Archive for the 'News' Category


Pine marten caught in spring trap on Highland shooting estate

This pine marten was found with its leg caught in a spring trap on a Highland grouse shooting estate in the Monadhliaths last month. It was still alive when it was found. The trap was not anchored and the pine marten may have dragged itself (and the trap) some distance before it was discovered by hill walkers. The SSPCA was called out and the injured marten was taken to a vet to be euthanised.

The photographs appeared on Facebook yesterday, posted by one of the hill walkers, Andy Ross.

The circumstances leading to this incident are not known. This could have been an illegally-set spring trap, placed out in the open next to a bait to attract a passing raptor; this seems to be a recurring theme on some grouse moors. However, it’s also possible that the trap may have been legally set inside an artificial or natural tunnel and somehow the pine marten had managed to by-pass the entrance restrictor that is supposed to minimise the chance of a non-target species entering the tunnel. Mind you, if this had happened, it’s pretty hard to imagine that the pine marten would have been able to pull itself and the entire trap out through the restricted entrance hole.

Whatever the circumstances were, yet another protected species has suffered appalling injuries and lost its life, just so a few more grouse can be shot for fun later in the year, and nobody can be held accountable.

If the Scottish Government (and the Westminster Government for that matter) are going to continue to allow the use of spring traps, shouldn’t there be some sort of mandatory trap-user training and a requirement for each trap to be individually marked so the trap user can be identified, much like snare use is now regulated in Scotland?


Illegal pole trap set next to pheasant pen on Lanarkshire shooting estate

An article was published yesterday on The Ferret website about an illegal pole trap found next to a pheasant pen on an unnamed shooting estate in Lanarkshire.

Unfortunately the article now sits behind a paywall because we’ve viewed our allotted three free articles in one month, so we can’t add the actual link here. Some of you will be able to access the specific article by visiting The Ferret website and searching for it, or you can subscribe and get access to everything they publish.

Here’s an overview of the pole trap incident:

On 7 September 2015 at around 10.30am an investigator from the League Against Cruel Sports (Scotland) found an illegal pole trap that had been positioned next to a pheasant-rearing pen. The trap was set (i.e. the safety catch was off) and had been placed on top of a freshly-dead pheasant.

The investigator phoned the SSPCA who attended the scene at around 1.30pm and said the police should be called.

At 3.09pm, a man arrived at the pen carrying a bag of pheasant feed and was informed an illegal pole trap had been found next to the pen’s entrance door. Despite being warned not to tamper with potential police evidence, the man removed the trap from the pheasant bait and left it dangling from the post. He then entered the pen, fed the pheasants and then left the scene.

Two police officers turned up at 4pm and took the trap away in an evidence bag.

The police subsequently dropped the case.

The League Against Cruel Sports have published a video from the scene – watch it here.

The point being made in The Ferret article is that had the SSPCA been given increased investigatory powers, the SSPCA officer attending the scene would have been permitted to remove the illegal trap and collect it as evidence before the man came along and dismantled it, and the outcome of this case could have been very different.

As regular blog readers will know, we are still waiting for a long-overdue decision from the Scottish Government about whether the SSPCA will be given increased investigatory powers. Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said in January 2017 that a decision would be announced in the first half of 2017.


A few sandwiches short of a picnic

As we mentioned yesterday, some individuals within the game shooting industry have recently been doing their level best to discredit the work of raptor fieldworkers, and particularly anything associated with tagging raptors, be it leg rings, wing tags or satellite tags. As usual, their level best falls way short of the mark.

Some of it amounts to libel (so we won’t be discussing that here as legal action is being considered), some of it is quite disturbing (distributing images of children without parental consent and without any attempts to pixelate faces) and some of it is either a complete fabrication or a gross distortion of the truth. All of it is being done as a crude and cynical attempt to undermine the findings of the forthcoming raptor satellite tag review, which we anticipate will provide damning evidence of the extent of satellite tagged raptors that ‘disappear’ on Scottish grouse moors.

Here’s a good example of some of the propaganda being peddled by the game shooting industry. This photograph has been repeatedly posted on Facebook and other social media platforms as an example of ‘bad practice’ at a raptor tagging event. It shows a group of people at an eagle nest site in Perthshire in 2014. According to Bert Burnett of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, who has posted this image several times, these people, including Duncan Orr-Ewing of RSPB Scotland, are “having a picnic underneath an eagle nest” for several hours and thus by implication are causing unnecessary disturbance at the site and causing the adult birds to desert.

What’s actually happening here is a group of people, including four licensed experts and their invited guests, have climbed to an eagle nest site and while the climbers have gone to retrieve the eaglet from the nest so its satellite tag can be fitted in safety on the ground, Duncan is eating a sandwich. That’s it. It’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic, or is that just Bert?

Another photograph that Bert has circulated was also taken at this site on the same day. It shows Duncan quite rightly checking the fit of the young eagle’s sat tag harness before the bird is put back in its nest.

This photograph elicited all sorts of comments on social media, with suggestions that sat tagging golden eagles is harmful to the birds, that it’s detrimental to their survival and one person even claiming that “they [the raptor fieldworkers] are a far greater threat to birds than any shooting interests“.

He posted another photograph (which we won’t post here for legal reasons) that shows a woman and her son on the nest ledge after the eagle had been returned to its nest. Bert said this about it: “What happens to birds after tagging is very questionable. Allowing your families and friends to climb up intae the nest just for photo shoots is totally out of order and shows no concern for the birds future welfare“. On a later post he also claimed the woman had been “hoisted in to the nest“. What the photo actually shows is a Schedule 1 licence holder and her son who have just climbed to the nest to return the eagle after tagging. It’s probably hard for Bert to comprehend that a woman might actually be a Schedule 1 licence holder and that she’d be capable of climbing to the nest without being “hoisted in” (surely her breasts would get in the way?) but when your mindset is firmly stuck in the 18th century then it’s probably no surprise at all.

As for Bert’s comment, “What happens to birds after tagging is very questionable“, well, it’s not questionable in this case. This eagle was satellite tagged in Perthshire in 2014. The bird fledged successfully and its movements were tracked until 2016 when its tag signal suddenly stopped transmitting and the eagle ‘disappeared’ on a grouse moor in the Angus Glens. We’d respectfully suggest that this eagle’s disappearance (probable death) was not caused by Duncan eating a sandwich at its natal site two years earlier nor by it being put back in to the nest by a woman, but was more than likely caused by illegal poisoning, illegal trapping or illegal shooting on or near a grouse moor in the Angus Glens.

A week ago, Bert again posted the photograph of Duncan eating a sandwich and he wrote the following on his Facebook page:

Once again, Bert hasn’t checked his facts. This eagle territory has NOT been deserted since Duncan and his colleagues safely fitted the satellite tag to the young eagle in 2014. On the contrary, the breeding pair has remained on territory and produced chicks every year since. In fact last year’s chick, ‘Freya’, was seen by millions of viewers as she was filmed being satellite tagged for the BBC’s SpringWatch programme!

Now, we can take the mick out of Bert all day and as long as he continues to spout nonsense we’ll continue to call him out – it’s actually quite enjoyable and he’s helping our cause no end. But there’s a darker side to what’s going on, with the targeted harassment of certain named individuals, and we’ll be blogging about that shortly.

In the meantime, have a look at a blog written by Duncan today (see here) for a more serious view on raptor tagging procedures and also check out this statement from the BTO which details the stringent requirements that must be met before anyone gets a licence to ring and tag birds in the UK: Overview of BTO Ringing Scheme training and licensing procedure


BAWC’s crowdfunding appeal for raptor satellite tagging project nears target

In January, campaign group Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC) launched a crowdfunding appeal to help support a new raptor satellite tagging project in northern England.

The initial fundraising target was £10,000 and this was smashed within a week or so of launching. £10k was the minimum amount required for the project to be viable, but such was the support, BAWC increased the target to £19,000 to allow even more tags to be purchased.

At the time of writing, 699 incredible supporters have raised £18,124. Contributors have included high profile individuals like Chris Packham, Mark Avery, Nick Miles (Jimmy King from Emmerdale!) as well as some less well known people such as the children and teachers from St Mary’s RC Primary School in Northumberland who recently held a cake sale and donated the proceeds to this project.

The crowdfunding appeal closes in three days time so this is the final push to reach the £19,000 target. If you’d like to donate, please click here.

Thank you!

Incidentally, over the last few days various allegations have been made on social media about raptor tagging projects. This is, of course, coming from people within the game shooting industry who are keen to discredit raptor workers at every opportunity and they are also particularly keen to discredit the practice of raptor tagging in general, probably because they are worried about what the forthcoming raptor satellite tag review will show (and they are right to be worried – we expect the report to be damning).

Some of the allegations that have been made are clearly libellous and there has also been targeted harassment of some individual raptor workers, and their children, so we won’t be blogging about those as legal action is being considered. However, we will shortly be blogging in a wider context about some of the unsubstantiated claims being made about the effects of tagging on various raptor species.


Two more buzzards shot dead in North Yorkshire

Two buzzards have been found shot dead in separate incidents in North Yorkshire.

One was found with shot gun injuries near East Lutton and the other one was found with shot gun injuries at Sutton Bank top near Helmsley in the North York Moors National Park.

Information and photos from Jean Thorpe (Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre).

No further details available but hopefully North Yorkshire Police will issue a press release soon.

If you have any info please contact Police Wildlife Crime Officer Jez Walmsley: 


1,000 birds killed despite General Licence Restriction at Raeshaw Estate / Corsehope Farm

Regular blog readers will know that in November 2015, SNH issued two General Licence restriction orders on the Raeshaw Estate and neighbouring Corsehope Farm in the Scottish Borders (see here). This was in response to alleged raptor persecution crimes (see here), although there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a prosecution and the estates have denied any responsibility.

The General Licence restriction orders were supposed to last for three years, starting 13 November 2015 and ending 12 November 2018. However, since being implemented, these restriction orders have been on and off as Raeshaw Estate mounted a legal challenge against their use. This legal challenge resulted in a judicial review, which was heard in January 2017, and we await the court’s findings.

Meanwhile, unbelievably, SNH issued two so-called ‘individual licences’ (see here) – one to Raeshaw Estate and one to Corsehope Farm, allowing the gamekeepers to continue the activities they would have undertaken had the General Licence restriction orders not been imposed (i.e. killing so-called ‘pest’ bird species). In our view (here) this was a ludicrous move because it totally undermined the supposed ‘sanction’ of the General Licence restriction. RSPB Scotland shared our view (see here).

SNH responded by saying the individual licences represented “robust regulation” (see here) and argued that the use of the individual licences would be “closely monitored” and that the gamekeepers would be “under tighter supervision” than they would have been if using a General Licence (see here).

As a reminder, here are copies of the two individual licences:

Raeshaw Estate individual licence here (valid 10 June 2016 – 31 December 2016)

Corsehope Farm individual licence here (valid 1 July 2016 – 31 December 2016)

As a condition of each individual licence, the estates had to submit to SNH, within one month of the licence expiry date, a log of all activities undertaken under each licence.

Last month we submitted an FoI to SNH asking for copies of these logs, as well as asking for details of the number of visits SNH staff  had made to the two estates to check for licence compliance (you know, that ‘close monitoring’ and ‘tight supervision’ SNH had been promising). What we discovered validates all our earlier concerns about this so-called ‘sanction’.

Here are the two logs submitted to SNH by the gamekeepers, detailing what species they’d killed, where, and when. The first log is for three crow cage traps placed on Raeshaw Estate and the second log relates to a single crow cage trap situated on Corsehope Farm (believed to be operated by Raeshaw Estate gamekeepers):

In total 294 rooks and 706 jackdaws were killed between 19 July and 25 August 2016. This amounts to 1,000 birds.

SNH staff undertook one compliance check visit for each estate. Both visits took place on 25 August 2016. The visit to Raeshaw Estate took 2.5 hours and the visit to Corsehope Farm lasted for one hour.

We’ve mapped the position of the four crow cage traps (note that the grouse moor at Raeshaw Estate lies directly to the west of these traps (the dark brown area).

These findings raise a number of questions and further concerns:

  1. The licence returns only refer to two species of birds that were caught and killed using four crow cage traps. Are we to believe that no other form of avian ‘pest control’ took place on either land holding between 10 June and 31 December 2016 (the duration of the individual licences)?
  2. For what ‘purpose’ were 294 rooks and 706 jackdaws killed? According to the individual licences (see above), the purpose was to “Prevent serious damage to livestock, foodstuff for livestock, crops, vegetables, fruit, growing timber, fisheries or inland water” and in the case of the Corsehope Farm individual licence, also to “prevent the spread of disease“. Can SNH explain the specific purpose of allowing these birds to be lawfully killed (i.e. if it was to protect livestock, what was the livestock and what threats do rooks and jackdaws pose? If it was to protect crops, what sort of crop and what threats do rooks and jackdaws pose? etc etc).
  3. What steps did SNH take to ensure that these 1,000 birds were not killed in order for the estates to produce artificially high densities of gamebirds for shooting? (This would be illegal).
  4. Why were 294 rooks allowed to be killed when this species has suffered a 37% decline in Scotland between 1995-2014, which would trigger a formal Amber listing if the listing criteria were applied at a Scottish level instead of a UK level (as pointed out to SNH by RSPB Scotland here)?
  5. Does SNH believe that one visit (per estate) for the duration of these six-month long individual licences equates to “close monitoring“, “tighter supervision” and “robust regulation“. If so, how?
  6. What did SNH staff do on their 2.5 hour visit to Raeshaw Estate? Did they just visit the three known crow cage traps or did they search the rest of this 9,000 acre estate to search for unlicensed (and thus illegal) traps?
  7. What did SNH staff do on their one hour visit to Corsehope Farm? Did they just visit the one known crow cage trap or did they search the rest of this farm for unlicensed (and thus illegal) traps?
  8. Are we still expected to believe that a General Licence restriction order is an effective sanction for alleged raptor persecution crimes, and if so, how?

We’ll be asking these questions to the SNH licensing team. If you want to join in, here’s their email address:


Convicted shooting agent no longer listed on tourism website

Some of you may remember back in December 2016 and January 2017 we were blogging about an organisation called the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group (SCSTG).

The SCSTG had been awarded funding from Scotland’s national tourism agency, VisitScotland, to help develop an initiative called ‘Game for Growth’, aimed at boosting the value of shooting, stalking and fishing to the Scottish rural economy.

This raised eyebrows, and even a parliamentary question, when we pointed out that a convicted wildlife criminal’s business (Dunmhor Sporting) was being promoted on the SCSTG website and yet this Game for Growth initiative had been launched at a parliamentary reception at Holyrood (see here, here, here).

Photo from parliamentary reception, December 2016. L-R: Tim (Kim) Baynes from the Gift of Grouse, Malcolm Roughead from VisitScotland, Edward Mountain MSP (host), and Sarah Troughton from the Scottish Country Sports Tourism Group.

We also noted that two sporting estates (Invercauld Estate & Glendye grouse moor) were being promoted on this website (here), despite the recent discovery of illegally-set traps on both landholdings, although nobody has been charged in relation to the Invercauld incident (here) and we understand the Glen Dye incident is still under police investigation. (Well done to the local police wildlife crime officer, by the way, who reacted quickly when he was alerted to the traps at Glen Dye and has been fast to respond to subsequent correspondence on this matter).

Some of our readers, and us, contacted Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism & External Affairs, and Malcolm Roughead, Chief Exec of VisitScotland, to ask whether they were aware that tax payers’ money (via VisitScotland) was being used to promote the business of a convicted wildlife criminal and whether they thought this was an appropriate use of public funds.

So far, the responses from both have been unsatisfactory (e.g. see here) and further correspondence via a number of local MSPs is currently being undertaken.

However, after a quick look at the SCSTG website this morning, it would appear that Dunmhor Sporting is no longer listed. Whether the Minister and/or VisitScotland has had this listing removed, or whether Dunmhor Sporting has removed itself, remains to be seen.

However, Invercauld Estate and Glen Dye are both still listed.

We’ll be returning to this when we find out whether SNH intends to invoke General Licence restrictions on either of these two estates, assuming GL restrictions are still possible after the findings of the recent judicial review are made public – any day now.

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