Posts Tagged ‘crow trap

16
Sep
18

Police caution ’employee’ for illegally-set trap on Chargot Estate, Exmoor National Park

There was an interesting article published in the Somerset County Gazette at the end of August (here), announcing that the police had cautioned an ’employee’ of the Chargot Estate (in the Exmoor National Park) for animal welfare offences.

This case involved an illegally-set crow cage trap that had been covertly filmed by investigators from Animal Aid in May and June this year. During a period of 44.5hrs of continuous filming, the trap was visted four times by an unnamed individual. However, the trap was illegally-set because although it was baited with food, there was no provision for water, shelter or perches for the trapped birds, and it was also being operated unlawfully because the trapped pheasant (a non-target species) should have been immediately released when discovered – these are all breaches of the General Licence.

[Photo of the illegally-set trap, by Animal Aid]

The Animal Aid investigators gave the footage to the police who then cautioned an estate employee. According to Animal Aid’s version of events (here), this individual was a gamekeeper. But according to a quote in the Somerset County Gazette from the Chargot Estate Managing Director Gwyn Evans:

I do not condone what the employee has done; he has been disciplined. The employee in question is not a gamekeeper, he is a farm worker, and was acting in his own time without the knowledge of the estate.

Hmm. That’s hard to believe. But let’s assume for a minute that the person operating this trap during that period was an unauthorised farmworker. Are we honestly expected to believe that none of the estate’s gamekeepers (and according to this sales briefing from Oct 2017 the estate employs five of them full time) or any other estate employee didn’t notice this trap being used? It’s not exactly inconspicuous, is it? And even if the trap was the responsibility of one of those gamekeepers but it wasn’t supposed to be in use, that gamekeeper has also breached the conditions of the General Licence because when a trap isn’t in use it is supposed to be rendered incapable of holding or catching birds or other animals by either securing the door fully open or removing it all together.

Apart from the all too familiar question ‘Why did the police decide to caution, not prosecute?’ for blatant trap misuse, there are wider implications from this case.

The Chargot Estate, often referred to as ‘iconic’ and ‘prestigious’, is listed on the Guns on Pegs website (a ‘shoot-finding’ service) as being ‘proud to be a ‘BGA assured shoot’:

The BGA is the recently-established British Game Alliance, a desperate attempt by the game shooting industry to be seen to be self-regulating and demonstrating best practice. We’ve blogged about it recently as it hasn’t got off to the best start (see here and here).

We checked to see whether Chargot was actually listed as a BGA member, and yes, it is:

And here’s what the BGA says about its criteria for accepting shoots as a BGA member:

So according to the BGA, all its members have agreed to abide by the BGA’s Shoot Standards and ‘are leading the way with a forward-thinking approach and should be praised as early adopters of self-regulation‘.

Here’s what those BGA shoot standards say about the use of traps:

So according to the BGA’s own terms and conditions, the Chargot shoot has not adhered to the law on trapping. Does that mean Chargot’s membership of the BGA will now be revoked? Probably not, because if you look at #19 of the BGA’s shoot standards, it says shoots will be expelled and their membership revoked ‘where a shoot or its employees are successfully prosecuted for wildlife crimes‘.

In this case, not only could the estate argue that the individual who received the police caution was not a ‘shoot employee’ (because they claim he was a farmworker), but also the employee was not prosecuted – the police chose to issue a caution instead.

Loopholes, eh? If there’s one to be found, you can always rely upon the game-shooting industry to exploit it.

It remains to be seen whether the British Game Alliance will take any action against the Chargot shoot or whether it’ll just turn a blind eye and allow Chargot to continue to enjoy the benefits of being listed as a member.

Along with several other questionable BGA member shoots, Chargot is feted as ‘having demonstrated high standards through best practice in all areas from animal welfare to game handling’ even though it’s been at the centre of a police investigation for wildlife crime / animal welfare offences resulting in an employee receiving a police caution.

Is this a ‘credible assurance scheme‘, as the British Game Alliance claims? Clearly not.

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27
Oct
17

Scottish gamekeepers complain about alleged escalation of trap vandalism

The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association is today complaining about an alleged escalation in the vandalism of animal traps on shooting estates.

This supposed increase has been attributed to ‘activists’ and the SGA wants the law tightened up so that the alleged perpertrators can be prosecuted.

There’s widespread media coverage about it today e.g. in The National (here), The Times (here) and on the SGA website (here).

Photo of an allegedly vandalised trap (from The National)

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard such claims. Back in 2013 it was discussed during a Rural Affairs Parliamentary Committee meeting, when then Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse acknowledged that trap tampering might be taking place but that there was no hard evidence to show how widespread the problem might be so at that time it was considered all conjecture.

In 2015 the issue was raised again by a Fife landowner and an article in the local press suggested that “Police Scotland is reporting a rise in the number of traps being tampered with“.

We challenged that claim by looking at the results of a year-long trap tampering study carried out across Scotland by BASC between April 2014 and March 2015. The results showed that the issue was not widespread at all, but seemed to centre on a handful of local areas.

Whether the problem has increased since then is hard to tell without independently collected data. The problem might have increased. It’s not hard to understand the motivation that might lead to someone damaging a trap. It might be on animal welfare grounds (someone might see a non-target species dead in a trap). It might be because someone can’t tell whether a trap is legally or illegally-set – it’s not always easy to judge. It might be because someone objects to predator control just to maximise a landowner’s profits. Or the motivation might simply be because so many cases of illegally-set traps rarely result in a prosecution, even when a known gamekeeper has been filmed setting an illegal trap. That doesn’t make trap vandalism ‘right’, we’re just saying it’s easy to understand why it might be happening.

Photo of a young red grouse killed by a lawfully-set trap (photo by RPUK)

It’s equally plausible to suggest that some gamekeepers may be deliberately vandalising one or two of their own traps and then reporting it to the police as the work of ‘activists’ in an attempt to smear those whose campaign to put game-shooting under political scrutiny is gaining such traction.

Whatever might be happening, it’s ironic that the SGA doesn’t make this much noise when cases of illegally-set traps on game-shooting estates are reported in the media.

It’s very hard (virtually impossible) for us to sympathise with the SGA when it remains silent (or concocts outlandish alternative explanations) about the on-going abuse and use of illegal traps, by gamekeepers, to target birds of prey on game-shooting estates.

Speaking of which, we’re still waiting for the findings of the SGA’s inquiries in to who set the illegal traps that were discovered on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate last year.

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.

14
May
17

Buzzard found with shotgun injuries in Norton, North Yorkshire

A critically injured buzzard has been found near Malton, North Yorkshire and is now in the care of specialist raptor rehabilitator Jean Thorpe.

The adult female bird was found “down, shocked and injured” on Beverley Road, Norton on 9 May 2017. 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)

After a couple of days of expert care, Jean provided an update yesterday:

Shot and cage-trapped buzzard has eaten at last. Been hand feeding and she’s had lots of warm fluids. She is far from well and sadly is knuckling on the shot foot. Way to go yet“.

Anybody with information about this incident please contact Police Wildlife Crime Officer Jez Walmsley at Malton Police Station, crime ref no: NYP4710517.

Please also consider making a donation to help support Jean’s work in caring for injured wildlife – she does this on an entirely voluntary basis and it must cost her a fortune. Let’s help her to help these persecuted birds – donations here please.

North Yorkshire is consistently rated as the worst county in the UK for raptor persecution crimes, particularly against buzzards and red kites. Barely a month goes by without news of another victim. Ironically, last month North Yorkshire was declared ‘the safest area in the country’ in terms of officially recorded crime statistics (see here). Clearly, wildlife crime statistics were not included in the analysis.

UPDATE 8 June 2017: Buzzard successfully rehabilitated and returned to the wild (here)

09
Mar
17

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: licensing@snh.gov.uk

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)




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