Archive for the '2017 persecution incidents' Category

14
May
18

Case against grouse moor gamekeeper Timothy Cowin: part 3

Criminal proceedings continued on Friday (11 May 2018) against grouse moor gamekeeper Timothy Cowin, who is accused of a series of alleged wildlife crimes, including the shooting of two short-eared owls in April 2017 at Whernside, Cumbria in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is further alleged he was in possession of items (a shotgun and an electronic calling device) capable of being used to kill wild birds.

Following a farcical hearing at Preston Magistrates Court in March 2018 (see here), the case was due to be heard last Friday but it was adjourned, again, at the request of the defence.

The next hearing is scheduled for July 2018.

For legal reasons, we won’t be accepting any comments on this post.

 

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08
May
18

Three dogs & two buzzards die after being ‘deliberately poisoned’ in Perthshire

BBC News article (8 May 2018):

DOGS AND BUZZARDS DIE AFTER BEING DELIBERATELY POISONED

Police in Highland Perthshire are appealing for information after three working dogs and two buzzards were deliberately poisoned.

The incidents took place between October 2017 and April this year in and around the Edradynate and Pitnacree Estates area.

The poisons used to kill the dogs and birds are banned in the UK.

[Photo of a poisoned buzzard found in the area in 2015, by RPUK]

A Police Scotland spokesman said the animals’ owners were “understandably upset” at the loss of their dogs.

He said: “Once again, we also find ourselves investigating the illegal killing of raptors and this is extremely disappointing.

We have searched the areas and our investigations to date would suggest that there is not a wider threat to public safety.

However, all members of the public in the area are asked to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour, especially during the hours of darkness.”

ENDS

Hmm. Edradynate Estate has been at the centre of investigations for alleged wildlife crime for a very, very long time. It’s well worth reading an earlier summary we wrote (here) which includes some fascinating commentary about the estate by former RSPB Investigator Dave Dick, who claimed as far back as 2004 that the estate was “among the worst in Scotland for wildlife crime“, and commentary by former Police Wildlife Crime Officer Alan Stewart, who said in 2005, “Edraynate Estate has probably the worst record in Scotland for poisoning incidents, going back more than a decade“. The details involve a disturbingly high number of poisoned birds and poisoned baits that were found over the years, as well as a number of dropped prosecution cases (nobody has ever been convicted for any of the alleged offences). The summary also includes information about links between the estate and the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association.

[Edradynate Estate, photo by RPUK]

More recently, in March 2015 two dead buzzards were found near to the estate. Toxicology tests revealed they’d been poisoned with a banned substance (although the name wasn’t revealed). A police raid of the estate uncovered a third dead buzzard. A thorough police investigation followed but in May 2017 the Crown Office rejected a plea from Police Scotland to bring proceedings against an estate gamekeeper (see here). The Crown Office has so far not provided a clear explanation for this decision.

However, in September 2017 SNH imposed a three-year General Licence restriction on Edradynate Estate, presumably in response to the alleged buzzard poisonings in 2015 (see here). Some felt sympathy for the new gamekeeper who would now be subjected to these restrictions even though he’d only just begun his employment following the ‘retirement’ of the previous Head gamekeeper in February 2017.

And talking of that previous Head gamekeeper, you may remember last year he was charged with a number of offences including the alleged malicious damage of crops on Edradynate in April 2017 (it is claimed he poisoned them by spraying with an unknown substance, causing them to rot and perish) and the alleged theft of a thermal imaging spotting scope (see here). This resulted in some court proceedings that were mysteriously shrouded in secrecy (here).

Presumably he has pleaded not guilty as we now know a trial will take place at Perth Sheriff Court on 11 June 2018 for alleged ‘malicious mischief’.

02
May
18

Red kite found poisoned in North Yorkshire (yes, another one)

Press release from North Yorkshire Police (2 May 2018):

WILDLIFE POISONING WARNING AFTER RED KITE FOUND DEAD NEAR KNARESBOROUGH

Police are appealing for information after receiving confirmation that a red kite, found dead near Knaresborough in December 2017, had been poisoned with a pesticide.

The discovery has prompted a warning from North Yorkshire Police – as part of the force’s Operation Owl campaign – about the cruel, illegal and dangerous practice of lacing animal carcasses with poison to kill other wildlife.

The dead kite was found by a member of the public just outside the village of Ferrensby between Knaresborough and Boroughbridge in North Yorkshire. The bird was in good physical condition and there was no evidence to indicate the cause of death. The finder was concerned that the bird may have been killed illegally, and reported it to the police.

Specialist wildlife crime officers at North Yorkshire Police had the bird x-rayed and this ruled out any cause of death due to physical injury. The police then arranged with Natural England for the bird to be sent away for a post mortem and toxicology tests.

The results showed the bird had significant amounts of chloralose, a pesticide, in its kidney – and it was concluded that this was the cause of death. The post mortem could not identify the nature of the kite’s last meal. The bird would have succumbed within a few minutes of consuming the poison. The location where the kite picked up the poison is not known.

[Photo by N. Perver]

Officers need to hear from anyone who has any information about the illegal use of pesticides to poison birds of prey in North Yorkshire. The practice of lacing animal carcasses with poison to kill other wildlife is both cruel and illegal. It is also poses a serious risk to members of the public and their children or pets if they come into contact with them.

Operation Owl is an ongoing initiative by North Yorkshire Police, the RSPB and the RSPCA, together with the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, the Nidderdale Moorland Group, and others, to reduce the number of illegal attacks on birds of prey. As part of the operation, police carry out surveillance checks on known raptor persecution hot-spots at random times to disrupt offender activity. Officers are also calling on the public to be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the police when out in the countryside.

Sergeant Kevin Kelly, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce, said:North Yorkshire’s wonderful countryside is host to many specially-protected birds of prey, including red kites. It is completely unacceptable that people think they can ignore the law and subject these birds to poisonings and other forms of persecution without consequence.

Like other forms of rural crime, raptor persecution is not a problem that the police can tackle alone. If everyone keeps their eyes open for illegal traps and poisoned bait, it will be a massive boost to our surveillance operation. Operation Owl is a real opportunity to reduce the number of wild birds that suffer and die unnecessarily, and send a clear message to offenders that we will not tolerate this crime in our countryside.”

Howard Jones, RSPB Investigations Officer, said:We are deeply saddened to hear of another illegally poisoned red kite in North Yorkshire. Although the re-introduction of this species into the region has been a conservation success, there continues to be an unacceptable level of persecution towards these majestic birds. Kites are struggling to expand their range into upland areas such as the Yorkshire Dales and, in this case, it is clear that they are not safe in other areas of the county either. We will continue to work closely with North Yorkshire Police and Yorkshire Red Kites to tackle the issue of illegal killing.”

Doug Simpson, Yorkshire Red Kites Co-ordinator, said:I am particularly concerned about this case, it being the first recorded kite death from illegal poisoning in this particular area. It is yet another instance of a red kite persecution victim having been found by someone out walking in the countryside, 22 of our 42 confirmed illegally killed or injured kites having been found in this way.”

Anyone with any information about this incident is asked to call North Yorkshire Police on 101, choose option 1 and be ready to quote reference 12170217776.

Alternatively email bill.hickson@northyorkshire.pnn.police.uk If you wish to remain anonymous, call the RSPB’s confidential Raptor Crime Hotline for free on 0300 999 0101.

ENDS

26
Mar
18

Illegal activity uncovered at goshawk nest in North York Moors National Park

RSPB press release (26/3/18)

ILLEGAL ACTIVITY UNCOVERED AT GOSHAWK NEST IN NORTH YORK MOORS

North Yorkshire Police and the RSPB are appealing for information after several instances of illegal disturbance were recorded at a goshawk nest in North Yorkshire.

In spring 2017, a covert camera was trained on a nest with poor breeding success near Helmsley to better understand what was causing the nest to fail. In April 2017, the footage showed two men visiting the nest and one of the men then repeatedly hitting the nest tree with a large stick. This appeared to be a clear attempt to flush the incubating bird off the nest.

Then, on two occasions the following month, a man is seen and the sound of gunshots is heard, along with the repeated alarm calls of the parent birds on one of the occasions. The nesting attempt subsequently failed and the four cold eggs were later recovered from the nest after a visit by the police. Analysis showed one of the eggs had a fully formed chick inside.

Goshawks are secretive, forest-dwelling hunters, around the size of a buzzard. There are very few nesting pairs in North Yorkshire, despite plenty of available habitat. Goshawks are legally protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and listed on Schedule 1 of the Act. It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb the birds at the nest site during the breeding season unless operating under the authority of a government licence.

Investigations are ongoing and police are appealing for information.

Watch video footage from the RSPB’s covert camera:

Howard Jones, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “We are very concerned that this was an attempt to shoot the goshawks or disturb the adults to make them desert the nest site. Goshawks are magnificent birds and should be widespread throughout North Yorkshire. The idea that people are deliberately trying to destroy nests and prevent them from raising chicks is beyond belief.

Birds of prey in the North York Moors National Park are at a huge risk of persecution, and this county consistently proves the worst in the country for the illegal killing of birds of prey. This latest evidence shows the pressures they continue face. We are grateful for the enquiries being made by North Yorkshire Police in relation to the events recorded. We hope that further information emerges to help identify these individuals.”

Acting Inspector Kevin Kelly, of North Yorkshire Police, added: “The ongoing problem of raptor persecution in our county prompted a public awareness campaign in February between ourselves, the RSPB, RSPCA, North York Moors National Park and Yorkshire Dales National Park. The initiative – know as Operation Owl – was designed to educate local people and send a clear message that raptor crime will not be tolerated.

If you have any information that may help our enquiries regarding these incidents, please speak out. Ahead of the spring breeding season, look out for individuals acting suspiciously and please report any concerns immediately.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call North Yorkshire Police on 101. Or to speak with somebody in complete confidence, call the RSPB’s Raptor Crime Hotline 0300 999101.

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

ENDS

RSPB Investigations Officer Howard Jones has also written a blog here

21
Mar
18

Peregrine confirmed poisoned in North Wales

From North Wales Police Rural Crime Team:

14
Mar
18

Yet another golden eagle disappears on a Scottish grouse moor

They can hide the bodies. They can hide the tags. But they can’t hide the pattern” (Dr Hugh Webster)

RSPB Press release:

ANOTHER SATELLITE-TAGGED GOLDEN EAGLE ‘DISAPPEARS’ IN INVERNESS-SHIRE

Conservationists are concerned about the safety of a young pair of eagles after news emerged that another satellite-tagged golden eagle has disappeared in the northern Monadhliath Mountains of Inverness-shire.

Data from the two-year old male’s transmitter showed that he had been living in an upland area, mainly managed for driven grouse shooting, north of Tomatin, since early last year. He had stayed almost exclusively in this area until mid December, when his tag, that had been functioning as expected, inexplicably stopped transmitting.

A follow-up investigation by Police Scotland has not yielded further clues as to the bird’s fate, and no further data has been received from the satellite tag.

The young bird, fitted with a tag sponsored by SSE, before it fledged from a nest in the Cairngorms National Park, was paired to a 2 year-old female, coincidentally also fitted with a transmitter. Data from her tag shows that she left the same area for several days following the male’s sudden disappearance, possibly searching for her missing mate, before returning to the territory. She has subsequently been joined there by another young male, also reinforcing the case that the two year old bird has disappeared.

Duncan Orr-Ewing, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Species and Land Management said: “A report published by the Scottish Government last May, prompted by the regular disappearance of satellite-tagged eagles in this same area, provided unequivocal evidence that the sudden disappearance of these birds is highly suspicious. This is now the twelfth tagged eagle to go missing in this “black hole” in just seven years and is entirely consistent with the systematic and ongoing illegal persecution of eagles in this area.”

The missing bird and its mate were occupying a traditional golden eagle territory, but one where the nest has not been successful for decades despite good habitat and prey. In 2016, the area was occupied by a lone adult male, but he too disappeared.

Duncan Orr-Ewing continued: “Despite very recent and high level public warnings from Scottish Government, it appears that criminals intent on killing golden eagles continue to target these magnificent birds, especially in areas managed for driven grouse shooting. Patience with self-regulation is at an end and meaningful deterrents are now urgently required. We support the introduction of new measures to license driven grouse shooting, including powers for the public authorities to remove such licences, where there is good evidence of criminal behaviour”.

In parts of the Monadhliaths, such as the area from where this bird fledged, golden eagles are doing well, but the efforts by some landowners, farmers and gamekeepers to protect these magnificent birds are constantly being undermined by persecution when eagles move out of these safe areas. There can be little doubt that current legislation and enforcement have proven to be insufficient deterrents to those criminals, invariably linked to the management of driven grouse shooting, who are intent on killing protected birds of prey.”

Anyone who can provide information about the disappearance of this bird, or other raptor persecution incidents, is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101, or to phone the confidential RSPB Raptor Crime Hotline on 0300 999 0101.

ENDS

The location information provided by the press release is a bit vague: ‘an upland area, mainly managed for driven grouse shooting, north of Tomatin‘. Hmm. According to Andy Wightman’s brilliant Who Owns Scotland website, this might be Moy Estate. Moy is an upland area, it is mainly managed for driven grouse shooting, and it is north of Tomatin. It’s also an estate where in 2010 a police search uncovered the leg rings of four young golden eagles being kept in a jar at a gamekeeper’s home. The gamekeeper apparently couldn’t provide an explanation for how he came to have them in his possession. Yes, this eagle might have disappeared from Moy Estate but it’s impossible to be certain without more detailed information.

[Estate boundary derived from Who Owns Scotland]

What is certain, is that this is yet another highly suspicious disappearance of a satellite-tagged golden eagle on or close to a Scottish grouse moor. What number is this one, 42? No, that was Fred. Number 43, perhaps? It’s hard to keep up.

And this latest eagle, according to Duncan Orr-Ewing (RSPB Scotland) is the 12th tagged eagle to vanish in this area in just seven years. That is scandalous.

The area in question is part of Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing’s constituency. There’s one hell of a record of illegal raptor persecution on his patch. You’d think, being a senior member of the governing SNP (Cab Sec for the Rural Economy & Connectivity) and with all this crime going on on his own doorstep in the Monadhliaths, he’d be jumping up and down, beetroot-faced with rage, determined to bring this to a halt. But so far, in all the years we’ve been writing about these crimes, we’ve heard nothing from him but praise and adulation for the grouse-shooting industry.

What we can also be certain of is the reaction from the grouse-shooting industry. There’ll be denials, there’ll be claims this disappearance isn’t suspicious, there’ll be attacks on the RSPB for daring to publicise it, there’ll be accusations of a set-up, there’ll be a refusal to believe these tags have a 98% reliability record, there’ll be imaginary windfarms, there’ll be real windfarms, there’ll be irrelevant data from satellite-tagged Olive Ridley Turtles in Bangladesh, there’ll be claims he was blown out to sea on a gust of wind, there’ll be claims he flew in to a fence, broke his legs and rolled himself off a hill to fly through the night before crashing in a forest, there’ll be calls for Chris Packham to be sacked from the BBC, there’ll be claims the eagle fell in to a burn and was washed away downstream. There’ll be every possible explanation under the sun, except, of course, for the glaringly obvious.

Why is it, satellite-tagged golden eagles on or close to grouse moors in Scotland are 25 times more likely to ‘disappear’ than anywhere else in the word where this species has been tagged?

We keep coming back to a recent quote from Dr Hugh Webster, because it says everything:

They can hide the bodies. They can hide the tags. But they can’t hide the pattern“.

The grouse shooting industry is making fools of the Scottish Government. Again and again and again. But for how much longer?

UPDATES

Response from Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association here (we’ll be blogging about this later – see below)

Response from Scottish Land & Estates here (we’ll be blogging about this later – see below)

Article in Scotsman here

Article in the Herald here

Article on BBC website here

Article in Press & Journal here

Article on STV here, including a quote from Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham, as follows:

This golden eagle has disappeared in an area which has long been associated with the illegal persecution of birds of prey.

We may never discover exactly what has happened in the case of this latest disappearance.

But we do know the illegal killing of Scotland’s magnificent birds of prey continues – primarily in areas which are intensively managed for driven grouse shooting.

No-one should be in any doubt about my determination to act decisively to uphold the law and protect Scotland’s magnificent birds of prey.

I look forward to receiving the Werritty Report into how we can ensure grouse shooting is sustainable and complies with the law, which is due to be published early next year“.

Article in Scottish Daily Mail here

New blog post: Responses to missing satellite-tagged golden eagle nr Tomatin (here)

20
Feb
18

Scottish gamekeeper pleads guilty to animal cruelty offence

A Scottish gamekeeper has been banned from keeping birds of prey for 10 years after keeping an eagle owl in a cramped pigsty.

The large owl was discovered by SSPCA investigators last summer.

This week gamekeeper Alan Wilson admitted failing to protect the bird from suffering when he appeared at Jedburgh Sheriff Court.

The court heard how the 59-year-old kept the owl in a filthy boarded-up pigsty at his home at Henlaw Cottages, near Longformacus.

Photos by SSPCA

Jedburgh Sheriff Court was told that investigators received a tip-off and found the owl in “utterly unacceptable living conditions” on June 5 2017.

Gamekeeper Wilson pleaded guilty to the offence under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2006.

Wilson was ordered to sign over custody of the owl to the Scottish SPCA and in addition to the 10 year disqualification, he was fined £400.

An undercover Scottish SPCA spokesman said: “This case involved an eagle owl who had its welfare compromised by being kept in utterly unacceptable living conditions.

The Scottish SPCA worked in partnership with Police Scotland to seize and rescue the bird as well as providing expertise.

Both wild and captive raptors can suffer if their welfare falls below that of adequate standards.

Eagle owls are large, strong predators and like all captive predators require specialist care and expertise.

The eagle owl is currently being cared for by the Scottish SPCA and is doing well.”

Excellent partnership-working between Police Scotland and the SSPCA. Well done to all involved.

We believe this case is connected to the multi-agency raid on a game shooting estate last June (see here). It is not known if any further charges are being brought in relation to that raid.

It’s not the first time a gamekeeper with an Eagle Owl has come to the attention of the authorities in this region. In April last year we blogged about an unidentified gamekeeper who had been photographed with a tethered Eagle Owl on a grouse moor in the nearby Lammermuirs (see here).




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