Posts Tagged ‘poisoning

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’.

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02
May
18

4th raptor poisoning in south Scotland this year

From BBC News (2 May 2018):

RED KITE POISONINGS IN SOUTH WEST SCOTLAND INVESTIGATED

A police investigation has started following the discovery of three dead red kites in Dumfries and Galloway.

Tests have confirmed that two of the birds were illegally poisoned with examinations ongoing on the third.

It takes the number of birds killed by illegal pesticides in the region since the start of the year to four.

Police said the use of poisoned bait was “illegal and totally unacceptable” and could have “devastating consequences” for wildlife.

[Photo by David Bowman]

The incidents in the region since the start of the year are:

  • a red kite discovered poisoned in Kirkpatrick Durham in January
  • a buzzard found dead in Mossdale in March
  • a second red kite killed at a separate location in Kirkpatrick Durham in April
  • another red kite poisoned in April at Old Bridge of Urr
  • a further red kite death with the cause yet to be established at Gelston in April

Specialist Wildlife Crime Officer PC Alan Steel said police were working closely with SAC Consulting and Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) to investigate the cases.

What we have established is that illegal pesticides have been used to kill four of the birds,” he said.

The pesticides identified have been banned in the UK for many years, but despite this there would still appear to be those who leave out poisoned bait, whether that is to target crows, foxes, raptors or other wildlife.

The use of such poisoned bait is illegal and totally unacceptable and those responsible should understand that their unlawful activities not only serve to have devastating consequences on their intended targets but also on various other forms of wildlife.”

He said they were “absolutely determined” to put a stop to the killings and find the people responsible.

They are working with a number of landowners and farmers and liaising with RSPB Scotland as part of the investigation.

We have also carried out a number of land searches in the vicinity of where the birds have been located with a view of trying to locate poisoned bait at these locations,” he added.

It is anticipated that further land searches will take place in the near future.”

A red kite trail in the region is reckoned to be worth millions of pounds to the local economy.

A study last year said the Galloway Kite Trail had generated more than £8.2m since it was launched in 2003.

ENDS

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

27
Apr
18

Buzzards found poisoned & decapitated in Co Cork

Reported on BirdWatch Ireland’s facebook page on 24 April 2018, news of three dead buzzards found in a field at Ring, near Clonakilty, Co Cork.

The birds were found in January and collected by staff from the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) to be sent for post-mortem. X-rays showed no sign of lead shot but two of the buzzards had missing heads and one had a missing leg.

Toxicology results have revealed high levels of the highly toxic pesticide Carborfuran as well as two rodenticides.

The NPWS is investigating and calling for information.

More details on the BirdGuides website (here).

Photo of the dead buzzards in evidence bags [photo by NPWS]

24
Apr
18

Grouse Moor Management Review Group: 1st meeting report

In May last year Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham announced her intention to establish a Grouse Moor Management Review Group, in response to the damning findings of the Golden Eagle Satellite Tag Review which had revealed that almost one third of satellite-tagged golden eagles had disappeared in highly suspicious circumstances on or close to intensively managed driven-grouse moors (see here).

The membership of the Grouse Moor Management Review Group was announced in November 2017 (see here) and the panel was expected to report back its findings to the Cabinet Secretary in early 2019.

The Group held its inaugural meeting on 16 January 2018 at the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Chair (Prof Alan Werritty) outlined the background and context for the Group, and the following terms of reference were agreed:

The Group will examine how to ensure that grouse moor management continues to contribute to the rural economy while being environmentally sustainable and compliant with the law. The Group will recommend options for regulation including licensing and other measures which could be put in place without new primary legislation‘.

[Photo of intensively managed driven grouse moor, Cairngorms National Park, by Ruth Tingay]

Prof Werritty noted that the Cabinet Secretary had also commissioned a socio-economic study to be undertaken in parallel with the work of the Group, with interim findings to be made available later in the year.

According to Prof Werritty’s report of this first meeting, in addition to identifying a schedule for meetings, the Group agreed the following framework:

January to July 2018: gathering evidence and identifying key issues:

  • Meeting 2. Evidence 1 (Environmental law relevant to grouse moors, current licensing systems and Codes of Practice, wildlife crime)
  • Meeting 3. Evidence 2 (Predation/raptors and mountain hares)
  • Meeting 4. Evidence 3 (Muirburn and medicated grit, call for written evidence)

September to December 2018: written and oral evidence, visit to estate(s), socio-economics:

  • Meeting 5. Written evidence reviewed and oral evidence from key stakeholders
  • Meeting 6. Visit to grouse shooting estate(s)
  • Meeting 7. Review input from socio-economic study

January to March 2019: drafting report and recommendations:

  • Meeting 8. Review evidence and initial drafting of report and recommendations
  • Meeting 9. Finalise report and recommendations

At the first meeting in January 2018, the Group heard presentations from three of the Group’s special advisors, as follows:

  • Adam Smith (GWCT): Grouse moors and their management: an introduction
  • Ben Ross (SNH): Current regulatory system governing grouse moor management
  • Des Thompson (SNH): Raptor persecution and driven grouse moors

[Photo of satellite-tagged golden eagle Fearnan, found illegally poisoned on a driven grouse moor in the Angus Glens. Image by RSPB Scotland]

20
Apr
18

SNH issues licence for mass raven cull in 5-year ‘experiment’

To the utter disbelief of conservationists, statutory conservation agency Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has issued a licence authorising the mass killing of ravens in a large area of Perthshire (an area identified as a wildlife crime hotspot where six satellite-tagged eagles have suspiciously disappeared in recent years), as part of a proposed five-year experiment, on the basis of ‘seeing what happens’ to wader populations when ravens are removed.

The licence has been issued to a consortium calling itself the Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders (SCCW) which, according to the licence application, ‘represents some of the local land management (farmers, gamekeepers) and private interests in the area who value wading birds for their biodiversity, social and economic value to the area and to Scotland more widely. The application is supported by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and technical advice and support, notably data gathering and interpretation, is being provided by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT)‘.

[Raven photo by Dieter Schaeffer]

The following has been written by a group of Scottish Raptor Study Group (SRSG) members as a guest blog:

STRATHBRAAN RAVEN LICENCE

The news about the missing white tailed sea eagle disappearing in Glen Quaich on Tuesday 17th April could sadly not have been more timely as Scottish Natural Heritage, (SNH), have issued a licence to several estates in the Strathbraan area in Perthshire, including Glen Quaich Estate, for the killing of 300 ravens in a large scale trial over five years to see if wader productivity and populations can be improved by removing raven predation.

The manner in which the government’s statutory nature conservation agency have conducted themselves has come as a shock and there is grave concern about the mis-application of science, the lack of consultation with key stakeholders, such as the RSPB and SRSG, their choice of estate partners and the lack of transparency, trust and honesty, and even seasoned SNH watchers are aghast.

We have raised our concerns and are unhappy with the response so far and have resorted to writing this blog to make the matters public. Following the “suspicious” disappearance of the white tailed sea eagle and the fact the police are describing this as ‘an illegal act’ we call upon SNH to conduct a review and if the circumstances fulfil what we consider to be the established criteria set out in SNH’s own report then we expect the licence to be withdrawn.

Our concerns focus on three areas, firstly the choice of partners:-

Firstly when selecting a trial area why would you choose an area dominated by driven grouse shooting with a history of illegal raptor persecution? What message does this send out to the many law-abiding estates? Is it that persecution will enable you to ‘cut a deal’ with the statutory nature conservation body? Cynics might suggest this is more about an opportunity to kill ravens in an attempt to protect red grouse stocks and it could also be argued that a licence has been issued to kill one species of bird to enable another bird to be shot for fun.

[Map of proposed cull area in north Perthshire, from the licence application, running from Loch Tay in the west to the A9 in the east]:

Raptor workers over the years have been monitoring the area and can speak with authority on raptor persecution. The Scottish Government’s review of satellite-tagged golden eagles showed that four of these birds have disappeared suspiciously in this area, with a satellite-tagged red kite also disappearing in 2010. In all cases, the tags can be classed as “stopped – no malfunction” as used in the review – ie. highly suspicious.

[Map of north Perthshire showing the last known fixes of five satellite-tagged golden eagles that disappeared in suspicious circumstances. Sea Eagle Blue X also disappeared in Glen Quaich last month]:

In addition, a radio-tagged white-tailed eagle was tracked to this area, but disappeared in January 2012, while a further satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle recently similarly disappeared in Glen Quaich. An illegal clam trap was found in November 2012, while a buzzard was spring-trapped in January 2012. A red kite was found poisoned in January 2015. A raven was poisoned in 2017. In addition, licenced raptor study group members have noted a number of cases of suspicious failure of nesting attempts by hen harrier, red kite and buzzard across the area. They have also recorded a higher than usual turnover of red kites and a loss of breeding pairs at nearby sites. All of which indicates on-going illegal persecution.

Even bearing in mind these detected incidents represent an unknown proportion of actual persecution taking place, this is an area where land management practices have displayed a proven criminal intolerance to protected species, stretching back for many years. All this has been in the public domain so why did SNH press on knowing that their partners in this initiative have such a dubious record, and what level of confidence can we have in their honesty and integrity?

Secondly, science and key questions that remain unanswered:-

  • What monitoring is in place to assess that this cull will not affect the raven population status?
  • How will SNH be able to differentiate from other factors affecting the decline of waders such as other predatory pressures, the loss of suitable habitat and changes in agricultural practices?
  • What criteria will be used to differentiate between breeding and non-breeding birds? This year we have noticed that the breeding season is later than usual.
  • What allowance has been made for the immigration of immature flocks into the proposed licence area?
  • Why has the licensing decision been taken in the absence of the raven population modelling report, as it was commissioned with the sole, or at least the main, purpose of underpinning raven licensing decisions with sounder background information?
  • What is the nature and extent of the independent scrutiny that has been carried out?
  • If any raven roosts are located during the period of the licence, can we be assured that any Schedule 1 non-breeding species and other protected species (possibly also using the same roosts) will not be disturbed?
  • What safe guards are in place to ensure the numbers killed will remain within that permitted?

Thirdly, the lack of engagement

SNH are always keen to trumpet words such as ‘trust’, ‘building relationships’, ‘shared objectives’ ‘working collaboratively’ but we have seen none of this.

  • There has been no communication with SRSG workers who have been active in the proposed licence area and have many years of breeding data on ravens and raptors.
  • We understand that not all landowners/managers within the area of licence have been contacted about this licence, contrary to reassurances provided.
  • This proposed application was developed outside the much lauded ‘Working for Waders’ initiative and we only became aware of this by accident; hardly working together or building trust!
  • Under the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme raven data are submitted to SNH (who is a key partner), yet it seems this information was not included in the licence considerations, (we know this as under the permission sharing protocols raptors workers who collected the information in the first place would have had to have been consulted).

We are deeply suspicious that the lack of engagement was deliberate as SNH knew their proposal was weak and would not stand up to the rigour of an independent scientific review.

We again call upon SNH to withdraw the licence.

ENDS

It’s well known that SNH issues a number of licences every year to cull ravens where they are considered a ‘serious threat’ to livestock (e.g. see here, here) but these are apparently for a limited cull, not related to game management and supposedly based on sound scientific evidence of a perceived local problem.

It’s also well known that gamekeepers have long wanted ravens to be added to the General Licence (e.g. see here, here) because they are seen as a perceived threat to grouse stocks.

It’s also well known that ravens are routinely demonised in the press, including this outrageous piece published by the BBC (see here, and well worth a read to understand the hysteria whipped up around this protected species).

However, this latest licence authorising a multi-year mass culling of ravens over a large area for spurious reasons (and apparently very little, if any, scientific justification) is unprecedented. That it also happens to be a well-known raptor persecution hotspot just adds to the lunancy of this situation.

If you share the concerns of the SRSG members, please consider sending an email to Mike Cantlay, SNH Chair, calling on him to withdraw the licence with immediate effect. Emails to: chair@snh.gov.uk

UPDATE 14.20hrs: Thanks to the blog reader who brought this article to our attention, reporting on the results of a scientific study that dispels many of the myths associated with ravens and wader population declines. And here is the scientific peer-reviewed paper by Amar et al that specifically warns against making predator control licensing decisions without a thorough evaluation of the evidence.

UPDATE 21 April 2018: A quote from SNH Head of Wildlife, Robbie Kernahan:

We understand the concerns over wildlife crime in Strathbraan, but we are also clear that the granting of this licence is wholly unconnected to the issues concerned.

This licence is about a pressing and complex conservation issue. It  is a large-scale collaborative trial which will help improve our understanding of factors affecting key wader species, populations of which are declining at an alarming rate. We are satisfied this licence will not affect the population of ravens overall, and is over a five year period.

The licence places significant responsibility and expectations on all those involved – to be able to show that this approach can work and will help deliver what are essentially shared objectives.

Trust is a key element of this and this presents a great opportunity to develop that trust and relationships with all involved. If it becomes apparent that actions are not being carried out in accordance with the terms of any licence then we will have no hesitation in removing the licence“.

UPDATE 21 April 2018: A quote from RSPB Scotland Head of Species & Land Managament, Duncan Orr-Ewing:

We are extremely concerned about the likely scale on impact of this research licence on the local raven population in the Strathbraan area of Perthshire. We are also very surprised that SNH have issued such a research licence  in the vicinity of Strathbraan, which has an appalling  and well documented track record of illegal persecution of raptors, noting also the very recent “suspicious” disappearance of a satellite tagged white-tailed eagle in this very same area.

We, together with local raptor workers who have been monitoring ravens in the area for decades, could have helped SNH with this background detail to the licence application if we had been consulted.

We will be seeking a high level meeting with SNH shortly to discuss. We will be pressing for the research licence to be revoked on the back of the white-tailed eagle incident, and instead consideration given by SNH to removing the use of the Open General Licence in this area, as is within their powers“.

UPDATE 22 April 2018: Raven cull update and what you can do to help (here)

UPDATE 23 April 2018: Article published in The National (here)

UPDATE 23 April 2018: Article published in The Herald (here)

UPDATE 23 April 2018: RSPB Scotland blog in response to raven cull licence (here)

UPDATE 25 April 2018: OneKind blog in response to raven cull licence (here)

UPDATE 25 April 2018: Chris Packham’s response to raven cull licence (here)

UPDATE 26 April 2018: Is the raven cull licence still active whilst SNH review takes place? (here)

UPDATE 26 April 2018: SNH refuses to say whether raven cull licence has been suspended (here)

UPDATE 27 April 2018: Green MSPs seek urgent meeting with SNH re: raven cull licence (here)

UPDATE 27 April 2018: ‘No justification’ for raven cull licence, says RSPB Scotland Director (here)

UDATE 28 April 2018: Raven cull licence: SGA evasive on benefits to grouse moors (here)

UPDATE 1 May 2018: Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders: who’s involved? (here)

UPDATE 4 May 2018: Raven cull: next steps to take as SNH blunders on (here)

UPDATE 7 May 2018: “Let’s have more trials [culls] whether it’s about ravens or other things” says SNH (here)

UPDATE 8 May 2018: Parliamentary questions lodged on raven cull licence (here)

UPDATE 9 May 2018: Alison Johnstone MSP lodges Parliamentary motion on raven cull licence (here)

UPDATE 12 May 2018: Raven cull: please ask your MSP to support this Parliamentary motion (here)

UPDATE 23 May 2018: Raven cull update: scientific advisory committee not being asked to repeal licence (here)

UPDATE 23 May 2018: Raven cull: Parliamentary questions and answers (here)

06
Apr
18

Dead red kite in south Scotland now confirmed poisoned

Further to yesterday evening’s blog about a dead red kite found in south Scotland in January that “may” have been poisoned (see here), the BBC news article has now been updated (6/4/18) to confirm this bird was definitely poisoned:

POLICE APPEAL AFTER PROTECTED BIRD OF PREY POISONED

Police investigating the death of a protected bird of prey have said it was poisoned.

The body of the red kite was found by a member of the public in the Durham Hill Lane area of Kirkpatrick Durham in Castle Douglas on 20 January.

An investigation has been launched and officers involved in it have appealed for information.

[Red kite photo from Scottish Raptor Study Group]

PC Alan Steel, a specialist wildlife crime officer, said the illegal use of poison can be deadly for wild birds.

He said: “Due to the inherent scavenging nature of red kites, they are particularly vulnerable to the illegal use of poisonous bait.

Red kites are legally protected and Police Scotland works closely with partner agencies, including the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.”

RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations said illegal poison use can also harm pets and people.

Numbers of detected cases of illegal poisoning of our birds of prey have, thankfully, been very low in recent years, so this case is of serious concern,” Ian Thomson added.

The Galloway Red Kite trail, just a few miles from where this bird was killed, is a popular tourist attraction and of great benefit to the local economy.”

ENDS




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