Posts Tagged ‘shooting

23
Mar
19

New satellite tag to detect illegal killing of golden eagles in Cairngorms National Park, eagle-killing hotspot

Press release from Cairngorms National Park Authority (23 March 2019)

Cutting edge technology to provide new insight into lives of Scotland’s golden eagles

An innovative new type of satellite tag has been designed to provide a boost to understanding raptor movements and behaviour, as well as help understand the fate of birds which die in the Cairngorms National Park and more widely across Scotland.

Over the next 18 months some young Golden Eagles in and around the Cairngorms National Park will be fitted with a novel ‘Raptor Tracker’ tag, as part of a trial which will provide key information on movements and behaviour, such as whether a bird is feeding or resting. Most importantly, it will provide an instant fix on any birds which die.

Tags in current use are limited in what information they can provide on the exact location of any bird which dies.  This new tag uses the ‘geostationary Iridium’ satellite network and ensures that signal information is always available. Crucially, it has been developed with multiple sensors; these immediately send a ‘distress’ signal, with an exact location, back to base if unusual behaviour is detected. This early warning system has the added benefit of helping to rapidly identify and recover birds which have died.

[An illegally killed satellite-tagged golden eagle, believed to have been trapped on a grouse moor in the Angus Glens resulting in its legs almost being severed, and then dumped in a layby several km away, inside the Cairngorms National Park, where it was left to die an horrific death. Photo by RSPB]

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: This is great news for improving our understanding of eagle behaviours, and in the fight against wildlife crime. The tags should make a real difference in deterring would-be criminals, as well as playing a key role in establishing exactly what happened, should any of these magnificent birds of prey disappear or die in unusual circumstances.”

Grant Moir, CEO of the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) said: “Raptor conservation and tackling wildlife crime is one of the aims of the recently launched Cairngorms Nature Action Plan 2019-2023. This is an exciting breakthrough in the technology around raptor conservation, understanding the birds and combatting wildlife crime.”

Robbie Kernahan, Head of Wildlife Management, of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) added: “This exciting new technology will give us new information on the movements of these iconic birds. This should also be a significant deterrent to anyone thinking of persecuting raptors, as we will have detailed information on birds’ movements in the minutes leading up to their death.”

Charlie Everitt, UK National Wildlife Crime Unit commented: “This new tag is a significant step forward in using technology to research further the intriguing ranging behaviour of Golden eagles. However, the implications for preventing wildlife crime and as an aid to enforcement are also very apparent. I look forward to the trial and working closely with colleagues in CNPA and SNH.“

Phil Atkinson, Head of International Research, BTO said: “BTO has been developing new tagging technologies for several years, working to increase the quality and type of information collected. These new ‘Raptor Tracker’ tags have the potential to reveal new aspects of Golden Eagle behaviour, providing fascinating insights into their lives. We are looking forward to the trial and what it reveals.”

The CNPA and SNH have been working on this for over two years, and for the last six months the British Trust for Ornithology has been involved in developing the new tag. The tags will be placed on birds over the next 18 months to trial them. Changes can be made to the tags remotely to ensure that they are working optimally.

If the trial proves successful, the organisations will look at putting these on more Golden Eagles and also the potential miniaturisation of the technology to allow similar tagging of Hen Harriers and other species.

END

Some of what has been written in this press release is absolute nonsense, in terms of the limitations of some of the highly sophisticated satellite tags currently deployed on golden eagles. However, to focus on that would detract from the bigger picture of what is being proposed, and that’s far more important to discuss.

The development of a tag that can potentially send what amounts to a distress signal from the exact location and at the exact time the tagged eagle is being illegally killed is to be warmly welcomed. If this tag works as the manufacturers claim it will, it will provide wildlife crime investigators with high quality evidence of the precise location of the crime, which currently can only be inferred from tag data depending on the tag’s ‘duty cycle’, which determines when it’s programmed to transmit data to the tag operator (this can vary between a matter of hours and a number of days, depending on tag type). That would be a seriously good development.

What it wouldn’t do is to identify the individual criminal, especially if the crime took place on a large grouse moor estate where multiple gamekeepers are employed (which is where most of the golden eagle killing in Scotland has taken place). In those situations, the wildlife crime investigation wouldn’t get any further than the current situation we see playing out so often today –  that is, the body and the tag removed from the scene and destroyed, “no comment” interviews from all suspects and no way for the police to identify the actual individual responsible. Without that identification, a prosecution cannot proceed.

That’s not to say that the estate would get off scot free though, as they currently do. Conservationists have been arguing that the pattern of evidence from the current raptor satellite tags that suddenly and inexplicably ‘disappear’ should be sufficient evidence for SNH to impose General Licence restrictions on the offending estates. For some reason (unexplained, as far as we can tell), this has not been happening, even though the Environment Cabinet Secretary acknowledges the significance of the data pattern (see her editorial in the Government’s annual wildlife crime report). However, if this new tag can do what is claimed it can do, there’s no question that that information should be accepted by SNH and sanctions should be applied to the estate involved.

It’s great that this tag will be trialled in and around the Cairngorms National Park, given that some of the more intensively-managed grouse moors in and at the edge of the Park are well-known golden eagle-killing hotspots, as shown in this map derived from data provided in the golden eagle satellite tag review in 2017. It’s interesting that none of the people quoted in the press release mentioned this fact!

It is though, very pleasing indeed to see such senior figureheads recognise that the deployment of satellite tags on threatened raptor species is an acceptable and important conservation tool and a helpful investigative tool for detecting wildlife crime. It seems the concerted campaign by several meat heads in the gamekeeping world, which has included disgraceful personal attacks and smears on the integrity of those who fit satellite tags, has fallen on deaf ears.

We look forward to hearing about the field trials on this new tag in due course. Well done to all involved.

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22
Mar
19

Grouse shooting lease on wildlife crime grouse moor will not be renewed

The owner of Denton Moor, a company called NG Bailey, has announced it will not renew the grouse shooting lease to its current tenant following a spate of wildlife crime.

Denton Moor in the Nidderdale AONB in Yorkshire was where the RSPB filmed footage of several armed men, dressed as gamekeepers, shooting at a nesting Marsh harrier and removing eggs from the nest in May 2017 (see here). Despite good efforts from North Yorkshire Police, the armed men have not been identified.

[RPUK map showing the location of Denton Moor]

Last month gamekeeper Austin Hawke was convicted of wildlife crime on the same moor after a badger was found dead in a snare in May 2018 (see here).

Campaigners have been targeting NG Bailey for some time and the recent conviction of one of the shooting tenant’s gamekeepers seems to have been the last straw for the landowner.

David Hurcomb, Chief Exec said:

NG Bailey is aware of the prosecution of Austin Hawke, the gamekeeper who is employed by and works for the tenants. To clarify, Austin Hawke is not employed by Denton Park Estate. As a business, we find this behavior totally unacceptable and do not condone this type of conduct – it is not reflective of the company’s values or ethical practices. We have advised the tenants that under no circumstances will the lease be renewed when it expires”.

Excellent news. Although whether that means it’ll be leased to someone other than the current tenant remains to be seen. We’re not sure when the current lease expires.

The efforts of a wide range of people have led to this result, allowing campaigners to join up the dots and apply pressure. Well done to them all, including the RSPB Investigations team, North Yorkshire police, local raptor workers, the Crown Prosecution Service and local campaigners.

Well done also to David Hurcomb and his colleagues at NG Bailey – this is a very welcome decision.

09
Mar
19

‘Eagles are being slaughtered as part of serious organised crime’

Revive, the coalition for grouse moor reform held its first ever fringe event at a party political conference yesterday, at the Scottish Labour conference in Dundee.

The event was chaired by Claudia Beamish MSP and three speakers from Revive joined the panel (Dr Ruth Tingay of RPUK, Max Wiszniewski, Revive Campaign Manager, and Dr Craig Dalzell, Head of Policy & Research at Common Weal) with another coalition member (Dr Richard Dixon, Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland) in the audience.

[Photo by Louise Robertson]

Each speaker gave a ten minute presentation followed by approx 20 minutes of questions from the floor.

It was brilliant to see a number of journalists in the audience, resulting in some good coverage in the papers today.

The Herald focused on the illegal persecution of golden eagles and hen harriers on or close to driven grouse moors and journalist Alistair Grant got the message loud and clear that, in our opinion, the extent of this persecution on many driven grouse moors is such that it amounts to serious organised crime. [Definition by the National Crime Agency: ‘Serious crime planned, coordinated and conducted by people working together on a contuining basis. Their motivation is often, but not always, financial gain‘]

Here’s the text from The Herald article:

GOLDEN eagles and other protected birds of prey are being illegally slaughtered in what amounts to “serious organised crime”, a leading expert has said.

Dr Ruth Tingay of Raptor Persecution UK said birds are being killed on or near grouse moors across Scotland before the evidence is then removed to avoid prosecution.

She spoke out during a fringe meeting at the Scottish Labour conference in Dundee.

Claudia Beamish MSP, the party’s environment spokeswoman, said it backed strict new rules for estate owners – including a total ban on the use of lead shot and the large-scale cull of mountain hares.

She said: “In order for grouse moors to continue, if indeed they do, there needs to be very robust licensing.”

Labour delegates heard grouse moors cover almost a fifth of Scotland, with estates handed more than £300,000 a year in public subsidies.

Revive, a coalition of organisations calling for change, insisted estates should be stripped of this cash as part of a crackdown aimed at encouraging radical land reform.

It said the intensive land management associated with driven grouse shooting causes environmental damage.

Meanwhile, there is evidence scores of birds have been illegally killed on or near estates, it said.

Dr Tingay, a leading raptor ecologist, said: “My argument is that what we are seeing here – not just with golden eagles but with other birds of prey, particularly hen harriers, which are also persecuted on driven grouse moors – is serious organised crime.

If the Government accepted this, we would see a lot more resources coming in to deal with this issue.”

She said some estimates suggest 50 eagles a year are disappearing.

Revive is made up of Raptor Persecution UK, Friends of the Earth Scotland, animal charity Onekind, the League Against Cruel Sports Scotland and think tank Common Weal.

Craig Dalzell, head of policy and research at Common Weal, said estates should be opened up to other uses.

He said grouse moors in Scotland had an annual economic impact of £32 million and were responsible for around 2,640 jobs.

In comparison, forestry boasts an annual economic impact of £973m and creates 26,000 jobs, he said.

ENDS

The Press & Journal also covered this fringe event and journalist Tom Peterkin headlined with this:

Here’s the text of the P&J article:

Labour has said there should be robust licencing of grouse shooting amid claims that illegal wildlife killing on sporting estates amounted to “serious organised crime”.

The call was made by Shadow Environment Secretary Claudia Beamish at a Labour conference fringe meeting where she cast doubt on the survival of the pastime in the long-term.

The meeting was hosted by Revive, an organisation campaigning for the reform of the country sport and whose agenda includes stripping grouse moor landowners of public subsidies.

Speaking at the meeting, Ms Beamish said it would be “valid” for a licencing system to take into account issues raised by Revive.

Ms Beamish said: “I think that in order for grouse moors to continue – if indeed they do – there needs to be very robust licencing and robust monitoring.”

Ms Beamish made her remarks after campaigners claimed grouse moors only supported 3,000 jobs on an average salary of £11,500 despite accounting for almost one fifth of Scottish land.

Ruth Tiingay of Raptor Persecution UK, drew attention to golden eagles killed on Scottish moors, arguing it was “serious organised crime”.

Max Wiszniewski of Revive said his organisation was “not going for a ban” on grouse shooting “however understandable that would be”.

Rather Revive’s focus was to reform it as much as possible, including an end to government subsidies, heather burning limits, a lead ammunition ban, a ban on snares and more action against wildlife crime.

He said: “The question may come about if the industry can’t survive after the necessary reforms, it possibly has to reflect on itself.”

ENDS

This was a very worthwhile event. Revive signed up more supporters to its pledge for grouse moor reform (you can sign online here if you haven’t already done so), it was an opportunity to interact with a number of politicians who were keen to learn more about the Revive campaign and the media was interested in what we had to say.

Well done to Max (Revive Campaign Manager) for organising this event and many thanks to Claudia Beamish MSP for her interest and support.

Revive will be at other party political conferences later this year.

05
Mar
19

Buzzard found with shotgun injuries at Ryton, North Yorkshire

An injured buzzard was found on Ryton flood bank in North Yorkshire last week.

The bird was still alive but unable to fly – its broken humerus was sticking through the skin (see the x-ray below) and the wound site was infected.

Unfortunately the bird had to be euthanised.

If anyone has any information about this crime please contact Police Wildlife Crime Officer Jez Walmsley at Malton Police Station (Tel: 101) or the RSPB’s Raptor Crime Hotline (Tel: 0300 999 0101).

[Photos via Jean Thorpe]

01
Mar
19

Kestrel shot in North Yorkshire

A kestrel has been euthanised after being found shot in North Yorkshire.

It’s a kestrel, FFS. You’d have to be a gun-toting psychopath to shoot one of these. Unsurprisingly, it’s not the first kestrel to have been shot in North Yorkshire, England’s raptor-killing capital (see here here and here).

[Photo by Louise Morris]

News of this latest shooting appeared on Twitter yesterday. We’ve been unable to find any more details:

08
Jan
19

Marsh harrier found illegally shot

The RSPB Investigations Team is reporting the discovery of a shot Marsh harrier.

This bird was discovered critically injured on the river bank near Barton-upon-Humber in North Lincolnshire on 9th  September 2018. A dog walker reported it to the RSPCA and it was also reported to the police. An RSPCA officer took the harrier to the East Winch Wildlife Centre near Boston where an x-ray revealed it had been shot. The bird later died from its injuries.

[Photo by RSPCA]

Humberside Police investigated but were unable to identify the criminal responsible.

If anyone has any information relating to this incident, call Humberside Police on 101 quoting crime reference number 16/115793/18.

Further details on the RSPB Investigations blog here

Marsh harriers are increasingly in the firing line, whether it’s on lowland game shooting estates (e.g. here), on land adjacent to an RSPB Reserve (e.g. here) or on upland grouse moors (e.g. here).

And let’s not forget (as several people did) the grouse shooting industry’s interest in obtaining licences to kill Marsh harriers to prevent the so-called ‘disruption’ of driven grouse shoots.

19
Dec
18

Buzzard found shot in Sywell Country Park, Northants

Northampton Police press release (17 December 2018):

Buzzard shot in Sywell Country Park

Police officers are appealing for information after a buzzard was shot in Sywell Country Park.

The incident happened between 7am on Wednesday, November 28, and 8pm on Thursday, November 29, when a buzzard was found injured in the park having been shot. Although it was taken to the vets it sadly died a short time later.

All wild birds are protected by law and in shooting this bird a criminal offence has been committed. Anyone with information should contact Northamptonshire Police on 101. Alternatively, you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Incident Number: 349 of 30/11/2018
ENDS
According to a local source, this buzzard was found next to a wood used for driven pheasant shooting.
[Sywell Country Park by Baz Richardson]



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