Posts Tagged ‘trap


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: 


Statement from Leadhills Estate on illegally-trapped hen harrier

Here we go folks, it looks like the Leadhills Estate has possibly identified the person(s) responsible for illegally-setting two spring traps at a hen harrier nest and it’s quite possible it’s the same one(s) responsible for the other 50+ raptor persecution crimes recorded in the area since 2003, including the armed masked man on a quad bike who was seen shooting a hen harrier in 2017 and the armed man in a 4×4 who was seen shooting and killing a short-eared owl in 2017. Although obviously not including the two crimes where estate gamekeepers were convicted (one in 2004 and one in 2009).

Phew. Thank god that’s all sorted. There’s no need for grouse moor management to come under any more scrutiny – we just need more police to patrol the area on the look out for ‘bird of prey activists’. Obvs.

The estate where a hen harrier is believed to have been caught in an illegally set trap has said it is not responsible for the bird’s death.

Leadhills Estate said the event is the latest in a series of suspicious activities on its land, much of which has been reported by the estate to police.

A spokesman for the estate said: “We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, all forms of persecution against birds of prey. The manner in which this hen harrier has died is sickening and we want the police to get to the truth of what has happened. We have provided the police with detailed evidence to support their inquiry including evidence of someone we consider to have acted suspiciously on the estate on the date in question.

“Our gamekeepers are trained to the highest level and know their responsibilities under the law and the standards we expect of them.

“The estate has conducted a full investigation into the circumstances of this incident and is satisfied that no one from the estate was involved in the illegal setting of these traps. Employees have been individually interviewed by lawyers. This comes in addition to the full cooperation the estate has offered in the police investigation.”

On the day the hen harrier was found, many estate traps, including fenn traps (the type of trap which the hen harrier was caught in) were removed, stolen or vandalised by an unknown third party or third parties. The damage was photographed and the incidents were reported to the police.

The spokesman continued: “Throughout April and May this year, we reported three separate incidents of theft, vandalism or interference to estate traps to police.

“On the day when the hen harrier was found, Saturday 11 May, legally set cages and traps were checked in the morning without incident. Some of the traps require to be checked on a 24 hour basis and when gamekeepers carried out further checks on Sunday 12 May, they discovered a number of Fenn traps vandalised, a number of traps had been stolen and two crow cages had been damaged with the decoy birds let out.

“This was reported to the police and photographic evidence and grid point references were recorded by the estate.”

Leadhills said it has experienced repeated cases of trap vandalism and other crimes carried out on the estate over many years which have been very difficult for estate staff to cope with.

The estate added that it was under intense scrutiny from third parties and recognised the ongoing controversy surrounding moorland management and bird of prey activists.

The spokesman added: “It is beyond belief that anyone associated with the estate would be both naïve and reckless enough to perpetrate a crime such as this.

“Over recent years, we have had at least three individuals working as raptor monitors on our land and our activity is
scrutinised to an acute level by those who are not sympathetic to grouse moor management. This is in addition to the examination we receive from independent assessors who advise our staff on best practice within the sector.

“There has been no commercial grouse shooting on our land over the past two years and the moors are not being managed to achieve high bags of grouse, as has been claimed.  There is no motive to act outside the law.

“We realise that there is a febrile atmosphere around moorland management, with campaigners in yesterday’s statement highlighting the forthcoming government’s grouse moor review led by Professor Werrity, but it is
important that we make our voice heard on this matter.  We believe that the film made by Chris Packham and others from the Revive coalition has been made with the primary aim of pressurising government to ban grouse shooting and this incident has been used to further that aim without it being subject to the due process of law or to independent scrutiny.  It is yet another case of trial by media.

“Someone killed the hen harrier and we deplore that act, but evidence as to who was responsible seems to have been removed immediately after the incident.  This leaves a very unsatisfactory situation for the estate, for the police, for the public and our politicians to deal with. Leadhills Estate, along with the rest of the grouse management
sector is looking to work constructively with all parties who want to see continuation of the important public benefits of sustainable moorland management.”



Questionable commitment as Scottish Ministers ignore barbaric raptor persecution crime

Look at this.

It’s a personalised card, crafted in gold, pleading with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to take action following the recent news that yet another two satellite-tagged golden eagles had vanished in suspicious circumstances on a Scottish grouse moor, shortly after a satellite-tagged hen harrier had been found dead on another nearby grouse moor with an illegal leg clamped to its leg.

This exquisite artwork was sent to Ms Sturgeon by Jackie Morris, co-creater of The Lost Words.

It’s one of many that have been sent, inspired by a drawing by children’s author Gill Lewis, including drawings by seven and nine-year old boys, all sufficiently motivated by the loss of these eagles to want to ask for their protection (e.g. see here).

And there have been even more:

And it’s not just drawings. We know that many of you have been emailing the First Minister ( asking for action, following the example of Andy Wightman MSP, the golden eagle species champion who wrote to Ms Sturgeon the day the news broke that ‘his’ golden eagle, Adam, was one of those that had vanished.

The response from the First Minister, the Environment Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham and Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon? Complete and utter silence.

That was two weeks ago.

Then yesterday came the news of the sadistic trapping of another hen harrier on another Scottish grouse moor, with a graphic video showing the extent of this bird’s injuries and suffering. It was sickening viewing, made all the worse by knowing that the traps had been deliberately set to target this bird at its nest. This was no accident. It was a brazen, brutal and ruthless attack and because there were no witnesses, the perpetrator hasn’t been identified and is likely to escape justice, just like so many others on so many other occasions.

The public outpouring of shock and disgust on social media, even from many within the shooting community, was instantaneous. These were the responses of decent human beings, with a visceral reaction to the distress of that traumatised hen harrier.

The response from the First Minister, Environment Cabinet Secretary and Rural Affairs Minister?

Total silence.

It is utterly baffling why these three intelligent, thoughtful, decent and normally dynamic people have refused to comment on such barbarity. It’s not because they’re on holiday (they’re all still tweeting about other stuff) and it can’t possibly be because they don’t know what’s been going on.

No, this is clearly a political decision – but why? Who’s advising them?

Is it something to do with the Werritty review? Who knows, and to be quite frank, who cares? We don’t need to wait for the findings of yet another review (already overdue) to know that change must come and it must be led by these senior politicians. But even if they are waiting for Werritty to report, that still shouldn’t prevent them from condemning these ongoing crimes and committing to addressing the issue, once and for all. This silence is what we’ve come to expect from Westminster politicians, not those in Holyrood.

What can they possibly gain by remaining silent? If anything, their refusal to comment must actually be pretty damaging – it looks like they just don’t care and to be honest, I’m tired of making excuses for them.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” – Dr Martin Luther King.


Hen harrier suffers savage brutality of an illegally-set trap on a Scottish grouse moor

Press release from Chris Packham CBE and Dr Ruth Tingay (RPUK):

An adult male hen harrier has suffered appalling injuries after being caught in a spring trap that had been illegally-set next to its nest on a Scottish grouse moor.

His lower leg was almost severed by the jaws of the trap and despite valiant attempts by a specialist veterinary surgeon to save him, his injuries were too severe and he was later euthanised.

[Photo by Ruth Tingay]

The harrier had been found caught in the trap and in great distress by members of the Scottish Raptor Study Group who were undertaking routine raptor monitoring on the Leadhills Estate in South Lanarkshire on 11th May 2019. A second trap, also illegally-set, had been placed on the harrier’s nearby nest. The nest contained two eggs but there was no sign of the breeding female.

[The trapped hen harrier in distress. Photo by Scottish Raptor Study Group]

[The second illegally-set trap on the harrier’s nest, next to two eggs. Photo by Scottish Raptor Study Group]

The raptor workers rang the Scottish SPCA for help and the police were informed. The male hen harrier was collected immediately by the SSPCA and taken for veterinary attention. They also removed the traps and the eggs were transferred to an experienced falconer to see if they could be saved.

Specialist veterinary surgeon Romain Pizzi of the Scottish SPCA’s National Wildlife Rescue Centre conducted an intricate operation to reconstruct the harrier’s shattered leg but it had been too badly damaged by the trap so a decision was made to end his suffering and he was put to sleep.

Unfortunately the eggs that had been rescued from the nest didn’t survive either.

[SSPCA veterinary surgeon Romain Pizzi reconstructed the harrier’s smashed leg. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

[Specialist vet Romain Pizzi explains to Chris that the force of the trap on this hen harrier’s leg would be similar to the force of a tractor running over a man’s leg. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Seven weeks later on 4th July Police Scotland led a multi-agency search of Leadhills Estate but found no evidence to connect anyone from the estate with this latest wildlife crime.

This area of South Lanarkshire has been identified as a wildlife crime hotspot for many years. Since 2003 the RSPB has recorded at least 50 confirmed raptor persecution crimes on and close to a number of grouse moors in the region but only two have ever resulted in a successful prosecution; one gamekeeper was convicted in 2004 for shooting an owl and one was convicted in 2009 for setting out poisoned baits.

In 2015 a satellite-tagged hen harrier called Annie was found shot dead on a grouse moor in the area. In 2016 a satellite-tagged hen harrier called Chance disappeared in suspicious circumstances in the area, as did another one called ‘Skylar’ earlier this year.

In 2017 witnesses reported seeing an armed masked man shoot a hen harrier on a grouse moor in this area but the suspect escaped on a quad bike before the police arrived. The bird wasn’t found but a few weeks later witnesses observed an unidentified man shooting a short-eared owl on a grouse moor in the area. The man escaped across the moor in a four-wheel drive vehicle but the owl’s corpse was later retrieved from the heather and a post-mortem confirmed it had been shot. There were no prosecutions.

[A shot short-eared owl being retrieved from the grouse moor in 2017. Photo RSPB Scotland]

Following ongoing concerns about the scale of raptor persecution on some driven grouse moors in Scotland, in 2017 the Government commissioned a review of grouse moor management with a view to bringing in a regulatory licensing scheme. The review’s author, Professor Alan Werritty, is due to report within the next few weeks.

Prominent campaigners Chris Packham CBE and Dr Ruth Tingay who writes the Raptor Persecution UK blog have joined forces with other leading experts to produce a video about the savage brutality of this latest incident.

Chris Packham CBE said: “This despicable crime marks a most depressing day for raptor conservation in the UK and undoubtedly the darkest day for the whole shooting industry. It’s out of control, obviously beyond any form of self-regulation, and is tolerant of an utter contempt for the laws which are meant to protect our wildlife. This woeful death zone in South Lanarkshire needs cleaning up and clearing out now. This is 2019, not 1860 and this sickening spectacle has to consign driven grouse shooting to the dustbin”.

Dr Ruth Tingay said: “To be perfectly frank, what has happened here transcends the need to wait for the Werritty Review to report. This is brazen criminality, in broad daylight, conducted by someone secure in the knowledge that a prosecution is highly unlikely. The Scottish Government cannot continue to prevaricate on this issue while our wildlife suffers such barbaric acts. We know what’s going on, we know where it’s going on and the Government has a duty to act. Now.”

Anyone with information about the illegally-set traps found on Leadhills Estate is urged to contact Police Scotland on 101, or the RSPB’s confidential raptor crime hotline 0300 999 0101.


With the help of a number of colleagues at Scottish SPCA, RSPB Scotland, OneKind, Revive Coalition, Operation Owl and Andy Wightman MSP and we’ve produced a video about this barbaric crime:

In recent weeks we’ve blogged about the suspicious disappearance of a satellite-tagged hen harrier (Marci) in the Cairngorms National Park (here), the suspicious disappearance of another satellite-tagged hen harrier (Skylar) in South Lanarkshire (here), the illegal poisoning of four geese with a banned pesticide in the Cairngorms National Park (here), the illegal poisoning of at least two red kites in Dumfries & Galloway (here), the discovery of an illegally- spring-trapped hen harrier on a grouse moor in the Strathbraan raven cull area (here), and the suspicious disappearance of two satellite-tagged golden eagles (Adam and Charlie) on the same morning on another grouse moor in the Strathbraan raven cull area (here).

In response to these incidents, the Scottish Government has remained silent.

And now another hen harrier, a species whose killing is supposed to be a national wildlife crime priority, has suffered at the hands of the untouchables.

Will the Scottish Government finally now act?

Please contact the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and let her know (politely, please) that enough is enough.

Emails to:

Thank you


Even more innocent victims caught in traps set on grouse moors

About a week ago we blogged about the deaths of some birds in some traps that had been set on some grouse moors.

Some of the traps had been set legally, but still caught and killed an innocent Dipper (here) whereas other traps had been set illegally and had caught and killed an innocent tawny owl, as reported by the RSPB Investigations Team (here).

Yesterday, we were sent more images of some different traps that had caught yet more innocent victims. These traps were photographed on the Leadhills (Hopetoun) Estate in South Lanarkshire, and although the traps appear to have been set legally (i.e. the trap has been placed inside a tunnel and the entry holes have been restricted), they have still caught and killed another innocent Dipper and a Wheatear.

As we wrote last week, even though the traps in these photographs appear to have been legally set, and the trap operator has abided by the law, the traps have still caused the deaths of these native species but nobody will be held to account. These deaths are considered acceptable collateral damage, the price our native wildlife has to suffer to enable over-privileged members of the establishment the opportunity to blast to death thousands of game birds later in the year.

There is no legal requirement for grouse shooting estates to monitor, record or report these deaths. The Scottish and Westminster Governments and their statutory conservation advisory agencies (SNH and Natural England) have no clue about how many of these deaths take place on grouse moors each day/week/month/year.

Imagine if we all were setting out traps like this in our back gardens, routinely killing native wildlife without being held to account.

Imagine if you saw these traps set out in your town, killing blackbirds and song thrushes and robins every single day.

For how long do you think we’d get away with it? (Not that anyone with an ounce of decency would want to get away with it).

Now think about how long the grouse shooting industry has been able to get away with this without being challenged/stopped.


Young hen harrier suffers horrific death in illegal trap on Strathbraan grouse moor

RSPB press release (27 June 2019)


A satellite tagged hen harrier has been illegally killed on a Perthshire grouse moor. The remains of the young female, named Rannoch, were found by RSPB Scotland in May caught in a spring trap which had been set in the open, not permitted by law.

The post mortem report from SRUC veterinary laboratory said: “The bird was trapped by the left leg in a spring trap at time of death. Death will have been due to a combination of shock and blood loss if it died quickly or to exposure and dehydration/starvation if it died slowly. Either way the bird will have experienced significant unnecessary suffering.”

[Hen harrier Rannoch’s remains in an illegal trap on a Strathbraan grouse moor. Photos by RSPB Scotland]

Rannoch was satellite tagged by RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE project in July 2017. Her tag data movements were followed closely by RSPB Scotland until 10th November 2018 when she stopped moving in an area of moorland between Aberfeldy and Crieff. The solar powered tag battery drained before accurate location data could be gathered allowing her to be found, but after coming online again in May 2019 enough information was provided to locate her remains. A recent study showed that 72% of tagged British hen harriers are confirmed or considered very likely to have been illegally killed.

Dr Cathleen Thomas, Project Manager for the RSPB’s Hen Harrier LIFE project, said: “We are absolutely devastated that Rannoch has been a victim of crime; the life of this beautiful bird was cut short in the most horrific way due to human actions. Satellite tagging has revealed the amazing journeys made by hen harriers but also uncovers how their journeys end.

Often the birds disappear with their tags suddenly ceasing to function as perpetrators go to great lengths to hide the evidence of their crimes; Rannoch’s death in a spring trap is evidence of one way in which these birds are being killed. In terms of their population size, hen harriers are the most persecuted bird of prey in the UK, and their population is now perilously low, so every loss we suffer impacts the continued survival of the species.”

Ian Thomson, Head of Investigations Scotland, said: “This latest killing of a hen harrier is truly appalling. The actions of the individual who set this trap were both reckless and indiscriminate, and showed a complete disregard for both the law and the welfare of local wildlife. Sadly, the catalogue of criminal killing of tagged hen harriers and other birds of prey continues unabated; we know many others are illegally killed and going undetected, so her death is part of the tip of the iceberg of the true level of criminality.

At a time when our hen harrier population is in sharp decline, we repeat our call on the Scottish Government to take urgent action to regulate driven grouse shooting through a licensing scheme, with sanctions to remove licences to shoot on land where the public authorities are satisfied that illegal activities are occurring”.

Rannoch was one of two chicks who fledged from a Perthshire nest in an area owned and managed by Forestry and Land Scotland in July 2017. Her tag was fitted in partnership with local members of the Tayside Raptor Study Group and Forestry and Land Scotland, who monitored the nest together.

[Hen harrier ‘Rannoch’ being fitted with her satellite tag in 2017. Photo by Brian Etheridge]

The tag data showed Rannoch spent most of her time in Perthshire before she stopped moving on 10th November 2018. As the tag had continued to function after she stopped moving, rather than coming to an abrupt halt, it was assumed that she had died of natural causes. The tag briefly transmitted more data in January this year, and again in May for longer, as the battery recharged in the spring sunlight. The second time more accurate location data was transmitted, allowing RSPB Scotland to finally recover Rannoch’s remains. When RSPB Scotland found Rannoch her leg was caught in a spring trap. Her body was recovered and delivered to the SRUC veterinary laboratory for a post mortem, and Police Scotland were notified.

Logan Steele, a member of the Tayside Raptor Study Group, which monitors hen harriers in the area said: “Rannoch and her sibling were the first birds to fledge from this site in ten years so I was very angry to hear she had died caught in an illegal trap. With so few hen harriers left in this part of Perthshire it is particularly worrying that this bird will not return to breed.”

Anyone with information about this crime or other bird of prey illegal persecution is urged to contact Police Scotland on 101, or the RSPB’s confidential raptor crime hotline on 0300 999 0101.


The RSPB press release does not name the grouse moor where Rannoch’s remains were found but just says it was ‘in an area of moorland between Aberfeldy and Crieff’.

This is clearly within the boundary of the Strathbraan raven cull area, where in 2018 SNH issued a licence to local gamekeepers permitting them to kill 69 ravens ‘just to see what happened’. A legal challenge to that licensing decision was successfully made by the Scottish Raptor Study Group and one of their concerns had been that the Strathbraan raven cull area was a known raptor persecution hotspot with a long history of poisonings, illegally-trapped birds and the suspicious disappearances of at least six satellite-tagged eagles.

[RPUK map showing boundary of Strathbraan raven cull area (yellow line) and significant areas of moorland managed for driven grouse shooting (outlined in white). Hen Harrier Rannoch’s corpse was found on one of these moorlands]

Hen Harrier Rannoch’s name will now be added to the ever-increasing list of persecuted satellite tagged hen harriers on British grouse moors, although unusually this time we’re not dealing with a missing corpse and a missing tag that has suddenly and inexplicably stopped working.

No, this time there is no escaping the brutal, barbaric reality of her miserable death. The criminality is writ large, for all to see.

How will the authorities respond this time? Complete silence, as we’ve come to expect every time a raptor persecution crime is reported in the press? We won’t let the Scottish Government off the hook so easily this time.

Wilful blindness will no longer be tolerated.

This weekend, the Scottish Parliament will be celebrating its 20 year anniversary. Twenty years ago, the then Secretary of State Donald Dewar famously described illegal raptor persecution as “a national disgrace” and committed the Scottish Parliament to take “all possible steps to eliminate [raptor] persecution“.

It’s time for the Scottish Government to honour that commitment.

Please send an email of protest to Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham: Your email needs to be firm but polite. There can be no more prevarication on dealing with these crimes and the Scottish Government needs to understand the strength of feeling about its continued failure to bring the criminals to justice and end these vile actions.

Thank you.


Trap causes horrific suffering on grouse moor in Peak District National Park

A member of the public stumbled across a gruesome scene this morning on a grouse moor in the Peak District National Park.

@PatHeath2 posted the following images on twitter:

The photographs, reported to be from a grouse moor on the north eastern side of the National Park, have understandably caused widespread disgust and anger.

It’s not clear from the photographs or the accompanying commentary whether this is an illegally-set trap i.e. it had been deliberately pegged out on open ground instead of being placed inside a natural or artificial tunnel or whether the trap had somehow become dislodged from its original [legal] setting inside a tunnel.

Either way, this animal’s suffering is sickeningly and indisputably brutal.

It’s yet another pitiful victim of the savagery that is driven grouse moor management.

And all inside the Peak District National Park; an area where you might reasonably expect wildlife to be protected, respected and cherished. It isn’t, of course, in this or in any of the other UK National Parks where grouse moor management dominates the landscape and where wildlife is simply treated as either a commodity or an inconvenience, to be dispensed with without a second thought.

The photographer has been urged to report this incident to South Yorkshire Police so the circumstances of the trap-setting can be investigated. Unfortunately this particular police force does not have a strong track record when it comes to investigating suspected wildlife crimes e.g. see here and here, despite this area being a well-known wildlife crime hotspot.

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