Posts Tagged ‘pole trap


Illegally set traps on Glendye Estate grouse moor, Aberdeenshire

Have a look at this blog. You’ll see a series of photographs, taken yesterday (17 January 2017) on a grouse moor at Glendye, just beyond the famous Clachnaben hill, which is part of the Fasque & Glendye Estate according to Andy Wightman’s always useful website Who Owns Scotland. This area looks like it’s the area covered by the Glendye Grouse Syndicate who apparently took on a 20-year lease of this moor in 1997.

We’re not allowed to reproduce the photographs here so you’ll have to click the link if you want to see them. And you really should see them.

Three of these photographs depict illegally-set traps. They are all ‘bridge traps’ – comprising a Fenn spring trap fixed to a log across a burn or gully and designed to catch so-called ‘vermin’ such as stoats or weasels. This type of trap is legal if the trap is covered either in a natural or artificial tunnel, but the three traps photographed yesterday are definitely illegal.

One is covered with wire mesh but the entry and exit holes are wide open. This is illegal. These entry/exit holes are supposed to be partially closed to minimise the risk of catching non-target species. This trap in the photograph could easily catch a non-target species, including protected Scottish wildcats, otters and pine martens.

The other two spring traps are totally uncovered except for a single wire loop above each trap. A wire loop is not going to protect any species from standing on these traps and thus both traps are illegal. These two traps are effectively pole traps – if a bird or mammal stands on the trap, the trap will fall from the log, with the animal attached (probably by the leg), and the animal will dangle, suspended below the log, until it dies a slow, miserable death.

We don’t know whether the photographer has reported these crimes to the local police. We would hope he has – he understands that the traps are illegally-set (the safety catch is not on – we’ve looked) so we’d expect him to have provided grid references and photographs to the local Police Wildlife Crime Officer. In case he hasn’t reported them, we’ll do it for him, although by now the individual who set these traps has probably been alerted and is probably out on the moor removing all the evidence as we speak.

The local Police Wildlife Crime Officer is Doug Darling. Here’s his email address:

Ask him for a crime reference number so we can follow up what action he has taken to identify the individual(s) responsible. This is important because after his investigation, we expect him to alert SNH to these illegal traps. Why? Well, because these illegal traps should result in the withdrawal of the General Licence on this grouse moor. According to SNH guidelines, evidence which may be considered by SNH in any decision to impose a General Licence restriction includes:

Illegal placement, design or use of traps or methods that are not in compliance with the requirements of the General Licence‘.

However, the evidence must be provided by the Police. So, just in case the Police ‘forget’ to tell SNH, we’ll notify SNH as well so they can’t then argue they haven’t been informed. Emails should be sent to Nick Halfhide, Director of Operations: 

To be fair to SNH, they are probably awaiting the findings of the Raeshaw Estate judicial review before they impose any more General Licence restrictions. That’s fine, they can just add this case to the others they’re currently sitting on and hopefully they’ll be in a position to take action in due course.

And, if you’re in the mood for writing emails, you might also want to alert the Environment Cabinet Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, to these illegally-set traps. The information will be very helpful as she ponders the issue of introducing state-regulated licensing. These photographs confirm that law-breaking continues, despite the grouse shooting industry’s fervent claims to the contrary. Emails to: and mark it FAO Roseanna Cunningham.

We wonder what the grouse shooting industry’s Gift of Grouse project has to say about these illegal traps? We wonder if Glendye is part of the Grampian Moorland Group, which in turn is part of the Gift of Grouse propaganda campaign? That’d be interesting…..


Further delay in case against Angus Glens gamekeeper accused of pole trapping offences

Criminal proceedings continued on Monday (5 December 2016) against Scottish gamekeeper Craig Graham.

Mr Graham, 51, is accused of setting and re-setting a pole trap, baited with a pheasant carcass, on the Brewlands Estate between 9-17 July 2015. He has denied the charges.

This case was first called on 31 March 2016. A provisional trial date was set for 9th September 2016. This date was later dumped and another provisional trial date was set for 5th December 2016.

On Monday, the case was adjourned, again. An intermediate diet is scheduled for 28 March 2017 and another provisional trial date has been scheduled for 15 May 2017. This is the third time a provisional trial date has been set for this case.

Previous blogs on this case here and here


Baited pole trap found next to pheasant pen in Devon: appeal for information

RSPB press release:

Reward for information after baited pole trap discovered on east Devon farmland


The RSPB and Devon & Cornwall Police are appealing for witnesses after a trap designed to kill birds of prey was found on farmland, next to a pheasant release pen.

Police attended a location near Dunkeswell, in the Blackdown Hills, East Devon, following a tip off recently, where they discovered a live, baited pole trap.

Police officers photographed the trap, which was set and ready to use, but left it in situ. When police returned the next day the trap had been removed. Further visits accompanied by the RSPB’s Investigations unit have yielded no more information.


Pole traps have been outlawed for more than 100 years and work by smashing the bird’s legs when it lands on the trigger plate.

Mark Thomas, a senior investigations officer at the RSPB, said: “There is a reason why these traps have been illegal for so long, they are barbaric and they are designed to kill protected birds of prey“.

Inspector Martin Taylor, wildlife crime coordinator for Devon & Cornwall Police, said: “Despite it being illegal for over a century, we are still getting reports of spring traps being placed on poles or perches set to kill birds of prey. We will prosecute anyone setting these indiscriminate and lethal traps“.

Birds of prey habitually use posts as lookouts when hunting and in this case the trap had been baited using meat to encourage a bird to land.

The trap’s presence was reported on August 11 2016 and police first visited the following day. The RSPB is offering a reward of £1,000 for information that leads to a successful prosecution.

Anybody with information should contact Devon & Cornwall Police by phoning 101 or emailing quoting crime reference CR/56051/16.




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):


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?


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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)


Caring gamekeepers warn public not to tamper with poisoned baits

poison2Gamekeepers in Scotland have asked the public not to hamper ‘legitimate moorland activities’ after a number of poisoned baits were disturbed next to a popular walking area.

The baits, which are approved by the Modern Poisoners’ Society to be deployed by trained gamekeepers to control predators such as golden eagles and red kites, were interfered with on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park.

The local chapter of the Modern Poisoners’ Society said that those using the moors for access should not handle baits, especially as tampering by non-trained individuals can lead to accidents.

Grampian coordinator Ben D. O’Carb said: “Interference with poisoned baits is illegal and we would appeal to anyone who sees them whilst out walking not to move or handle them, even if they are curious as to why they are there.

These baits are set by trained professionals for a legitimate purpose. Thankfully, the majority of walkers enjoy the moors and are mindful they are places of work as well as recreation. In this particular instance, the disturbed baits were left out in the open, where they were originally placed, and could have posed a danger in an area where there are lots of dog walkers.

We want people to be safe so we would ask members of the public to leave the poisoned baits alone. If they want to find out more about them, they should engage with the gamekeepers who will be able to tell them how and why they are used. The gamekeepers will be easy to spot – they’ll be inside the 4×4 vehicle that’s been following you across the moor for the last hour, just to ensure your safety, obvs.”

Ps. God bless little angels in heaven“.

Actually, none of the above happened. We just made it up. Any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental.

In other news, the Grampian Moorland Group is urging the public not to tamper with legally-set traps (see here). Those caring, thoughtful, considerate and public-spirited guardians of the countryside are worried that members of the public may be injured if traps are damaged.

Strangely, the article doesn’t mention the risks to the public (adults, children, pets) of touching or standing on an illegally-set spring trap that’s been staked out on open ground, or the potentially fatal consequences of touching an illegally poisoned bait.


Illegally-set traps found on Invercauld Estate grouse moor, Cairngorms National Park

RSPB Scotland has today issued a press statement about the discovery of illegally-set traps found on a Royal Deeside grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (see here).

On 27 June 2016, two members of the public found a Common Gull that had been caught by the legs in two spring traps that had been positioned next to a dead rabbit that had been used as bait. The gull was distressed and bleeding profusely. The hill walkers called RSPB Scotland, who immediately alerted Police Scotland and the SSPCA. An SSPCA Inspector quickly attended the scene and the gull was found to have two broken legs. The bird’s injuries were so extensive it had to be euthanised.

Several days later, a multi-agency (Police Scotland, SSPCA, RSPB Scotland) search was undertaken on the grouse moor, ‘where clear evidence was found that eight similar traps had been deployed, attached to stakes and baited with dead rabbits, in a line stretching two hundred metres across the moor. It was also evident that these traps had been removed very recently’.

The press statement continues, ‘Police Scotland officers later spoke to a number of people involved with the management of the land on which the traps were found, but the identity of who had set the traps could not be established‘.

According to the press statement, the two hill walkers had found the distressed gull on “the northern slopes of Geallaig Hill, a few miles north west of Ballater“.

According to Andy Wightman’s fantastic website Who Owns Scotland, Geallaig Hill lies within the boundary of the Invercauld Estate. Using Andy’s data, we’ve created this map to show the position of Invercauld Estate within the Cairngorms National Park and the location of Geallaig Hill within the boundary of Invercauld Estate.

Cairngorms Invercauld - Copy

This is not the first time illegally-set spring traps have been found on Invercauld Estate. In 1997, a gamekeeper was fined £120 after admitting to illegally setting a spring trap to catch a rook (see here).

Spring traps can (currently) be used legally to catch stoats, weasels, rats etc BUT ONLY if they are placed inside a natural or artificial tunnel with a restricted entrance to minimise the risk of catching a non-target species. There are frequent reports of their illegal use on some shooting estates to trap birds of prey (e.g. set in the open next to a bait, or attached to the top of a post to turn them in to pole traps) – some recent examples can be found here, herehere, here, here, here, here, and of course the recent and now infamous Mossdale Estate traps here.

There’s a lot to discuss about this latest crime, and we’ll be doing just that in a series of blogs later this afternoon.

In the meantime, well done to the two hill walkers who reported this crime, well done to the SSPCA Inspector for a quick response, well done to the Police Scotland wildlife crime officers for a quick, multi-agency follow up and search, and well done to RSPB Scotland for a timely press release.

More shortly…..

UPDATE 2.30pm: Illegal traps on Invercauld Estate part 2 here

UPDATE 4.45pm: An astonishing statement from Invercauld Estate here

UPDATE 23 July 2016: SGA statement re: illegal traps found on Invercauld Estate here


North Yorkshire Police admit they should have charged pole-trapping gamekeeper

On 1 June 2016 we blogged about the Mossdale Estate gamekeeper who had been caught on film setting illegal pole traps on a grouse moor in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (here).

Mossdale pole trap May 2016

Also on 1 June 2016, we blogged about North Yorkshire Police’s decision to issue this criminal with a caution rather than refer him to the Crown Prosecution Service to begin a formal prosecution. We argued that, according to the official Police ‘cautions’ guidelines, the decision to caution in this case was apparently flawed. The offences, to which the gamekeeper had already admitted guilt, backed up by excellent video evidence obtained by the RSPB’s Investigations Team, were of such gravity and included all five aggravating factors (and no mitigating factors) as listed in the Police guidelines, that this was a clear case for proceeding to charges and a prosecution. Following a bombardment of complaints from blog readers (thank you all), Amanda Oliver, Acting Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police, promised a review of the decision not to charge this criminal gamekeeper (see here).

Today, Amanda Oliver has published the findings of that review:

You wrote to us recently to complain about our decision to caution a man, after he admitted an offence contrary to section 5(1) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

North Yorkshire Police has now completed a review of this investigation. This involved looking again at the evidence and the decision, using the Ministry of Justice Guidelines on Adult Cautions, the Adult Gravity Factor Matrix, and the latest Director of Public Prosecutions Guidance on Charging. Specialist advice was also sought from the Crown Prosecution Service.

Our review found that we had not used the correct cautioning guidelines when dealing with this case. Police officers have a level of discretion in deciding how to deal with a case, based on the specific circumstances of the incident. However, the review concluded that if the correct guidelines had been used, it is likely that the man would have been charged, rather than cautioned.

It is important to remember that a police caution is not a “let off”. A person who has been cautioned has a criminal record, and there can be very serious consequences as a result.  Depending on the circumstances, they may lose their job and income, and there may also be implications for the person’s future employment. A decision was also made to revoke this man’s firearms licence as a result of his involvement in this offence.

As a result of the review, we asked the Crown Prosecution Service to consider whether further action should be taken on this case, and provided them with other details of our activity related to the man involved. After consideration, the Crown Prosecution Service decided that, taking all matters into account, including that a decision had already been made, no further action should be taken. 

I would like to reassure you that the mistake we made on the use of guidelines was isolated to this particular case. Nonetheless, we have taken the matter very seriously, and we have ensured we have done everything we can to avoid mistakes happening in the future. We have amended our policy on how wildlife crimes are dealt with by investigators and decision-makers, and advice from specially-trained officers is now sought in every case. We are also using our position as the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on rural and wildlife crime, to share what we have learned with other police services across the UK.

Thank you for raising this matter with us. On behalf of North Yorkshire Police I would like to apologise for the distress that this matter has caused you, and assure you that we will do our very best to protect our local wildlife, and deliver the police national wildlife action plan here in North Yorkshire and more widely.

Yours sincerely

Amanda Oliver

Acting Assistant Chief Constable


We very much appreciate Amanda Oliver’s decision to conduct this review and publicise the findings. This level of accountability, honesty and transparency is, in our experience, extremely rare but it is vital if the public is to have any confidence in the way the Police handle wildlife crimes. We applaud North Yorkshire Police for not trying to cover up their mistakes.

On to the actual review itself, Amanda says the usage of incorrect charging guidelines was isolated to this particular case. We’re not so sure about that. In 2015, we blogged about the discovery of five illegally set pole traps at a gamebird-breeding facility in North Yorkshire. The police charged the owner of that facility and he was found guilty of permitting the use of one pole trap, although this conviction was later quashed. But the Police failed to charge two employees with setting those five illegal traps and instead they were both given a caution (see here). Did North Yorkshire Police use the incorrect guidelines when they decided to caution those two employees? We’ll never know.

Amanda suggests that in the case of the Mossdale Estate gamekeeper, a police caution is “not a let off”. Sorry, but that’s nonsense, and we share Mark Avery’s views (here) on why it absolutely is a let off. It’s particularly frustrating in this case because, as you all know, raptor persecution on grouse moors is prolific and yet there are relatively few convictions. Why? Because it takes an extraordinary set of circumstances to have first-rate evidence AND an admission of guilt from the gamekeeper. This particular case was handed to the Police on a plate, thanks to the superb efforts of the RSPB’s Investigations Team. It should have been an easy ‘win’ that ended in a successful prosecution. That opportunity was missed in this case, and that’s unfortunate. However, we do applaud the Police’s decision to revoke this gamekeeper’s firearms certificate and we hope other Police forces take note of that decision.

It’s also unfortunate that the CPS has taken the decision not to take any further action against this criminal gamekeeper but without knowing the full details of the case it’s difficult to assess the validity of that decision.

We’re pleased and encouraged to hear that North Yorkshire Police has now amended its policy on how it tackles wildlife crimes. Given this region’s well-deserved reputation for being a raptor persecution hell hole, it probably won’t be long before we get to see just how well this new policy is working. The next case won’t be far away.

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