Posts Tagged ‘peregrine

08
Nov
19

Raptor persecution in Northern Ireland: ten year review and new strategies to tackle these crimes

Press release from the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Northern Ireland (PAW NI):

Birds of prey to be safeguarded by new technology

Satellite tracking devices are to be fitted onto birds of prey and nesting site surveillance installed, in the latest fight against wildlife crime.

‘Hawk-Eyes’, an advanced technology project, is being launched by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Northern Ireland (PAW NI), alongside their ‘10 Years of Persecution’ Report.

The report reveals that from 2009-18, there were a total of 72 incidents of confirmed raptor persecution in Northern Ireland, resulting in the death or injury of 66 birds of prey and the destruction of two nesting sites.

Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Wildlife Officer Dr Jon Lees said buzzards and red kites are amongst the most common victims of persecution: “Sadly, a small proportion of our population still seem to think it’s ok to destroy these magnificent birds at the expense of the environment and the rest of the community.

“Raptors such as buzzards, red kites, peregrine falcons and Sparrowhawks, have been illegally targeted right across Northern Ireland to such an extent some areas are at risk of losing their natural top predators,” explained Dr Lees.

The methods these criminals use, such as poisoned bait, are often highly dangerous, putting livestock, pets and people at risk. These offenders care little for people’s safety. We rely heavily on the vigilance of the public to report these crimes and any evidence to the police or Crimestoppers,” Dr Lees added.

The “Hawk-Eyes” project, is funded and supported by the Department of Justice, – Assets Recovery Community Scheme (ARCS) and run through PAW NI, which brings together government Departments, PSNI and other enforcement agencies, environmental organisations, animal welfare groups and country sports associations with the common goal of combating wildlife crime through publicity, education and campaigning.

Some of the birds’ tracking information will be publicly available on the project website at http://wildlifecrimeni-hawkeyes.com, which will allow people to help protect these special birds by reporting such crimes.

PAW NI encourages people across Northern Ireland to be vigilant. If anyone sees or knows of any wildlife crime, report it to the PSNI by calling 101 or, in an emergency, 999. Crime can be reported anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

ENDS

The ten year review report (2009-2018) can be downloaded here: PAW NI Raptor Persecution Report 2009 – 2018

The use of technology (nest cameras and satellite tags) in the Hawk Eyes project is very interesting, especially as it’s being funded by the Department of Justice’s Assets Recovery Community Scheme, where proceeds of crimes are distributed to help community projects. It would be great to see this approach repeated in England, Scotland and Wales.

Of most interest to us is that these tags are being deployed primarily to aid the detection of wildlife crime. Typically, up until now the main reason for deploying satellite tags has been as part of an ecological research project – the subsequent detection of wildlife crime hotspots (through the discovery of poisoned/shot/trapped sat tagged birds or the suspicious disappearance of tagged birds) has been a by-product of that research and not its primary aim. This is a very clear change of approach from the PAW NI and its also very pleasing to see that the police are key partners in it. Good stuff.

Will the use of satellite tag technology help to identify the criminals as well as the hotspots? Quite possibly. It doesn’t work in England, Scotland or Wales where there are large game shooting estates and where evidence can be quickly destroyed with relative ease (no witnesses around and thousands of acres in which to hide corpses/tags) and where multiple gamekeepers can hide in the crowd (a prosecution isn’t possible unless an individual suspect is identified) but the situation in Northern Ireland is quite different.

Raptor killing in Northern Ireland isn’t such an ‘organised crime’ as it is in the rest of the UK because there are very few large game shooting estates. It seems to be more localised and opportunistic in Northern Ireland, so the perpetrators aren’t so clued up on how to avoid detection. The deterrent effect of simply knowing that these birds might be tagged may also be significant in Northern Ireland because the raptor killers there won’t have wealthy employers prepared to fork out thousands of pounds for legal defence as they do on the game shooting estates in England and Scotland. The risk of getting caught and being afraid of the consequences might just do the trick in Northern Ireland.

Well done and good luck to the PAW NI team – a lot of people will be watching this project with interest.

19
Aug
19

Monumentally inadequate sentence for convicted Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson

In July this year, Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson, then 60, pleaded guilty to nine of 12 charges of wildlife crime at Henlaw Wood on Longformacus Estate in the Borders (see here).

[Convicted wildlife criminal Alan Wilson, a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association. Photo by ITV Border]

Wilson’s crimes included the shooting and killing of two goshawks at Henlaw Wood between March 2016 and May 2017, three buzzards, three badgers and an otter. He also pleaded guilty to charges of setting 23 illegal snares and possession of two bottles of the highly toxic (and banned pesticide) Carbofuran (see here).

[SSPCA photos]

Following Wilson’s guilty plea, the Sheriff adjourned sentencing for a few weeks to allow reports to be submitted.

Soon after his conviction, Scottish Land & Estates issued a statement of condemnation and claimed the Longformacus Estate was being managed for low ground pheasant shooting but in its desperation to avoid any bad publicity of grouse moor management, completely failed to mention that part of the estate was also managed as a grouse moor. Here’s a photograph of Henlaw Wood (now felled) and its proximity to the grouse moor:

[Original photo by Richard Webb; additional text by RPUK]

Alan Wilson, now 61, was sentenced at Jedburgh Sheriff Court this afternoon. Astonishingly (or not!), despite his litany of violent crimes against protected raptors and mammals which easily passed the threshold for a custodial sentence, Wilson has dodged jail, has dodged a fine, and instead has been issued with a 10-month curfew and an instruction to carry out 225 hours of unpaid work as part of a Community Payback Scheme. His firearms and other equipment was confiscated (it’s not clear for how long).

This monumentally inadequate sentence is in no way a reflection of the severity or extent of Wilson’s crimes, nor does it offer a suitable deterrent for other would-be offenders. According to this article in the Guardian by Sev Carrell, Sheriff Peter Paterson acknowledged that Wilson’s offending warranted a custodial sentence but said that as the Wildlife & Countryside Act only allowed sentences of up to six months, and Scottish Ministers had recently introduced a presumption against jailing offenders for less than 12 months, he felt he had no choice but to impose a different sentence.

This doesn’t make sense to us. Sure, the W&CA does, currently, impose a limit of six months but that’s six months per offence, so in Wilson’s case, where he had pleaded guilty to multiple offences, this would have amounted to much more than one six-month sentence and so in our opinion, he should have received a custodial sentence. We don’t know if this sentence will be appealed by the Crown Office – it must first be satisfied that the sentence was unduly lenient (e.g. see here). We’ll have to wait and see.

What is absolutely crystal clear is that the Scottish Government needs to get on and implement the penalty increases for wildlife crimes that it agreed to do way back in 2016.

This is Wilson’s second conviction in relation to offences at Longformacus Estate: in February 2018 he was sentenced to a £400 fine and disqualified from keeping birds of prey for ten years after he was convicted of animal welfare offences in relation to an Eagle Owl he had kept in appalling conditions (see here).

We don’t know whether Wilson’s employer (which may be a landowner or a sporting agent) will face a charge of alleged vicarious liability. We know that two individuals were originally charged with alleged offences at Longformacus Estate (e.g. see here) but we don’t yet have any more details. We will be following up on this and will report here if there is news. [Please note: if you are commenting on this aspect of the crimes at Longformacus Estate, remember there is a potential defence to any allegation of vicarious liability – Wilson’s employer is not automatically guilty just because he was Wilson’s employer].

Interestingly, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association has, after months of refusing to comment, now finally admitted that Wilson was indeed an SGA member when he committed these wildlife crimes. Here is the SGA statement posted today:

We’ll be discussing Wilson’s SGA membership in a later post.

It is not clear to us whether the Longformacus Estate is a member of Scottish Land & Estates. So far SLE hasn’t issued a statement about today’s sentencing. Instead, it’s website is leading with an article with the unfortunate headline, ‘Making it Happen’.

More on this soon.

It only remains to acknowledge the huge efforts of all those involved in detecting, investigating and prosecuting this case. This successful conviction was the result of genuine partnership working between the League Against Cruel Sports, Scottish SPCA, RSPB Scotland, Police Scotland and the Crown Office, along with experts from the Scottish Raptor Study Group, SASA, and veterinary pathologists from Scottish Agricultural College. Well done and thanks to all those involved in exposing this filthy criminal activity on yet another grouse moor.

Wildlife crime is endemic on many grouse moors. We see it over and over again and we also see the offenders escape justice time and time again. If you’d like to help bring it to an end, please consider signing this new petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting – PLEASE SIGN HERE

UPDATE 30 August 2019: No vicarious liability prosecution for Longformacus Estate (here).

22
Jul
19

Scottish gamekeeper pleads guilty to nine charges of wildlife crime

BREAKING NEWS…..

We understand from a journalist that Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson, 60, has this morning pleaded guilty to 9 of the 12 wildlife crime charges against him. Not guilty pleas were accepted on the other three.

Sentencing has apparently been deferred until 19th August for background reports.

Wilson had been accused of shooting two goshawks, four buzzards, a peregrine falcon, three badgers and an otter at Henlaw Wood, Longformacus, between March 2016 and May 2017.

He also faced charges of using a snare likely to cause partial suspension of animal or drowning, failing to produce snaring records within 21 days when requested to do so by police and no certificate for an air weapon.

We also understand he faced a charge of alleged possession of the banned poison Carbofuran.

Up until this morning Mr Wilson had pleaded not guilty.

More details to follow……

Previous blogs about this case: herehere here  here herehere, here, here and here.

UPDATE 23 July 2019: Convicted Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson and his litany of wildlife crimes (here)

UPDATE 24 July 2019: How has the game-shooting industry reacted to conviction of Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson? (here).

05
Jul
19

Young peregrine found with shotgun injuries in Cheshire

RSPB press release (4 July 2019):

Young peregrine falcon illegally shot

A young peregrine had to be euthanised after it was found with a broken wing and a shotgun pellet in its chest.

The bird was found in the road at Aldford, part of the Grosvenor Estate in Cheshire, on 17 April 2019 and taken to Lower Moss Wood Wildlife Hospital. An X-ray by Northwich Vets confirmed it had a broken wing and piece of shot in its chest.

Knowing it would not recover from its injuries, the vets took the sad decision to put the bird to sleep.

[Photo of the injured peregrine by Ian Daniels]

Peregrine falcons are the world’s fastest birds, able to reach speeds of 200mph when diving for prey. They nest on moorland, on cliffs and increasingly in towns and cities, usually producing two-four chicks each spring. There are thought to be around 1,500 pairs in the UK.

Like all birds of prey, peregrines are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. To kill or injure one is a criminal offence and could result in an unlimited fine or up to six months in jail.

Cheshire police are now appealing to the public for information.

Only a month before, in March 2019, a raven was found shot dead near Delamere Forest, Cheshire. Police investigated the incident but no leads were identified.

Jenny Shelton from the RSPB’s Investigations Unit said: “Most major cities will have their own ‘peregrine pair’, probably nesting on a cathedral spire or another tall building. Our lives and theirs are becoming increasingly entwined, which is a wonderful and very special thing. However there are still some who want to kill these magnificent birds. This young bird, which would have hatched last year so was just shy of its first birthday, was found in considerable distress with a piece of shot in its chest. Naturally, we want to find out who did this.

There is an unseen culture of raptor persecution in the UK, whereby birds like peregrines, ravens and owls are being illegally killed due to a perceived threat to some people’s interests. If you have any information please contact the police on 101, or speak to us in confidence on our raptor crime hotline: 0300 999 0101.”

PC Ged Gigg, Wildlife officer for Cheshire Police said: “Wildlife crime is a priority for us – my colleagues and I are dedicated to investigating crimes that affect our rural communities. I have been making extensive enquiries in the area and would urge anyone who has any information that may help with this investigation to contact police so that we can find those responsible.”

If you have any information relating to this incident, call Cheshire Police on 101 or go to www.cheshire.police.uk/contact/general-enquiries making sure you quote IML 376696.

If you find a wild bird of prey which you suspect has been illegally killed, contact RSPB investigations on 01767 680551 or fill in the online form.

ENDS

14
Jun
19

Case against Scottish gamekeeper accused of 12 alleged wildlife crimes: trial adjourned

Two years on, and the trial against Scottish gamekeeper Alan Wilson, who is accused of committing 12 alleged wildlife crimes, has been adjourned before it even started.

Mr Wilson, 60, is accused of shooting two goshawks, four buzzards, a peregrine falcon, three badgers and an otter at Henlaw Wood, Longformacus, between March 2016 and May 2017.

He also faces charges of using a snare likely to cause partial suspension of an animal or drowning, failing to produce snaring records within 21 days when requested to do so by police and no certificate for an air weapon.

We also believe he is accused of the alleged possession of the banned pesticide, Carbofuran.

Mr Wilson pleaded not guilty to all charges at an earlier hearing in May and his trial was due to begin yesterday (13th June 2019) at Jedburgh Sheriff Court.

For reasons unknown to us, the trial has been adjourned. We don’t yet know if it will be rescheduled and if so, when that might be.

Previous blogs about this case: see herehere here  here herehere and here

Please note: we will not be accepting comments on this news item until legal proceedings have concluded. Thanks.

29
May
19

Case against Scottish gamekeeper accused of 12 wildlife crimes proceeds to trial

The case against a south Scotland gamekeeper has continued this week with an intermediate diet (a type of court hearing) and he has pleaded not guilty to a number of alleged offences.

Alan Wilson, 60, is accused of shooting two goshawks, four buzzards, a peregrine falcon, three badgers and an otter at Henlaw Wood, Longformacus, between March 2016 and May 2017.

He also faces charges of using a snare likely to cause partial suspension of an animal or drowning, failing to produce snaring records within 21 days when requested to do so by police and no certificate for an air weapon.

We also believe he is accused of the alleged possession of the banned pesticide, Carbofuran.

Due to Mr Wilson’s not guilty plea, this case will now proceed to trial at Jedburgh Sheriff Court on 13 June 2019.

Previous blogs about this case: see herehere here  here here and here.

Please note: we will not be accepting comments on this news item until legal proceedings have concluded. Thanks.

17
May
19

Can you identify this man? Derbyshire Police would like a word about an abandoned peregrine nest site

Derbyshire Constabulary’s Rural Crime Team would like to hear from anyone who recognises this individual, photographed near a peregrine breeding site in the Peak District this week (Tuesday 14 May 2019). The peregrines abandoned their breeding attempt the following day.

From the Derbyshire Rural Crime Team’s Facebook page today:

We have been monitoring a number of Peregrine Falcon nest sites in Derbyshire Peak District over the past few months. Numerous nests have failed in recent years, some in suspicious circumstances other as a result of nature taking its course. This year having access to a drone with an impressive zoom camera, that allowed us to view the birds without disturbing them, we were able to confirm that one particular pair had 2 eggs, as can be seen in the below picture. The female was seen to act as she should and had been incubating the eggs for the last month or so. Unfortunately on the morning of the 15th of May the female was off the nest and acting oddly, by the afternoon she had left the nest site completely, she did not return. We returned with our drone yesterday afternoon and confirmed the eggs were no longer there as can be seen in the second picture. There are numerous theories and possibilities as to what happened to the eggs, at this moment in time we simply don’t know if human interference played a role.

We would like to speak to the male pictured [above] as he may be able to help us with our enquiries and would urge him or anyone who may know who he is to come forward. If anyone recognises the male please get in touch via this page, 101 or by e-mailing drct@derbyshire.pnn.police.uk. Thanks“.

ENDS




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