Partnership, said: “With so few hen harriers breeding in England the loss of even a single bird is devastating. The Northumberland Hen Harrier Protection Partnership, along with many other organisations and individuals across the UK, is putting considerable effort into helping this struggling species recover.”

Don Churchill, Wildlife Co-ordinator & Planning Officer, Northumbria Police, said: “We are very concerned at the disappearance of one of these iconic birds of prey. Hen harriers are fully protected by law and raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority. We urge you to come forward if you have any information about the disappearance of this bird.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Northumbria Police on 101 or contact them via their website HERE. All calls are anonymous.

If you find a wild bird which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form.

ENDS

Here is a map we’ve created showing the position of Manu’s last known position (as identified from his satellite tag). This location is just outside two protected areas: Northumberland National Park and the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

This general area is a well known raptor persecution hotspot, which isn’t a surprise given how much of it is intensively managed for driven grouse shooting. Last December hen harrier Bonny ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor just a few miles south of Blenkinsopp Common (Manu’s last known location), near to the RSPB’s Geltsdale Reserve from where Bonny had fledged.

Over the years, there have been five confirmed hen harrier shootings in this area (the killing of one of these was witnessed by RSPB investigators – see pages 38-40 in Mark Avery’s book Inglorious for a detailed description), there have been at least four attempted shootings of hen harriers, and another hen harrier was found poisoned. In addition, there have been poisoned ravens, poisoned buzzards and some shot peregrines.

Some of these crimes happened on the RSPB Geltsdale Reserve (safe to assume this wasn’t the handiwork of the RSPB wardens) and some of the crimes happened on nearby grouse moors.

We don’t know what’s happened to both Bonny or Manu, and if each case is taken in isolation it might be reasonable to conclude a failed satellite tag. These satellite tags are not perfect and do sometimes fail (e.g. see here), although overall they have a very high 94% reliability rate (see here). So it might just be possible that Bonny and Manu’s tags have suffered a technical malfunction, within that expected 6% failure rate, and that’s the story we’ll be hearing from the grouse-shooting industry over the coming days as they try to suppress any notion of criminal activity. However, what the criminal apologists will fail to mention is that when a tag suffers a ‘natural’ technical malfunction, there is typically a very clear indication several days prior to failure, from the tag’s engineering data, that a technical malfunction is imminent. What we’re seeing from the majority of these ‘missing’ sat tagged hen harriers (and golden eagles) is an abrupt, unexpected failure, often mid-way through a transmission cycle, which points to highly suspicious circumstances.

When you consider the disappearance of Bonny and Manu alongside all the other satellite-tagged hen harriers that have ‘disappeared’ without trace, many of them on or close to driven grouse moors, (at least 45 missing hen harriers since sat tagging began in 2007), and the fact that hen harriers haven’t bred on any English grouse moors for a number of years, then the picture becomes sinisterly clear. Add in the number of missing satellite-tagged golden eagles that have disappeared on or close to driven grouse moors in Scotland (41 of 131 tagged eagles) and the evidence of illegal persecution becomes compelling.

It’s no wonder the grouse-shooting industry objects so strongly to the satellite-tagging of raptors, and wants to control the public release of the data these tags are producing. The shooting industry can see what everybody else can see – they might be better at hiding the corpses these days but there’s absolutely nothing they can do to hide the results of the satellite tag data.

Well done to Northumbria Police and the RSPB for putting out a detailed press release, and especially for including the details of Manu’s last known location. We saw this happen two days ago when North Yorkshire Police revealed the last known location of hen harrier John, another satellite tagged harrier that has gone ‘missing’ on a grouse moor, this time in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

If you haven’t already done so, please consider signing this NEW e-petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting. The Westminster Government continues to turn a blind eye to this carnage and continued public pressure is required to show them that we’re on to them and we’re not going away until they take appropriate action.

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22
Nov
17

Threshfield Moor named as missing hen harrier John’s last known location

Further to blogs about ‘missing’ satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘John’, who disappeared on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park in early October (see here and here), North Yorkshire Police has just issued the following appeal for information:

North Yorkshire Police is appealing for information following the loss of a hen harrier on Threshfield Moor.

John, a sub-adult hen harrier, fledged in Northumberland in 2016. He was fitted with a satellite tag in July 2016 by a hen harrier expert from Natural England. This was John’s second outward migration – he wintered in the same approximate area of Yorkshire in 2016/17, returned to Scotland and the Borders in spring/summer 2017, then back to Yorkshire in September 2017. His tag stopped transmitting on 1 October 2017 in the Threshfield Moor area of North Yorkshire. A search of the area has been carried out but no trace of the bird or equipment has been found.

Natural England reported John’s disappearance to North Yorkshire Police and is working closely with wildlife crime officers, local landowners, and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

The loss of another juvenile hen harrier brings the total to six within fourteen months across northern England – and is a serious blow to the small English hen harrier population. Interference with hen harriers is a criminal offence.

[Photo by RPUK]

Sergeant Stuart Grainger, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce, said : “Those responsible for bird of prey persecution, either directly or indirectly, should be ashamed – these birds belong to everyone and are part of our natural heritage. It is a disgrace that these beautiful birds appear to be relentlessly destroyed. The fate of this particular hen harrier remains unsolved at this time, but we are appealing for any information to assist the investigation.”

Rob Cooke, a Director at Natural England, said: “The sudden disappearance of the hen harrier, John, is a matter of grave concern. We urge anyone with information to get in touch with North Yorkshire Police.”

David Butterworth, Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said: “It is highly likely that a crime has taken place on Threshfield Moor. The spotlight is once again on the Yorkshire Dales as a black hole for raptors. This does no one any good. With colleagues in the Ranger service, I am doing all I can to support North Yorkshire Police. Any leads which the police might have had in the six weeks since this hen harrier disappeared have come to nothing, but we should not give up – someone must know something. I urge that person to contact the police.”

Anyone with any information which could help police with their enquiries should contact North Yorkshire Police on 101 – or you can ring Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 to discuss this incident or to discuss any other information regarding alleged persecution of birds of prey. Please quote reference number 12170208338 when passing information.

ENDS

Here’s a map we’ve created showing the location of Threshfield Moor, south west of Grassington within the Yorkshire Dales National Park:

Threshfield grouse moor is believed to be owned by Mark Hancock, who is married to Heather Hancock, former Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and currently Chair of the Food Standards Agency (see Mark Avery’s blog here for some background). Mr Hancock has reportedly been undertaking “a huge amount of work” to improve this moor’s habitat and environment, especially for birds (see here).

Top marks to North Yorkshire Police for providing such a detailed appeal for information and full credit to Police Sgt Stuart Grainger and Chief Exec David Butterworth (Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority) for their strongly-worded statements.

Let’s see how many organisations from the grouse-shooting industry also issue strongly-worded statements in response to this Police appeal.

Hen Harrier John was one of the class of 2016. Here’s what’s happened to the rest of his cohort:

Hen harrier Elwood – ‘disappeared’ in the Monadhliaths just a few weeks after fledging, presumed dead (Aug ’16).

Hen harrier Brian – ‘disappeared’ in the Cairngorms National Park just a few weeks after fledging, presumed dead (Aug ’16).

Hen harrier Donald – missing in northern France, presumed dead (Autumn ’16).

Hen harrier Hermione – found dead on Mull, believed to have died from natural causes (Sep ’16).

Hen harrier Rowan – found dead in Yorkshire Dales National Park. He’d been shot (Oct ’16).

Hen harrier Tarras – ‘disappeared’ in the Peak District National Park, presumed dead (Oct ’16).

Hen harrier Beater – missing in Scottish Borders, presumed dead (Nov ’16).

Hen harrier Bonny – ‘disappeared’ in the North Pennines, presumed dead (Dec ’16)

Hen harrier Mick – ‘disappeared’ in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, presumed dead (Dec ’16).

Hen harrier Carroll – found dead in Northumberland, PM revealed a parasitic disease & two shotgun pellets (Jan ’17).

Hen harrier John – ‘disappeared’ in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, presumed dead (Oct ’17)

Eleven down, six to go (Aalin, DeeCee, Finn, Harriet, Wendy, Sorrel).

16
Nov
17

Hen harrier ‘missing’ on grouse moor in Yorkshire Dales National Park is ‘John’

Last month we blogged about yet another satellite-tagged hen harrier that had suspiciously ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (see here). We only knew about it because North Yorkshire Police mentioned it on Twitter and posted a few photographs from the search scene:

We made a general enquiry to Natural England and asked for further details (which hen harrier it was, where and when it was satellite-tagged, on which grouse moor it had ‘disappeared’ in the Yorkshire Dales National Park). Natural England refused to provide any detail, other than that ‘key stakeholders’ (i.e. the landowner!) had been notified. The landowner had probably been more than ‘notified’ – if Natural England was following the ridiculous ‘satellite tag protocol’, the landowner’s ‘permission’ would have been sought to conduct the police search! Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

Anyway, back to the hen harrier. We weren’t happy that Natural England was withholding information on what was probably a publicly-funded satellite tag so we submitted a formal FoI to request this information. We managed to find out some details:

Why Natural England didn’t release this information when we first asked for it is anybody’s guess – just following its normal practice of putting obstacles in the way, hoping that we’d shuffle off and forget about it, probably.

Anyway, we now know that this missing hen harrier is ‘John’, who was tagged on 8 July 2016 in Northumberland. We blogged about John in February 2017 (see here) – he was the mystery hen harrier about which little was known. We still don’t know very much about him because Natural England has chosen to remain silent on his movements over the last 14 months [but see UPDATE below], although from the updated spreadsheet that Natural England published in September, we know that his tag was transmitting in September 2017 in Northumberland. See: hen-harrier-tracking-data-2002-onwards

We also know that Natural England realised John’s tag was no longer transmitting on 5 October 2017 and that North Yorkshire Police conducted a search for him ten days later (15 Oct 2017) on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. What we still don’t know is the name of this grouse moor and whether North Yorks Police found any evidence such as a tag or a corpse.

We’ll be submitting an FoI to North Yorkshire Police to ask about this – it’ll be very interesting to see the response. North Yorkshire Police appear to have upped their game recently in terms of investigating suspected raptor persecution crimes – a very welcome and much-needed change of pace in England’s leading raptor-killing county. Let’s see how open they’ll be about this latest investigation.

Meanwhile, it’s time to update the list of what hapened to the satellite-tagged hen harrier class of 2016, which includes harriers tagged by Natural England and the RSPB:

Hen harrier Elwood – ‘disappeared’ in the Monadhliaths just a few weeks after fledging, presumed dead (Aug ’16).

Hen harrier Brian – ‘disappeared’ in the Cairngorms National Park just a few weeks after fledging, presumed dead (Aug ’16).

Hen harrier Donald – missing in northern France, presumed dead (Autumn ’16).

Hen harrier Hermione – found dead on Mull, believed to have died from natural causes (Sep ’16).

Hen harrier Rowan – found dead in Yorkshire Dales National Park. He’d been shot (Oct ’16).

Hen harrier Tarras – ‘disappeared’ in the Peak District National Park, presumed dead (Oct ’16).

Hen harrier Beater – missing in Scottish Borders, presumed dead (Nov ’16).

Hen harrier Bonny – ‘disappeared’ in the North Pennines, presumed dead (Dec ’16)

Hen harrier Mick – ‘disappeared’ in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, presumed dead (Dec ’16).

Hen harrier Carroll – found dead in Northumberland, PM revealed a parasitic disease & two shotgun pellets (Jan ’17).

Hen harrier John – ‘disappeared’ in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, presumed dead (Oct ’17)

Eleven down, six to go (Aalin, DeeCee, Finn, Harriet, Wendy, Sorrel).

UPDATE 20 November 2017: Thanks to the blog reader who pointed out that John had been recorded at Langholm in the summer of 2017, as mentioned in the hen harrier update on the Langholm Demonstration Project website on 28 June 2017 – here.

UPDATE 22 November 2017: Threshfield Moor named as missing hen harrier John’s last known location (here)

14
Nov
17

Police Scotland silent after armed masked men filmed at raptor nest in public forest

Forestry Commission Scotland staff routinely install cameras at the nests of several raptor species (e.g. goshawk, osprey, golden eagle, hen harrier, buzzard) to undertake dietary studies and to help identify individually-marked birds by their colour rings. If the cameras happen to film anything suspicious at these nests (e.g. unlicensed visits by armed criminals) the footage would be admissible in any subsequent prosecution because the cameras are placed with landowner permission and there are warning signs alerting visitors that cameras are in use in these public forests.

We submitted an FoI to Forest Enterprise Scotland to find out how many incidents of suspected disturbance had been filmed at raptor nests in Forestry Commission Scotland woodland this year.

According to the FoI response, one incident was captured this year involving “two masked people within 30m of a [raptor] nest site, one carrying a firearm”.

FES refused to name the forest and also withheld details about the raptor species involved, because “the disclosure of this information would adversely affect the protection of the environment to which the information relates“. The incident was reported to Police Scotland.

So, in spring this year, an armed, masked gunman and a masked accomplice were filmed in a public forest near a raptor nest site, and it’s now November and we’ve heard absolutely nothing about it from Police Scotland.

Suspected disturbance of a raptor nest site is one thing, but being armed and masked in a public forest takes this to a whole other level.

Have Police Scotland identified the masked, armed gunman and his masked accomplice? If not, why hasn’t there been a public appeal for information?

Why hasn’t the camera footage been released?

Doesn’t Police Scotland think that the general public should be warned that an armed, masked gunman and a masked accomplice have been filmed wandering around in a public forest? What about warning dog walkers, cyclists, runners, birdwatchers, families on recreational visits, that they are at risk of bumping in to someone wearing a balaclava and brandishing a firearm? Isn’t this a serious threat to public safety?

It just beggars belief.

10
Nov
17

Buzzard shot in Barnsley: South Yorks Police abandons case, RSPB appeals for info

RSPB press statement:

Buzzard shot in Barnsley sparks investigation

A buzzard found illegally shot in a wood near Barnsley has prompted concern by the RSPB and police.

A local birder saw the bird fall out of a tree in Warren Wood, Stainborough on 9 August and reported it to the RSPB’s Investigations unit (crime@rspb.org.uk). An RSPB investigator recovered the bird and it was taken for an X-ray. The X-ray identified a broken wing and a shotgun pellet lodged in the wing, which was deemed to have caused the break.

The wound was thought to be several days old and had become infected, so sadly the bird had to be euthanized.

It is illegal to intentionally kill or harm any bird of prey, which are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.

The incident was reported to police immediately, and last week the RSPB was informed that the enquiry had concluded with no prosecution. The RSPB is now appealing to the public for information.

The RSPB’s recent Birdcrime report, published on 1 November 2017, revealed that the illegal shooting, trapping and poisoning of birds of prey is a big problem in Yorkshire. Last year the RSPB received reports of 153 incidents of wild bird crime in the North England Region: this was 33% of the total incidents for the UK and the highest number for any region. 10 of these occurred in South Yorkshire, and many more are suspected to have taken place unseen and undetected. The report also revealed that there were no prosecutions for bird of prey persecution in the whole of 2016.

David Hunt, RSPB Investigations Officer, recovered the body.

David said: “It is sickening to think that this bird was deliberately shot. Seeing a buzzard soaring high in the sky or picking up worms from a freshly-turned field is part of the joy of a walk in the countryside. However majestic birds like these are, more often than people realise, being intentionally and brutally killed in Yorkshire, and is a cause for local concern. This is not the first time I have been called out to a case like this and unfortunately it is often very hard to find out who is responsible. If you do have information, please come forward.”

The RSPB is offering a £1,000 reward for information that leads to a successful conviction. If you have any information relating to this incident, call South Yorkshire Police on 101 quoting reference number 617 10082017.

ENDS

Warren Wood, where the injured buzzard was found is within the grounds of Stainborough Park and Wentworth Castle. Warren Wood forms part of Broom Royd Wood (see point 8 on this map) where visitors are encouraged to “visit in spring for a beautiful display of bluebells“.

Wentworth Castle and its parkland was open to the public but now appears to have closed to visitors, according to the website.

What’s really interesting about this case though is how South Yorkshire Police have responded to it. The RSPB press statement says the “incident was reported to the police immediately“, which presumably means on 9th August 2017 when the bird was found. And yet now South Yorkshire Police have told the RSPB that the enquiry has concluded and there’ll be no prosecution.

So how come South Yorkshire Police didn’t launch a public appeal for information back in August? How come the Police enquiry ‘has concluded’ without asking for the public’s help to identify a suspect? That’s pathetic, and only serves to highlight the importance of reporting suspected raptor persecution crimes to the RSPB as well as to the Police. Had the RSPB not been informed about this particular crime, we’d all be none the wiser and the crime probably wouldn’t have made it on to the ‘official’ list of reported wildlife crimes.

Well done RSPB for keeping the public informed.

UPDATE 14.50hrs:

South Yorkshire Police haven’t got a clue. This has just appeared on Twitter:

03
Nov
17

Chair of Nidderdale AONB condemns illegal raptor persecution

Don’t ever underestimate the power of public pressure.

You know that big solid wall of silence we’re all so used to looking at every time a raptor crime is discovered and reported? It looks like it’s finally beginning to crumble.

The latest to speak out, spontaneously (i.e. without prompting), about the continued illegal killing of birds of prey is the Chair of the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’s Joint Advisory Committee, Councillor Nigel Simms:

He’s obviously taken a lead from the spontaneous statement made by the neighbouring Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority yesterday.

The publication of this statement from the Nidderdale AONB is really, really welcome. The Nidderdale AONB in North Yorkshire is notorious as a raptor persecution hotspot and has been for many years. We’ve lost count of the number of red kites that never make it out of this particular hell hole, although the RSPB has been keeping track – 22 poisoned or shot in the last ten years, and that’s only the ones that were found.

Nidderdale red kite persecution incidents 2007-2017, map by RSPB:

Illegally-killed red kite (photo Marc Ruddock):

We also know that hen harriers rarely get out of Nidderdale alive – unfortunately we can’t show you a detailed map because Natural England wants to keep the details a secret. Natural England is supposed to protect hen harriers but it’s clearly more interested in protecting the reputations of criminal landowners and gamekeepers. Anyway, here’s a photo of an illegally-killed satellite-tagged hen harrier – something you might see if you visit Nidderdale AONB, assuming you get to it before the gamekeeper who shot it:

It’s interesting to see that these crimes are “starting to have a damaging effect on tourism businesses“, according to Cllr Simms. Good, not for the businesses affected, obviously, but good that it will drive increased local pressure to bring these crimes to an end.

Cllr Simms’ comment that illegal raptor persecution “undermines the work of law-abiding landowners and gamekeepers who are actively working alongside us to improve prospects for all forms of wildlife in the AONB” is slightly odd. Which law-abiding landowners and gamekeepers are those? Presumably not anyone involved with any of the aforementioned red kite killings or hen harrier disappearances, nor, presumably, anybody involved with the attempted shooting of a nesting marsh harrier and the removal of its eggs, as filmed on a Nidderdale AONB grouse moor by the RSPB earlier this year?

There’s much work to do in this AONB but this very public condemnation of illegal raptor persecution from the Chair of the AONB Advisory Committee is encouraging. Well done, Cllr Nigel Simms.

Now, who’s next to speak out and bring that wall of silence crashing down?

30
Oct
17

SNH says ‘no General Licence restrictions currently under consideration’ but what about these 9 cases?

The ability for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to impose a General Licence (GL) restriction order on land where there is evidence of raptor persecution taking place came in to force on 1 January 2014. This measure, based on a civil burden of proof, was introduced by then Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse in response to the continuing difficulties of meeting a criminal burden of proof to facilitate a criminal prosecution.

Whilst these GL restrictions are not without their limitations (because estates can simply apply for an individual licence instead –  see here, but also see here where SNH recently revoked an individual licence for alleged non compliance), Wheelhouse argued that as the restriction notices will be made public, they should act as a ‘reputational driver‘.

Since 1 January 2014, SNH has only imposed four GL restrictions. The first two were imposed in November 2015 (one for Raeshaw & Corsehope Estates in the Borders and one for Burnfoot & Wester Cringate Estates in Stirlingshire). Then there was a temporary halt for almost two years as Raeshaw & Corsehope Estates made a legal challenge which ended up with a judicial review in January 2017. The court’s decision was announced in March 2017 and SNH was found to have acted properly and lawfully. Since that decision was announced in March 2017, SNH has imposed two more GL restrictions: one for Edradynate Estate in Perthshire in September 2017 and one for an unnamed mystery gamekeeper in Aberdeenshire in September 2017.

Whilst we were pleased to see SNH impose these latest GL restrictions last month, we were also aware of a number of other raptor persecution incidents that have been recorded since 1 Jan 2014 that would potentially meet the criteria required for a GL restriction so we wanted to find out whether SNH was getting on with these.

Photo: an illegal pole trap filmed by RSPB Scotland on the Brewlands Estate in the Angus Glens, July 2015. These traps have been outlawed for over 100 years.

In early October we submitted an FoI to ask SNH how many cases were currently under consideration for a GL restriction. We are pretty shocked by the response received last week:

At the time of your request, no General Licence restrictions were under consideration“.

Really? Why the hell not? We know of at least nine cases that should be being considered, and these are just off the top of our heads – there will be others, as we know Police Scotland is still withholding information about a number of other raptor persecution incidents.

Here are the nine incidents we know about that have all occured since 1 January 2014 when SNH was given the power to impose a GL restriction:

Newlands Estate, Dumfriesshire. Gamekeeper William (Billy) Dick was convicted in 2015 for killing a buzzard on the estate in April 2014. He threw rocks at it and then stamped on it. The estate owner was prosecuted for alleged vicarious liability but then the Crown Office dropped the prosecution in April 2017, saying it wasn’t in the public interest to proceed (see here).

Brewlands Estate, Angus Glens. A gamekeeper was prosecuted for the alleged repeated setting of a pole trap on this estate between 9-17 July 2015. The Crown Office dropped the prosecution case in April 2017 because the video evidence was deemed inadmissible (see here). Another gamekeeper on this estate thought this result was hilarious.

Unnamed pheasant-shooting estate, Lanarkshire. In September 2015 a set pole trap was discovered on a bench directly outside a pheasant-rearing pen on an unnamed estate. Police Scotland apparently dropped the case, for unknown reasons.

Gamekeeper in Ayrshire. In May 2016 a named gamekeeper was charged after allegedly being caught using gin traps on a neighbouring farm of the estate on which he was employed. The Crown Office dropped the prosecution in March 2017 after reportedly ‘getting the dates wrong on its paperwork’ (see here).

Invercauld Estate, Aberdeenshire. In June 2016, walkers discovered a number of illegally-set spring traps staked out on a grouse moor. Two of the traps had caught a Common Gull by the legs. The bird had to be euthanised. There was no prosecution. ‘Some action’ was taken by the estate but whatever this action was it has remained a closely-guarded secret between the estate, the Cairngorms National Park Authority and the Scottish Government (see here).

Glendye Estate, Aberdeenshire. In January 2017 a number of illegally-set spring traps were discovered on a grouse moors on this estate. The Estate Factor and gamekeeper reportedly removed the traps and denied all knowledge of who had set them (see here). There was no prosecution.

Leadhills Estate, South Lanarkshire. On 4th May 2017, witnesses observed the shooting and killing of a hen harrier on this estate. Police Scotland appealed for information (see here & here). As far as we’re aware, there are no impending prosecutions.

Leadhills Estate, South Lanarkshire. On 31 May 2017, witnesses observed the shooting and killing of a short-eared owl on this estate. The corpse was retrieved and sent for a post-mortem. Police Scotland appealed for information. As far as we’re aware, there are no impending prosecutions.

Unnamed grouse shooting estate, Monadhliaths. On 7 June 2017, a member of the public found a buzzard caught in an illegally-set spring trap that had been staked out on an unnamed grouse moor in the Monadliaths. The buzzard was released. Police Scotland appealed for information. Inspector Mike Middlehurst of Police Scotland commented, “Unfortunately, there are some who continue to deliberately target birds of prey; there is nothing accidental in the setup of these traps“. As far as we’re aware, there are no impending prosecutions.

So why haven’t any of these cases been considered for a GL restriction? Is it because SNH is still waiting for Police Scotland to provide ‘formal information packages’ on these cases? (Remember, SNH can only consider potential GL restrictions based on evidence provided to them by Police Scotland). We know that Police Scotland has been slow in delivering this info to SNH in the past (e.g. see here) – are they still dragging their feet?

Or, is it the case that Police Scotland has already provided information to SNH about each of these nine cases and SNH has, for whatever reason, decided not to impose a GL restriction?

Isn’t it in the public interest to know, and importantly to understand, what is happening with these cases? We think so. And that’s why we’ve submitted an FoI to find out.




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