Posts Tagged ‘crow trap

22
Dec
16

RSPB Scotland slams General Licence system as ‘cover for criminal destruction of raptors’

cage-trapEarlier this year, SNH opened a consultation on the use of General Licences (GLs), in anticipation of updating the terms of use for their suite of 2017 GLs.

This wasn’t anything new. SNH regularly reviews the GLs, but, as has happened so many times before, this year SNH has yet again ignored the on-going conservation concerns about the use of these GLs.

We’ve blogged about the terms of the GLs many times, particularly in relation to the mis-use of traps that are authorised under the terms of the GLs (e.g. see here, here, here, herehereherehere, here) and RSPB Scotland has been questioning the terms of GLs for over ten years (e.g. see here [pages 6-13] and here).

RSPB Scotland responded to this year’s GL consultation, repeating the same concerns as they had ten years ago. You can read their consultation response here: rspb_scotland_response_to-snh_2016_gl_consultation

(As an aside, SNH has now published all the responses to this year’s GL consultation but we’ll be blogging about that in another post).

A couple of weeks ago, SNH announced the changes it was making to the 2017 GLs and, surprise surprise, many of the concerns raised by RSPB Scotland and other conservation organisations have been totally ignored, again. You can read SNH’s announcement here: snh-ogl-consultation-response-letter-annexes-a-b-and-c

baited-clam1Amongst other things, SNH has decided to reinstate the use of meat bait inside clam traps (thus increasing the likelihood of catching birds of prey), and there is also a commitment to ‘explore new and responsive licensing solutions to prevent agricultural damage by ravens’. On-going concerns that have not been addressed include (but are not limited to) compliance (or not) with European environmental legislation; welfare concerns; poor trap design that allows indiscriminate species trapping; year-round use (as opposed to seasonal use); ineffective regulation of trap users; ineffective monitoring of trap use (i.e. number and species caught/killed); inability to identify an individual trap user; and the lovely get-out clause for any General Licence user with an unspent criminal conviction.

Justifiably, RSPB Scotland are pretty unimpressed, as well they should be, and they have issued a scathing press release about SNH’s failure to address long-term concerns, particularly in relation to the use of GLs as a cover for the illegal persecution of raptors. RSPB Scotland’s press release can be read here.

RSPB Scotland has also produced a video to highlight some of their concerns. Watch it here.

If you share RSPB Scotland’s concerns, and you agree that the current GL system is not fit for purpose, you can make your views known to SNH by emailing them at: licensing@snh.gov.uk

06
Sep
16

The illegal killing of birds of prey in the Cairngorms National Park

Many people think of the Cairngorms National Park as a wildlife haven. It’s what many expect of a National Park; indeed, it’s what we should all expect of a National Park.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) promotes it as such (this screen grab taken from the CNPA website):

CNPscreengrab

But just how much of a ‘wildlife haven’ is it?

Here’s the gruesome reality.

The following list, which we’ve compiled from various data sources but predominantly from the RSPB’s annual persecution reports, documents over 60 illegal raptor persecution incidents inside the Cairngorms National Park (CNP) since 2002. (The Park wasn’t formally established until 2003 but we’ve included 2002 data as the area had been mapped by then). This list includes just the crimes we know about. How many more went unreported/undiscovered?

2002

Feb: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Tomintoul

Mar: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + 2 rabbit baits. Cromdale

2003

Apr: 3 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + 2 grey partridge baits. Kingussie, CNP

Jun: Attempted shooting of a hen harrier. Crannoch, CNP

2004

May: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cuaich, CNP

Nov: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Cromdale, CNP

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale, CNP

2005

Feb: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale, CNP

Feb: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Cromdale, CNP

Mar: 3 x poisoned buzzards, 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Crathie, CNP

2006

Jan: 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Dulnain Bridge, CNP

May: 1 x poisoned raven (Mevinphos). Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

May: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Morven [corbett], CNP

May: 1 x poisoned raven + 1 x poisoned common gull (Aldicarb) + egg bait. Glenbuchat, CNP

May: egg bait (Aldicarb). Glenbuchat, CNP

Jun: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Glenfeshie, CNP

2007

Jan: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Glenshee, CNP

Apr: Illegally set spring trap. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

May: Pole trap. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

May: 1 x poisoned red kite (Carbofuran). Tomintoul, CNP

May: Illegally set spring trap. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Jun: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit & hare baits. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Jun: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Jul: 1 x poisoned raven (Carbofuran). Ballater, CNP

Sep: 1 x shot buzzard. Newtonmore, CNP

Sep: 1 x shot buzzard. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

2008

Jan: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Nr Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Mar: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran). Nr Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Dec: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Alphachloralose). Nr Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

2009

May: 2 x poisoned ravens (Mevinphos). Delnabo, CNP

Jun: rabbit bait (Mevinphos). nr Tomintoul, CNP

Jun: 1 x shot buzzard. Nr Strathdon, CNP

Jun: 1 x illegal crow trap. Nr Tomintoul, CNP

2010

Apr: Pole trap. Nr Dalwhinnie, CNP

Jun: 1 x pole-trapped goshawk. Nr Dalwhinnie, CNP

Jun: Illegally set spring trap on tree stump. Nr Dalwhinnie, CNP

Sep: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Glenlochy, CNP

Oct: 2 x poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Nr Boat of Garten, CNP

2011

Jan: 1 x shot buzzard. Nr Bridge of Brown, CNP

Mar: 1 x poisoned golden eagle (Carbofuran). Glenbuchat, CNP

Apr: 1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran & Aldicarb). Nr Bridge of Brown, CNP

May:  1 x poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) + rabbit bait. Glenbuchat, CNP

May: 1 x shot short-eared owl, found stuffed under rock. Glenbuchat, CNP

Jun: 1 x shot peregrine. Pass of Ballater, CNP

Aug: grouse bait (Aldicarb). Glenlochy, CNP

Sep: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon, CNP

Nov: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Nr Strathdon, CNP

2012

Apr: 1 x shot short-eared owl. Nr Grantown-on-Spey, CNP

Apr: Peregrine nest site burnt out. Glenshee, CNP

May: Buzzard nest shot out. Nr Ballater, CNP

2013

Jan: White-tailed eagle nest tree felled. Invermark, CNP

May: 1 x shot hen harrier. Glen Gairn, CNP

May: Satellite-tagged golden eagle ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat, CNP

2014

Apr: Satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle ‘disappears’. Glenbuchat, CNP

May: Armed masked men shoot out a goshawk nest. Glen Nochty, CNP

2015

Sep: Satellite-tagged hen harrier ‘Lad’ found dead, suspected shot. Newtonmore, CNP

2016

May: 1 x shot goshawk. Strathdon, CNP

Jun: Illegally set spring traps. Invercauld, CNP

In addition to the above list, two recent scientific publications have documented the long-term decline of breeding peregrines on grouse moors in the eastern side of the National Park (see here) and the catastrophic decline of breeding hen harriers, also on grouse moors in the eastern side of the Park (see here).

And let’s not forget the on-going massacre of mountain hares, taking place annually within the boundary of the National Park (e.g. see here, here).

So, who still thinks the Cairngorms National Park is a ‘wildlife haven’?

With over 40% of the National Park covered by driven grouse moors, it’s anything but. The next blog will explore how the Cairngorms National Park Authority has failed, so far, to effectively address the illegal killing of birds of prey, but there is a small chink of light ahead…..more shortly.

UPDATE 7/9/16: How to stop the illegal persecution of raptors in the Cairngorms National Park (here)

20
Nov
15

General Licence restrictions on Raeshaw & Burnfoot Estates last only six days

On 4th November, we blogged about SNH’s intention to restrict the use of General Licences in two areas, in response to alleged raptor persecution incidents. The two areas included parts of the Raeshaw and Corsehope Estates in the Borders (Restriction #1), and parts of the Burnfoot and Wester Cringate Estates in Stirlingshire (Restriction #2) (see here for our earlier blog about these restrictions, and see here for SNH’s explanation for the restrictions).

The General Licence restrictions were due to begin on 13th November 2015 and run for three years. They actually only ran for six days.

SNH GL restriction 1 SUSPENSION - Copy

SNH GL restriction 2 SUSPENSION - Copy

On 19th November 2015, the General Licence restrictions were suspended in both areas until further notice, because the Estates have lodged legal appeals, as they said they would last week (see here). While the appeals are underway, the Estates can continue to use the General Licences (i.e. continue to set crow traps and Larsen traps to catch and kill corvids, continue to shoot corvids, and continue to kill lots of other stuff that falls under the remit of activities permitted under the General Licences – see here for a list).

We don’t know what the basis of the appeals are, and nor do we know the procedural process of the appeals system, but presumably SNH now has a fixed period of time to respond. If SNH decides to uphold the appeals then the General Licence restrictions will be removed. If SNH decides to stick to its original decision and impose the three-year restrictions, then the restrictions would be re-instated. However, then these Estates would be entitled to apply for a judicial review to test whether SNH has acted fairly.

Settle yourselves in for a long legal battle.

05
Nov
15

General licences suspended on four Scottish grouse moors in response to raptor persecution crimes

Yesterday, SNH published the following press release:

General licences restricted in wildlife crime hotspots

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has restricted the use of general licences on four properties in two wildlife crime hotspots – one in Stirlingshire and one in the Borders – this week. The decision was made on the basis of evidence provided by Police Scotland of wildlife crime against birds.

Nick Halfhide, SNH Director of Operations, said:

“There is clear evidence that wildlife crimes have been committed on these properties. Because of this, and the risk of more wildlife crimes taking place, we have suspended the general licences on these four properties for three years. They may though still apply for individual licences, but these will be closely monitored.

“This measure should help to protect wild birds in the area, while still allowing necessary land management activities to take place, albeit under tighter supervision. We consider that this is a proportionate response to protect wild birds in the area and prevent further wildlife crime.”

General licences allow landowners or land managers to carry out actions which would otherwise be illegal, including controlling common species of wild birds to protect crops or livestock.

The new measure complements other recent actions to reduce wildlife crime, including vicarious liability for offences against wild birds, which was introduced in 2011.

Restrictions will prevent people from using the general licences on the land in question for three years. This period will increase if more evidence of offences comes to light.

END

As promised in earlier correspondence with SNH about potential General Licence restrictions (e.g. see here), SNH has published ‘details’ of the current restrictions on its website. Although when we say ‘details’ we use the term loosely. The names of the estates have not been published (but see below) and the specific reasons (crimes) that triggered the restriction orders are also absent.

Instead, SNH has published two maps showing the areas where the three-year restriction orders will be in place.

Restriction order #1 can be viewed here: GL restriction order 1_ Nov 2015-2018

The map denoting the area relating to Restriction order #1 is here:

Raeshaw Corshope GL restriction map 2015

Having consulted Andy Wightman’s brilliant website Who Owns Scotland to check estate boundaries, we now know that the delineated area shown in Restriction order #1 includes parts of Raeshaw Estate and the neighbouring Corsehope Estate.

This is fascinating. Raeshaw Estate is well known to us and continues to be of interest. It is a mixed upland estate combining driven grouse shooting as well as pheasant and partridge shooting. We have documentary evidence that Mark Osborne’s company is involved in the estate management (more on that in the near future). Raeshaw Estate has been raided by the police at least twice (2004 and 2009 – poisoned and shot raptors and poisoned baits – see here) although nobody has ever been prosecuted for these crimes. However, the General Licence Restriction can only be applied for crimes that have been uncovered since 1st January 2014; it cannot be applied retrospectively for offences that took place prior to 1st January 2014. This means that further raptor crimes have been uncovered here but there has not been any publicity about them. Why not? There was news of a shot buzzard found in the nearby area on 24th July 2015 (see here), but this bird was found AFTER SNH had notified the estate of the intention to restrict the General Licence (see here) so this incident cannot be the one that triggered the General Licence Restriction.

Corsehope Estate has not been on our radar, although we’re told by local sources that gamekeepers from Raeshaw Estate are involved with ‘vermin control’ here so now we’re very interested.

Restriction order #2 can be viewed here: GL retriction order 2_ Nov 2015-2018

The map denoting the area relating to Restriction order #2 is here:

Burnfoot Wester Cringate GL restriction map 2015

Again, consulting Andy Wightman’s excellent website Who Owns Scotland to check estate boundaries, we now know that the delineated area shown in Restriction order #2 includes parts of Burnfoot Estate and Wester Cringate Estate.

This is also interesting. We believe (although it must be stressed that this is educated speculation as SNH has not published the information) that this restriction order probably relates to a series of raptor persecution crimes including a poisoned red kite (July 2014), a poisoned peregrine (February 2015) and an illegally trapped red kite (May 2015) – see here.

So, what do these General Licence Restriction orders mean? Basically, it means that the following activities, usually permitted under General Licences 1, 2 and 3, are now not permitted in the areas shown on the two maps for three years, starting 13th November 2015 and ending 12th November 2018:

The killing or taking of the following species:

Great black-backed gull, carrion crow, hooded crow, jackdaw, jay, rook, ruddy duck, magpie, Canada goose, collared dove, feral pigeon, wood pigeon, lesser black-back gull, and herring gull.

The use of the following methods to kill/take these species are not permitted:

Pricking of eggs, oiling of eggs, destruction of eggs and nests, use of Larsen trap, use of Larsen Mate trap, use of Larsen Pod trap, use of multi-catch crow cage trap, shooting with any firearm, targeted falconry, and by hand.

That sounds great, doesn’t it? But it’s not quite as clear cut as that. As we’ve discussed before, and as is stated in the SNH press release at the top of this blog, although these activities can no longer be carried out in the two denoted areas under the cover of the three General Licences, individuals may still apply for an individual licence to permit these activities, although SNH claims that if granted, these will be “closely monitored”.

What does ‘closely monitored’ actually mean? Closely monitored by whom? Daily inspections by SNH? Police Scotland? That’s hardly going to happen, is it?

Let’s hope that members of the general public, exercising their right to visit these areas under open access legislation, pay close attention to what’s going on around them. If they see a Larsen trap in use, or a crow cage trap in use, or witness any of the above bird species being killed/taken by any of the methods mentioned above, they inform the Police straight away. Actually, let’s hope they forget the police and inform RSPB Scotland and/or the SSPCA instead – they’re more likely to get a quick response from them.

It’ll be interesting to see how this all pans out. On the one hand, we welcome these Restriction orders and applaud the Scottish Government (especially former Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse for initiating them), SNH and Police Scotland for pursuing what we hope will be the first of many such Restriction orders. But on the other hand, will these restrictions be anything more than a minor inconvenience to the estates involved because they can simply apply for individual licences to continue their game-shooting activities? We’ll have to wait and see.

RSPB Scotland’s response to the two General Licence Restriction orders here

As yet no response from Scottish Land & Estates or the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association but we’ll post them here if/when they comment.

UPDATE 11.50hrs: The SGA has issued the following statement on their website:

On November 4th 2015, SNH announced general licence restrictions to two areas encompassing four properties.
The SGA has issued the following statement in response to questions.

A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The SGA cannot condone wildlife crime and has a clear and consistent policy regarding this.
“As regards this case, it is our understanding that legal discussions are taking place regarding the areas affected and, therefore, it is not appropriate for us to comment further.”
END
UPDATE 13.20hrs: Statement from Environment Minister Dr Aileen McLeod:

“The announcement by SNH that the use of general licences has been restricted on specified areas of land in the Borders and in Stirlingshire is a result of work that the Scottish Government commissioned in July 2013 as part of a package of measures to combat wildlife crime.

We welcome the progress that has been made with this work. However we have not been involved in the decision-making and do not have any comment on the individual cases in question. The General Licence system is a light touch form of regulation. It is clearly sensible to apply closer scrutiny to areas where there is good evidence that wildlife crime has taken place, and we believe that this will prove a useful tool in the fight against bird of prey persecution.”

28
May
15

Illegal tampering with traps – results of BASC Scotland ‘study’ shows not widespread

297__333x222_cage-trapEarlier this month we read a fascinating article published in Fife Today about the alleged illegal tampering of traps (see here).

Landowner Sir Robert Spencer-Nairn (Rankielour Estate) was talking about how he’d installed CCTV cameras ‘following a spate of incidents’ where ‘vicious’ crows had been released from traps to ‘wreak damage in the countryside’ (yep, you get the idea – he has links with GCT so what do you expect?). The article also suggested that Police Scotland  ‘is reporting a rise in the number of traps being tampered with’.

Is that right? Well, how about we look at the evidence.

Regular blog readers may recall former Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse telling the RACCE Committee in November 2013 that there wasn’t any evidence to support or refute claims from the game-shooting industry of widespread trap interference/damage, but that a study (funded by Scottish Government – i.e. tax payers) was about to begin to try and assess those claims (see here).

That year-long study began in April 2014 and finished at the end of March 2015. BASC (Scotland) issued a press release in February 2014 to announce the start of the study, and it’s really worth a read (see here) – especially the comments attributed to Mike Holliday (BASC Scotland), Tim (Kim) Baynes (Scottish Land & Estates Moorland Group) and Alex Hogg (SGA), who all claimed that trap interference was widespread (ooh, is that the old victim card being played once more?). As well as BASC, the study was reportedly widely supported by SLE, SGA, GWCT (Scotland), Scottish Countryside Alliance, Scottish Assoc for Country Sports and NFU Scotland. Pretty good coverage then.

So how did the study go? What were the findings? An FoI has revealed all. See here:

FoI April 2015_ Illegal interference with traps and snares BASC – Copy

It turns out that this alleged problem isn’t widespread after all.

Let’s just ignore the fact that none of the data were independently verified, and assume that the gamekeepers who submitted the data were honest (because gamekeepers never lie, right?). In which case, there were 19 alleged trap interference/damage incidents throughout the year-long ‘study’. BASC has actually submitted 25 alleged incidents, but 6 of these can be immediately discounted because they allegedly took place before the study had begun and one of them didn’t even involve alleged disturbance or vandalism: “Snares being used with tag number belonging to another person”.

Of the 19 which apparently took place during the official study period, only 11 were reported to the police. Interesting then, that the article in Fife Today states ‘Police Scotland is reporting a rise in the number of traps being tampered with‘. On what evidence is Police Scotland making this claim?

If you look closely at the details of the 19 alleged incidents, you’ll notice that over one third of them took place on a single estate in Crieff. If those alleged incidents did actually take place, it suggests that there is a localised problem in that particular area; the claim of the problem being ‘widespread’ simply isn’t supported by these figures.

And what about Fife, home to Sir Robert Spencer-Nairn, who claimed in Fife Today that there had been ‘a spate of incidents’? According to the BASC data, there were only two reported incidents in Fife during this year-long study. Do two incidents (one of which didn’t even involve the release of ‘vicious’ crows from a trap) constitute ‘a spate of incidents’ or is this indicative of wildly exaggerated claims?

According to the FoI, BASC Scotland will be analysing the data and submitting a report to the Scottish Government. We look forward to reading it, especially to find out how the data were independently verified, how they assessed whether a trap/snare had been deliberately interfered with as opposed to accidentally damaged (e.g. see here) and how they justify the claim that trap interference is ‘widespread’.

25
Apr
15

Mis-use of crow traps (again)

This week’s Landward programme featured a section on the (mis)-use of crow traps, quite often used by gamekeepers to target birds of prey.

The programme featured Hugo Straker from the GWCT and Ian Thomson from RSPB Scotland Investigations. It didn’t cover any new ground, mainly because the same old problems that have existed for years with the mis-use of these traps, still exist.

Cage_trap_-_geograph_org_uk_-_228006

Here’s some stuff we wrote about crow cage traps three years ago. It was based on material that the RSPB and OneKind had produced years before that. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that SNH has still not addressed many of these issues:

https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/crow-traps-what-you-should-know-part1/

https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/crow-traps-what-you-should-know-part-2/

https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/crow-traps-what-you-should-know-part-3/

The Landward programme is available on BBC iPlayer for 29 days: HERE (starts at 08.21).

10
Apr
15

Chough-ing hell

Chough control - CopyAn article appeared in the Scotsman the other day (see here) written by someone called Katrina Candy, Head of PR at GWCT (Scotland).

It was all about the apparent benefits of corvid ‘control’ (the words ‘trapping’ and ‘killing’ aren’t great words to use when your job is Head of Public Relations for an organisation that promotes game-shooting as a wildlife-friendly pastime).

It would seem that Ms Candy hasn’t read the latest research on the impact of corvids on other bird populations – see here for a good overview.

Her article was further discredited by the choice of illustration – none other than a chough, a highly protected species listed on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act. Let’s hope the error was made by a picture editor at the Scotsman and not by the Head of PR for GWCT (Scotland).

The article also mentioned a current ‘study’ being undertaken by GWCT and SASA, ‘to investigate how corvid traps are used under the current General Licence system in Scotland’. This ‘study’ involves asking trap-users (mostly gamekeepers) to keep records of what they’ve caught. These records (which of course are going to be unbiased and 100% truthful) will be analysed against data collected from trail cameras set at crow traps for ‘short periods of time’.

The proposed use of the trail cameras has apparently caused “some concerns” amongst members of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association. GWCT and SASA have had to reassure participants that the cameras will only be set with the trap-user’s permission and the footage will not be used “for policing trap-users” (see here).

Can’t imagine what they’re worried about.

It’ll be interesting to see the results.




Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog Stats

  • 2,702,325 hits

Archives

Our recent blog visitors