Archive for the '2017 persecution incidents' Category

17
Jul
17

There’s nothing ‘draconian’ about licensing game shooting estates

There were a couple of articles published in the Scottish Mail on Sunday yesterday about the possibility (probability) of the introduction of game shoot licensing in Scotland.

The first article didn’t bring anything new to the story; it was just a re-hashed version of who’s said what since Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced a package of new measures to address the on-going problem of raptor persecution and unsustainable grouse moor management. Lord David Johnstone of Scottish Land & Estates talked about maintaining the status quo (i.e. no licensing scheme required), James Reynolds of RSPB Scotland talked about the necessity of introducing a licensing scheme because self-regulation by the grouse-shooting industry has failed, and an unnamed spokesman from the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association talked about how licensing could have serious consequences for gamekeepers and their families. The two journalists who wrote the article described the Government’s proposed review as ‘the latest blow to landowners following draconian land reforms and the abolition of tax breaks’.

What ‘draconian land reforms’ are those, then? And why should multi-millionaire landowners, whose grouse moors are already subsidised by the public purse, be entitled to tax breaks?

Here’s a copy of the article, and for those who struggle to read it, here’s a PDF version so you can zoom in and increase the font size: MailonSunday1_July162017

The second article was a commentary column written by Carrieanne Conaghan, a gamekeeper’s wife who coordinates the ‘Speyside Moorland Group’ – one of several regional moorland groups closely affiliated with the Gift of Grouse propaganda campaign.

The headline begins: ‘As Draconian new land laws loom…’ These words probably weren’t Carrieanne’s but nevertheless, it’s clear from her commentary that estate licensing isn’t welcomed by gamekeepers because, she says, “For the vast majority of estates who have done nothing wrong and are resolute in their fight against wildlife crime, they would be penalised by strict new controls“.

Unfortunately she doesn’t explain why or how she things law-abiding estates would be “penalised by strict new controls“. The fact of the matter is, they wouldn’t be penalised at all, as the penalities would only be felt by those who continue to illegally kill protected raptors. And quite rightly so. Law-abiding gamekeepers, and their employers, have absolutely nothing to fear from the introduction of a licensing scheme, and you’d think they’d be welcoming it with open arms because if anything, it’ll protect them from being lumped in with the criminals.

Here’s the article and here it is as a PDF: MailOnSunday2_July162017

Carrieanne also claims that, “More worryingly, it [licensing] also brings the potential of gamekeepers losing their homes and livelihoods if a licence to operate was withdrawn“. This is just emotional scaremongering, probably encouraged by the same tosh spouted by SGA Chairman Alex Hogg earlier this year (see here). The only reason gamekeepers would potentially lose their homes and livelihoods would be if they’d broken the conditions of the licence and the subsequent withdrawal of that licence. That principle applies to everybody else in society whose activities are licensed. It’s the risk you run if, for example, you’re a professional driver and you commit road traffic offences leading to the loss of your driving licence. Why should gamekeepers be exempt from regulation when everyone else’s lives are governed by such rules?

Carrieanne claims that the licensing proposal has been brought about by “activists who object to the very existence of grouse moors, whether their opposition is based on a dislike of shooting or the ‘toffs’ who they believe are the only ones who participate“. Actually, the proposal was brought about by ordinary members of the public who are sick to the back teeth of criminal gamekeepers and their employers getting away with the illegal slaughter of protected wildlife, particularly on driven grouse moors.

Carrieanne claims that raptor persecution is “in decline” and that “tough new legislation has had a positive effect“. She also thinks, because her gamekeeper husband told her, that gamekeepers “desire to manage moorland for the interests of all species, whether it be grouse, ground-nesting birds, mountain hares or birds of prey“. Good grief.

She must have missed the Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review, the findings of which were the final straw for Roseanna Cunningham and which led directly to the current proposition of a licensing scheme. She must also have missed the news that the hen harrier population continues to spiral downwards, thanks in large part to illegal persecution, and the news that peregrine populations continue to decline in areas dominated by driven grouse moors, and the news that the northern red kite population continues to suffer from the impact of illegal persecution on driven grouse moors, and the news that five prosecutions for alleged wildlife crime (all involving gamekeepers or their employers) have all been dropped in recent months, and the news that raptors continue to be illegally shot, even in recent weeks (see here, here) or illegally trapped (see here) on grouse moors up and down the country.

Did anyone see any gamekeepers or any moorland groups condemning these incidents? Where was their uproar? Where was their outrage? How many gamekeepers or members of moorland groups have provided information/intelligence to the police about any of these recent crimes? We’ll take an educated guess – none of them.

Carrieanne is right to be concerned about her family’s livelihood, but it’s not at risk from a licensing scheme, which is neither draconian or unnecessary; it’s actually a long overdue and pretty measured response to decades of criminality and unsustainable practices. Carrieanne’s livelihood is only at risk from those criminal gamekeepers and their employers who refuse to reform and continue to stick up two fingers to the law.

UPDATE 25 July 2017: SRSG response letter here

04
Jul
17

Buzzard caught in illegally-set trap on Monadhliaths grouse moor

Police Scotland have this afternoon published the following statement:

Investigation into illegal setting of traps, Strathdearn

Police Scotland can confirm that an investigation into the alleged illegal setting of traps to deliberately target birds of prey near Auchintoul, Strathdearn has been launched.

Police were informed of an incident that occurred on 7 June 2017 where a buzzard was found after having been illegally trapped on the south slopes of Beinn Bhreac. The bird was found by a member of the public and was released.

Inspector Mike Middlehurst said: “It is very disappointing to have an incident like this reported, especially when there is a great deal of positive work going on in the Highlands to tackle wildlife crime. Unfortunately, there are some who continue to deliberately target birds of prey; there is nothing accidental in the setup of these traps.

“I am grateful to the member of the public who came across the bird and for their assistance in trying to free it. They were slightly injured in the process of releasing the bird and had the knowledge to photograph it. We are keen to speak to anybody who was walking or mountain biking in this area over the weekend of 3 and 4 June 2017. If anyone saw people or vehicles on these tracks that they thought out of place or acting suspiciously I would encourage them to contact us.

“Anyone with information is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101 quoting reference NN13977/17 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 if you wish to remain anonymous.”

ENDS

Well done to the member of the public who saw the trapped buzzard, photographed it, and reported it to the Police. And well done Police Scotland for getting this news out within a month of it happening. By the looks of the photograph, that’s a baited spring trap, illegally-set out in the open instead of being placed inside an artificial or natural cover as the law demands. Police Scotland are clear:

Unfortunately there are some who continue to deliberately target birds of prey; there is nothing accidental in the setup of these traps“.

It’s also interesting to note the date this incident occurred – 7th June 2017. This is one week after the Cabinet Secretary’s announcement that she was bringing in new measures to tackle the on-going illegal persecution of raptors on grouse moors. It seems there are some out there who are determined to keep sticking up two fingers to the law, to the Government, and to the will of society. More fool them, because ultimately it is this arrogance and belief of being untouchable that will be the grouse-shooing industry’s downfall. We’re already beginning to see it crumbling in Scotland and cases like this will just increase resolve to demolish it once and for all.

The name of the estate where the trapped buzzard was found has not been publicised. However, Police Scotland say it was found on the south slopes of Beinn Bhreac. Using Andy Wightman’s ever-useful Who Owns Scotland website, the boundaries of two estates meet on the south slopes of Beinn Bhreac: Glen Kyllachy & Farr Estate on the west side, and Tomals & Kyllachy on the east side. Without a grid reference, we’re unable to determine on which estate this trap had been illegally set. Regular blog readers will be familiar with the name of one of these estates.

Here is a map showing Beinn Bhreac and the boundaries of the two estates meeting on its southern slopes (boundary information from Who Owns Scotland website).

Unsurprisingly, this area is driven grouse moor country and just happens to also be where a number of satellite-tagged golden eagles have ‘disappeared’ in recent years. Indeed, this area of the Monadhliaths to the north west of the Cairngorms National Park was identified in the recent Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review as being one of the main areas where multiple tagged eagles have ‘disappeared’ in a suspicious cluster.

UPDATE 6PM:

We’ve sent a tweet to Conservative MSP Ed Mountain, as this is his constituency, asking him if he’s ready to be the “fiercest critic” yet? (E.g. see here).

We’ve also sent a tweet to Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, as this is also his constituency. We’ve asked him if he thinks this ongoing criminality is good for the rural economy?

We’ll post their responses here.

UPDATE 6 July 2017: Edward Mountain MSP responded with this: “Illegally trapping birds of prey is unacceptable. Police Scotland must carry out a full investigation. I will await and act on results”.

Fergus Ewing MSP (Cabinet Secretary) has not responded.

27
Jun
17

Short-eared owl shot on Leadhills Estate – police appeal for info

Police Scotland are appealing for information after the shooting of a short-eared owl was witnessed on the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate, South Lanarkshire.

According to this article in the Carluke Gazette, the shooting was witnessed about 11.45am on 31 May 2017 (ironically, the day Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced a package of new measures to clamp down on the illegal persecution of raptors on Scottish grouse moors).

Photo of a short-eared owl by Jamie MacArthur

The suspect/culprit is described by Police as “being small or medium build, driving a black 4×4 type vehicle with a dark canopy on it. The vehicle thereafter drove off to the B7040 Elvanfoot Road“.

Witnesses are sought, and those with information are urged to call Police Scotland 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Well done Police Scotland for getting this news out and not sitting on it for three years. More of this, please.

The location given is the same as described in an earlier Police appeal for information following the witnessed shooting of a hen harrier earlier in May 2017 (see earlier blogs here and here).

Here’s a map of the Leadhills Estate (Leadhills Estate in block red, dotted line denotes neighbouring Buccleuch Estate boundary, info from Who Owns Scotland).

And here is a map showing the B7040 Elvanfoot Road, which runs right across the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate:

We’ve blogged extensively about this estate (see here) and we’d particularly encourage new readers to have a look at the very long list of raptor persecution crimes recorded (49 incidents [now 50] recorded over the last 14 years see here). There have only ever been two convictions of estate gamekeepers.

We’ll be blogging more about this place shortly.

In the meantime, we need to see an immediate response from the Scottish Government. On 31 May 2017 the Cabinet Secretary told the world that the Government would “Immediately review all available legal measures which could be used to target geographical areas of concern“.

Has that been done? What are the legal measures available, and when will they be implemented?

18
Jun
17

Local volunteers patrolling peregrine nest sites in Forest of Dean

Following a spate of peregrine persecution incidents, the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust has teamed up with local residents in the Forest of Dean to launch a protection scheme, including the installation of video cameras at nest sites and regular patrols to report any suspicious behaviour.

Full story on the GloucestershireLive website here

Very well done, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust and those local volunteers.

Peregrine photo by Megan Lorenz

This local action comes after the suspicious death of three adult peregrines near the Devil’s Pulpit in the Forest of Dean earlier this spring (see here).

And last month, the Gloucester Wildlife Trust provided the Police with a video showing a man who appeared to have entered private land within the Forest of Dean and was throwing items at a peregrine nest site (see here). Police would like to speak to this individual:

12
Jun
17

Heads Up for Harriers: Tim Baynes claims illegal persecution an “historical controversy”

Another week and another duplicitous article from Tim (Kim) Baynes, Director of SLE’s Scottish Moorland Group. This guy seems to live in a perpetual state of denial when it comes to the illegal persecution of raptors on driven grouse moors.

This time he’s penned an article for the latest edition of Shooting Times about the ridiculous Heads Up for Hen Harriers project (more on this below).

The front cover of the Shooting Times has a headline banner: “The hen harrier: how much do we really know?”, which laughably infers that the cause of long-term hen harrier decline in the UK is still a bit of a mystery that needs solving, and then inside there’s a two-page spread from Tim (Kim) who suggests that ‘weather’ and fox predation are the big culprits, as recorded by Heads Up for Hen Harrier cameras. Astonishingly, he also claims that the illegal persecution of hen harriers on grouse moors is an “historical controversy”.

You can read the full article here: Shooting Times 7 June 2017_HaveYouSeenAHenHarrier_TimBaynes

Perhaps he missed the Government-commissioned 2011 Hen Harrier Conservation Framework, which set out very clearly what the main issue is: Illegal persecution is the biggest single factor affecting hen harriers and it is having a dramatic impact on the population, not only in northern England but also in Scotland:

  • The potential national hen harrier population in Scotland is estimated (conservatively) to be within the range 1467-1790 pairs.
  • The current national hen harrier population in Scotland as recorded during the 2010 national survey is 505 pairs, more than a 20% decline from the numbers recorded during the 2004 national survey.
  • In Scotland, the hen harrier has a favourable conservation status in only five of 20 regions.
  • Two main constraints were identified: illegal persecution, and in one region, prey shortages.
  • The species is particularly unsuccessful in the Central Highlands, Cairngorm Massif, Northeast Glens, Western Southern Uplands and the Border Hills. There is strong evidence in these grouse moor regions that illegal persecution is causing the failure of a majority of breeding attempts.

Tim (Kim) also appears to have missed the video published by RSPB Scotland last month showing exactly what happens when a camera is installed at a hen harrier nest without the grouse moor owner and gamekeeper’s knowledge:

He must also have missed last month’s news that Police Scotland are investigating the illegal shooting of yet another hen harrier on a grouse moor near Leadhills (see here), which incidentally is alleged to have happened on the estate owned by the Hopetoun family – that’ll be the family of Lord Hopetoun, Chair of the Scottish Moorland Group, of which Tim (Kim) is, er, Director.

The only ‘historical’ aspect of hen harrier persecution is that it’s been going on for over a hundred years. Pretending that it’s now stopped, in the face of such overwhelming evidence to the contrary, is the response of an idiot.

We’ve blogged about the Heads Up for Hen Harriers project many times (e.g. see here, here, here). The idea is that estates give permission for cameras to be installed at active hen harrier nests ‘to help build a picture of why these birds aren’t doing as well as they should be’. The major flaw in this ‘study’ design is that gamekeepers will know on which nests the cameras are pointing, so obviously they’re not going to shoot the adults or stamp on the eggs/nestlings at those sites. Instead, the cameras will record natural failures (e.g. poor weather, predation) and then the grouse shooting industry can use this information to claim that illegal persecution isn’t an issue, but poor weather and predation is. This is exactly what Tim (Kim) Baynes has done in this latest article.

Now, some might argue that having grouse moor owners’ agreement to install cameras at hen harrier nests on their estates is a good thing – at least those nests will be left alone and the birds might be able to produce some young. There is that, of course. But leaving the birds alone long enough to produce fledglings isn’t enough. What happens to those young fledglings once they leave the safety of a monitored nest? You only have to look at what happened to young hen harrier Elwood to answer that question. He survived for approximately two weeks after dispersing from his monitored nest site before un-mysteriously vanishing on a grouse moor in the Monadhliaths – funnily enough in an area where many satellite tagged golden eagles have also un-mysteriously vanished.

Tim (Kim) talks about the number of estates that have agreed to participate this year (at least 15) and makes much of the fact that some of these are grouse moor estates. The same thing happened last year, although what was covered up last year was the fact that only three nests were successful and none of those was on a driven grouse moor. This wasn’t a surprise given that most of the driven grouse moor estates that agreed to ‘participate’ were located in the Angus Glens – an area that hasn’t seen a successful hen harrier breeding attempt since 2006.

What would be more interesting to know is not how many estates have agreed to ‘participate’, which is a largely meaningless figure unless they actually have an active nest, but how many estates have refused to participate? Again, this information is not made public, presumably because it’ll spoil the image of this so-called ‘widespread cooperation’ from grouse moor estates.

We’ve got another question for Tim (Kim). In this article he says:

A better idea of current numbers will emerge when the results of the 2016 UK harrier population survey are published, but the overall picture is expected to be broadly the same in Scotland“.

Really? On what basis is he making this claim? The results of the National HH Survey have not yet been released (held back, we believe, due to the General Election, but due out shortly), so what makes Tim (Kim) think that “the overall picture is expected to be broadly the same in Scotland”? Is this based on factual information or is Tim (Kim) just making up some nonsense to suit his agenda?

It’s not like he/Scottish Moorland Group/Gift of Grouse hasn’t done this before (e.g. see here, here, here).

08
Jun
17

Shot buzzard successfully rehabilitated and returned to the wild

Last month we blogged about this adult female buzzard that had been found ‘down, shocked and injured’ in Norton, North Yorkshire. She has severe lacerations to her head and feet, believed to have been caused by trying to escape from a cage trap. An x-ray also revealed a shotgun pellet lodged on her right leg/foot. (Photos from Jean Thorpe)

The buzzard received medical and surgical treatment from vet Mark Naguib of Battle Flatts Veterinary Clinic and then wildlife rehabilitator extraordinaire Jean Thorpe put in hours and hours of expert care, including even twice daily physiotherapy to stretch the bird’s talons to enable her to stand on her damaged foot. Jean commented, “She looks tatty headed but she is defiant and strong“.

Last week all this hard work paid off and the buzzard was successfully released back to the wild.

More brilliant work from vet Mark Naguib and as for Jean Thorpe, we’re just in awe of her. This remarkable lady has a fundraising page so if you’re able to show your appreciation and support with a donation, please do – SEE HERE.

07
Jun
17

3 orphaned peregrine chicks now fostered; one to become a Springwatch star

Over the weekend we blogged about the suspected poisoning of two adult peregrines at a quarry nest site in Clee Hill, Shropshire, leaving three vulnerable chicks in need of rescue (see here).

Thanks to the efforts of a team of experts from various organisations, the three rescued chicks have now been fostered into two wild nests. The two larger females have been placed on a nest ledge in the Midlands, and the smaller male has been fostered in to the nest on Salisbury Cathedral. The RSPB has an updated blog about the latest developments here.

Photo of the three rescued peregrine chicks (RSPB)

As many of you will know, this year’s breeding attempt by the resident Salisbury Cathedral peregrines has featured on the BBC’s Springwatch and tonight’s programme will show what happened when the young chick was introduced to his new foster family (BBC 2, 8pm).

Well done to all involved with the successful rescue of these peregrine chicks and thanks to BBC Springwatch for covering the story and bringing it, and thus illegal raptor persecution, to the attention of its 4 million viewers.

Clee Hill in Shropshire is a notorious site for the illegal poisoning of peregrines (e.g. see here). One local observer (@davebarnesphoto) has suggested that 11 peregrines have been killed at this nest in eight years. He also notes the area is a ‘pigeon racing hotspot’. Whoever killed the breeding pair this year will hopefully feel more than a little nervous as eight million eyes turn to scrutinise recent events at this site.




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