Posts Tagged ‘spring trap


What happened to this buzzard, caught in a trap on Leadhills Estate?

This buzzard was caught inside a crow cage trap on the Leadhills Estate in January 2019. It isn’t illegal to catch a buzzard in this sort of trap – it’s seen as accidental by-catch – but it is illegal for the trap operator not to release it immediately upon discovery and it’s also illegal to not check the trap at least once within every 24 hour period.

The trap, which was padlocked so was inaccessible to anyone without a key, was being filmed covertly by RSPB Scotland and their camera captured some interesting goings on in the night, with ‘somebody’ (unidentified, natch) rocking up on a quad bike, entering the padlocked trap, appearing to strike at something on the ground, removing something from the trap, and then driving off. As the cameras continued to roll, at dawn it became apparent that the buzzard was no longer in the trap.

Watch the video here:

According to a detailed blog (here) written by RSPB Scotland Head of Investigations Ian Thomson, there were at least two 24 hour periods where the trap was not checked by the trap operator, but despite a Police Scotland investigation, the trap operator could not be identified (presumably because the estate refused to divulge that information).

Nobody has been charged with anything relating to the operation of this trap.

Just as nobody has been charged for the witnessed shooting of a hen harrier on this estate in 2017 (here), or for the witnessed shooting of a short-eared owl on this estate in 2017 (here), or for the shooting of a buzzard found on this estate in 2018 (here), or for the savagely barbaric trapping of a hen harrier on this estate a couple of months ago (here). In fact, according to the RSPB, there have been a total of 72 confirmed raptor persecution incidents recorded on this estate since 2003 and only two of them have resulted in a successful prosecution.

Not only have there been no charges brought, but no civil sanctions either, such as a restriction on the use of the General Licence, which SNH has had the authority to impose since 1 January 2014 if there is sufficient evidence (from Police Scotland) that wildlife crimes have taken place but insufficient evidence to secure a criminal prosecution.

Great, isn’t it?


RSPB’s 2018 Birdcrime report documents relentless raptor persecution on grouse moors

The RSPB has published its latest annual report Birdcrime, documenting known cases of illegal raptor persecution in the UK in 2018. [Follow this link to find the report and additional information]

As ever, it’s grim reading and also as ever, the figures represent an unknown percentage of the actual number of birds that have been illegally killed. We know there are many, many more as these figures don’t include all the satellite-tagged raptors that have been killed and their corpses and tags destroyed to remove any trace evidence.

On the back of the report, the RSPB is calling for three things, quoted as follows:

  • The licensing of driven grouse moors.
    The RSPB believes that the right to shoot should be dependent on legal, sustainable management. Grouse shooting licenses could then be removed if illegal activity is identified, which would act as a deterrent. Law-abiding estates should have nothing to fear from this.
  • A review of grouse shooting.
    An industry that relies on criminal, unsustainable and environmentally damaging practices should not be allowed to continue operating as it currently is. In Scotland, the government has launched a review of grouse moor management and the RSPB would like to see a similar review in the rest of the UK.
  • Transparency, not secrecy: the public have a right to know.
    It is a concern that, particularly in Scotland, some raptor persecution incidents are not made public for many months, or even years, despite the release of such information posing no threat to the integrity of an investigation. The public has a right to know if criminal activity is taking place on their doorstep, especially when, as with poisoning incidents, this poses a risk to public health.

To be perfectly honest, the call for the licensing of driven grouse moors is too little, too late. For many of us the tipping point has now been reached following the recent reports of some truly sadistic and brazen persecution crimes, for example this hen harrier that was caught in an illegally-set spring trap next to his nest on a grouse moor at Leadhills. His leg was almost severed and despite the best efforts of a world-class veterinary specialist, this poor bird didn’t make it.

A licensing system isn’t going to stop the disgusting filthy criminals responsible for this – it’ll be impossible to enforce, just as wildlife protection laws are notoriously difficult to enforce right now. An outright ban on driven grouse shooting will remove the incentive for these crimes, and that’s what we’re calling for. 80,000 people agree (they’ve signed since the petition was launched two weeks ago) but we need 100,000 signatures before Parliament is suspended, as looks likely to happen in a couple of weeks. Please help reach the target and sign the petition here.

The RSPB’s call for a review of grouse shooting is also too little, too late. What do we need another review for? We’ve got decades worth of scientific evidence and hundreds of raptor corpses to know just how damaging driven grouse moor management is, for wildlife, for the environment and for people. Calling for a Werritty-style review will just add further delay to actually dealing with the issue, as we’re currently seeing in Scotland. Just ban it and be done with it (sign the petition if you agree!).

Calling for transparency, not secrecy, over the publication of raptor crimes is something we do support and we’ve been calling for it for years, particularly in Scotland. It’s very noticeable that yet again, in the 2018 poisoning data, the only police force to withhold the name of the poison that’s been used to illegally kill raptors is Police Scotland. All the other forces involved with poisoning investigations have named the poison used.

Having said that, this year (2019) Police Scotland has been a bit more forthcoming about publicising illegal poisoning crimes (e.g. see here and here) although there is still a reluctance to name the poison. But to be fair, Police Scotland has been doing a better job than other public authorities about alerting the public to the dangers (e.g. see here).

Speaking of Scotland, the Birdcrime report shows that 12 confirmed cases were recorded, more than double that recorded in 2017 (take note, Scottish Land & Estates, before you start falsely claiming otherwise). These cases included a peregrine poisoned in the Pentland Hills, near Edinburgh; a buzzard found to have been shot twice, in South Lanarkshire; a buzzard caught in an illegal trap, in Inverness-shire; and a hen harrier caught in a spring trap in Perthshire. All of these incidents occurred on, or close to, land being managed intensively for driven grouse shooting.

And guess what? Not a single one of them has led to a prosecution. Nor has SNH issued a single General Licence restriction order in response to these clear crimes. Even more evidence, as if it were needed, that the Scottish Government, just like the Westminster Government, has no control whatsoever over the rampant raptor-killing savages on many driven grouse moors.




Wild Justice launches new petition to ban driven grouse shooting

Just in case anyone has missed this, yesterday Wild Justice (Mark Avery, Chris Packham & Ruth Tingay) launched a new petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting.

The petition was actually submitted six weeks ago but strange goings on at Westminster led to it being inexplicably delayed. By sheer coincidence, it went live yesterday afternoon at the same time as distressing news was emerging about a young golden eagle that had been photographed flying around Deeside in the Cairngorms National Park with an illegal trap clamped to its leg.

This is probably the fifth (I think) petition calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting – Mark Avery has previously raised three, then Gavin Gamble raised another one. This time though, it seems to have struck a chord with the British public. In just 24hrs of going live, the petition has received an incredible 27,000 signatures. People are clearly very very angry.

The speed with which people are signing this petition is sending a strong message all of its own:

We’ve had enough.

If you’d like to support it, please SIGN HERE and then share the petition with others.

Thank you


Young golden eagle flying around Cairngorms National Park with an illegal trap clamped to its leg

This is beyond what is tolerable.

Police Scotland have issued the following statement this evening:

Appeal to trace golden eagle in Aberdeenshire

Officers are appealing for information to help locate a Golden eagle which was seen flying in the Crathie area of Deeside with what appears to be a trap attached to its leg.

Concerns were raised about the first-year eagle on Thursday August 8, 2019, by a tourist and there are serious concerns for the bird’s welfare.  Enquiries are ongoing in conjunction with our partner agencies including the RSPB.

Sergeant Kim Wood said: “We would encourage anyone who has information which could help to locate this eagle to contact the Police on 101 or another relevant authority as soon as possible.”


This is an area where illegally-set spring traps were found on a driven grouse moor in 2016 (here). There was no prosecution (see here).

The photograph of this eagle has re-ignited a fury that’s been gathering strength for several months.

It began with the suspicious disappearance of two of our satellite-tagged golden eagles, Adam and Charlie, who vanished on the same April morning, on the same grouse moor, within a few hours of one another.

A short time later we learned that an RSPB-satellite-tagged hen harrier had been found dead on a nearby grouse moor with its leg gripped by an illegal trap.

A few weeks later we learned of another hen harrier caught in an illegally-set spring trap. This time it was a breeding male and the trap had been set by his nest. He was still alive when raptor workers found him but in great distress. His trapped leg was almost severed. A specialist wildlife vet from the SSPCA did his very best to save this bird, but unfortunately the harrier’s injuries were just too severe and he didn’t make it. A second trap was found actually in the harrier’s nest, placed next to two eggs. There was no sign of the breeding female.

The Scottish Government’s response to these horrendous crimes? Absolute silence for weeks, and then acting under huge public pressure, a pathetic statement that said ‘We’ve got to wait for the Werritty Review‘ – that’s the report on grouse moor management that we’ve been waiting for since May 2017.

And now this. A young golden eagle flying around with an illegal trap clamped to its leg. It’s quite likely this eagle is already dead.

I’m sorry, Nicola Sturgeon, Roseanna Cunningham and Mairi Gougeon, as much as I admire you as strong, intelligent female politicians, I am no longer prepared to make excuses for you. It is your collective failure to act decisively that has led to these continuing atrocities.

If any blog readers share this sense of fury and exasperation, now is the time to act. Here are two things you can do:

  1. Send an email to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and let her know, clearly but politely, that as the leader of the Scottish Government she needs to step up, show some leadership and take immediate action. Please send your emails to:
  2. Sign this new petition (launched tonight by Wild Justice) calling for a ban on driven grouse shooting – see here.

Thank you


First Minister finally writes to 9 year old boy about golden eagle persecution

At the beginning of July the news emerged that two satellite-tagged golden eagles, named Adam and Charlie, had vanished from the same grouse moor, on the same morning, in highly suspicious circumstances (see here).

In response to this news, and prompted by children’s author Gill Lewis, quite a number of people drew pictures of golden eagles and sent them to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, urging her to finally take action against the grouse shooting industry. One of those people was a nine-year-old boy called Freddie Blackman, who drew this fantastic picture:

After almost a month of silence from the First Minister, not just about these suspiciously ‘missing’ eagles but also about a ‘missing’ hen harrier and two other hen harriers (here & here) that were found on grouse moors with illegal spring traps gripping their legs, Nicola Sturgeon has now finally responded to Freddie with this letter:

Nine-year-old Freddie seems a pretty savvy young man and is unlikely to be impressed with The First Minister’s suggestion that she doesn’t yet know why golden eagles and other raptors are ‘going missing or being hurt’ but that she’s waiting for a report from a ‘special group of people’ (Prof Werritty et al) to find out!

He’ll also be pretty unimpressed if he checks out the SNH website, as Ms Sturgeon suggests, to find out ‘what we are doing to protect wildlife in Scotland’. Er, here’s what you’re doing, Nicola – thinking about putting ravens on the General Licence so that gamekeepers and farmers can slaughter as many as they like, when they like, without any level of accountability whatsoever.

Freddie wasn’t the only one who wrote to the First Minister urging action against the grouse shooting industry. Andy Wightman MSP, the Scottish Parliament’s Golden Eagle Species Champion also wrote to Ms Sturgeon following the disappearance of Adam & Charlie. He told her it was ‘long past time for reviews and inquiries’ and he asked for some very specific action:

  1. Provide clear leadership in condemning these organised crimes;
  2. Commit to legislate to ban or to regulate driven grouse-shooting;
  3. Meet with me and others concerned with raptor conservation to discuss how your Government can take further action to eradicate wildlife crimes;
  4. Invite the Justice Secretary to convene a high-level task force of law enforcement officials to step up prevention and detection of wildlife crime and improve the admissibility of evidence in court.

The First Minister’s response to Andy’s letter? To ignore his specific requests for action and to delegate back to Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham who simply regurgitated the standard response that’s been sent to all those who wrote to the Scottish Government about the ongoing persecution of raptors on Scottish grouse moors:

Without a shadow of doubt, the Scottish Government’s continued procrastination about dealing with the criminals within the grouse shooting industry will be high up on the agenda of many of us attending the Revive conference today.

Watch this space……


Scottish Government’s response to ongoing illegal raptor persecution

Thanks to everyone who emailed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon following the recent raptor persecution atrocities that have been reported from a number of Scottish grouse moors ( a dead spring-trapped hen harrier found on a grouse moor in Perthshire (here), the suspicious disappearance, within a few hours of each other, of two satellite tagged golden eagles on another grouse moor in Perthshire (here), and another spring-trapped hen harrier found critically injured and distressed on a grouse moor in South Lanarkshire (here)).

After weeks of complete silence from Scottish Ministers (here, here, here), which, to be frank, has been utterly staggering and certainly not indicative of a Government ready to act, an impersonal, automated response letter is now being sent out to those who appealed for the Government to finally do something meaningful.

Here it is:

It’s a pathetically tragic response. There’s nothing in here we haven’t heard before, and even though the letter emphasises the previous steps taken in tackling these crimes, presumably to demonstrate the Government’s ‘determination’ to act, what it actually does is just highlight the length of time the Government has been tip-toeing around (since 2007) without producing any significant results at all.

The letter also includes the tired old line that we have to wait for the Werritty Review. We’ve been waiting for over two years and for all that time the Government has used it as an excuse to do absolutely nothing in the face of ongoing criminal activity. The excuse is tired, we’re tired of hearing it, and we’re tired of the criminals being allowed to run amok and suffer zero consequences.

Interestingly, this most recent letter is very similar to another letter that was sent to one of our blog readers in early July in response to the news in May that satellite-tagged hen harrier Marci had ‘disappeared’ in suspicious circumstances on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (here) and that four geese had been found poisoned on another grouse-shooting estate in the Cairngorms National Park after someone had used the banned pesticide Carbofuan (here).

But there’s a significant difference between the two letters:

The evidence continues to point to the likelihood that these people are connected with grouse moor management“.

Gosh, who knew?

Both letters indicate that the Werritty Review is ‘due to report in the next few weeks’, even though both letters were written weeks apart.

According to Professor Werritty himself, the report will be submitted “during the summer“, which of course could mean anytime between now and when the clocks go back at the end of October.

How many more raptors do you think will have been illegally killed by the time the report is submitted? And how many more illegally killed even after the report has been submitted and the Government is ‘considering it carefully’?

Sorry if this blog sounds impatient. Actually, we’re not sorry at all. Our patience has been stretched to its limit and has now expired.

Why’s it so difficult to get the Government to act?


Scottish Government statement on recent raptor persecution crimes

The Scottish Government has finally made a statement about the recent raptor persecution crimes.

The statement is about as impressive as the one from Leadhills Estate, just shorter but no less pathetic.

It appears to be a forced statement, made after a direct request from a journalist (Sean Bell from CommonSpace) rather than a proactive statement posted on the Government’s website to clarify its position.

Ready for this?

From an unnamed Government spokesperson:

The continued targeting of birds of prey is an extremely serious issue and we strongly condemn all those involved in it. We would urge anyone with information to contact the police. 

We are determined to protect birds of prey and have established an independent group to look at how we can ensure grouse moor management is sustainable and complies with the law. 

The review is due to report later this summer and we will consider fully any recommendations or proposed actions put forward by the group“.

The full article at CommonSpace can be read here.

It’s no wonder it took so long for the Government to say anything. It’s pretty clear from this that it has nothing new to say at all – just the same old rhetoric and platitudes and vague statements that don’t actually amount to anything. At all.

Here’s a stark reminder of the effectiveness the Scottish Government’s so-called ‘determination to protect birds of prey’. The spring-trapped hen harrier. He didn’t make it, despite the very best efforts of specialist vet Romain Pizzi and his team at the Scottish SPCA. [Photo by Ruth Tingay]

How many more victims will there be while we wait for the Scottish Government to actually do something?

Emails (polite ones, please) to the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon at: 

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