SGA urges government to kill predators

SGAboardHey, guess what? The Scottish Gamekeepers Association is urging the Scottish Government to kill predators! Gosh, it must be all of two weeks since they last called for this sort of action. Thank goodness they’re so full of fresh new ideas.

In an amusingly familiar article in the Scotsman (see here), we learn that the SGA has declared 2014 as the Year of the Wader and will use this banner as a way of repeatedly asking the government to kill some predators, although they haven’t actually specified which predators they want killed. Any will do, right?

In honour of this initiative, we’ve declared 2014 as the Year of the Wanker, and we’ll use this banner as a way of repeatedly asking the government to get rid of some wankers. We might specify which wankers should be removed or we might just generalise in the hope of netting one or two in a broad trawl.

Calling the Shots: new report on grouse shooting

Calling theshots2Animal Aid, a campaigning animal rights group, has today published a report on grouse shooting called Calling the Shots.

According to the introduction, “Calling the Shots is aimed at alerting the public to the truth about an activity that has so far enjoyed a benign reputation, even though it is based on extensive wildlife and environmental destruction“.

We haven’t read the report in detail yet, just skimmed the contents. We did notice a great deal of reference to Walshaw Moor in the Pennines. The Walshaw Moor affair is a topic that has received intensive and prolonged scrutiny from Mark Avery (see here), but we didn’t notice any credit given to Mark in this report – that’s disappointing.

Download the new report here: Calling the Shots (Animal Aid report 2013)

Case against gamekeeper George Mutch: part 3

scales of justiceCriminal proceedings against Scottish gamekeeper George Mutch continued today at Aberdeen Sheriff Court. His case was continued without plea for the 3rd time.

The case against Mutch, of Kildrummy Estate in Aberdeenshire was first called for a pleading diet on 11th September 2013. On that date the case was continued without plea until 2nd October 2013 (see here). On 2nd October, the case was again continued without plea until 30th October 2013 (see here). At today’s hearing, the case was once more continued without plea until 27th November 2013.

We understand that Mutch has been charged with up to six alleged offences under Sections 1 and 5 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act; these sections relate to the protection of wild birds and prohibited methods of killing and taking wild birds.

Watching this one with great interest….


Half-made raptor trap found on Scottish sporting estate

PR2-new-cmykFieldworkers from Project Raptor have posted an interesting article on their website about the discovery of what appears to be a half-made raptor trap found in woodland on a Scottish game-shooting estate (see here).

Project Raptor contends that the trap was un-set but was perhaps being prepared for use. Had it been set, it would have been an illegal trap.

The reported grid reference of the location where the partially-made trap was found indicates woodland on a pheasant and partridge shooting estate in the Angus Glens, according to 2006 data published on the Who Owns Scotland website.

According to Project Raptor, “Police Scotland (Tayside) acted promptly after we informed them of the trap and it has now been removed“.

We’re quite interested in this police action. On the one hand it’s very good to see a prompt police response and the removal of a potentially illegal, potentially lethal threat to raptors, although it’s not clear who ‘removed’ the trap – the police? Gamekeeper? Land agent? Landowner? And what does ‘removed’ actually mean? Confiscated? Destroyed?  Given back to the trap owner so it could be put somewhere else? But on the other hand, as far as we can tell no offence had been committed (because the trap wasn’t functional or set) and so this discovery will not feature in any official raptor crime statistics. Had the police chosen to install a covert camera overlooking the half-made trap for a few days, the outcome may have been quite different.

Of course, there was probably a perfectly legitimate reason for a half-made raptor trap to be found in woodland on a game-shooting estate……er…….can’t quite think of one right now but looking forward to hearing of possible explanations from the game-shooting industry…

Langholm harrier ‘Blue’ drops off the radar

Hen-Harrier-1 avico ltdAs predicted, at least one of the young hen harriers satellite-tagged at Langholm this year has not survived long enough to see out the end of October.

Blue’s sat tag signal has ‘ceased to transmit’, which we all know translates as ‘this bird has probably been illegally killed’.

Is anyone surprised? No.

Will we ever learn where, exactly, this tag stopped transmitting? No.

Will anyone ever be brought to justice for killing him? No.

Will the game-shooting industry continue to deny any involvement? Yes.

Well done Cat Barlow for putting the information out in the public domain. Here’s what she wrote on her Making the Most of Moorlands blog:

Tuesday 22nd October 2013 – 

Sad, sad news .. we have serious concerns about Blue (the young male Hen Harrier satellite tagged at Langholm this summer). Blue’s satellite tag signal has ceased to transmit. The signal ended suddenly, without indication in the data of why it should do so. The most likely explanation is illegal persecution. There are other possible explanations, such as a natural death or some kind of tag failure but they are considerably less likely. The matter is now in the hands of the police.  

More on that vicarious liability prosecution

wane1Regular blog readers will know that we’ve been chasing information about the first potential prosecution under the new vicarious liability legislation for some time.

The case in point relates to the conviction of gamekeeper Peter Bell, who was guilty of poisoning offences on the Glasserton and Physgill Estates in December 2012 (see here).

In July 2013 we asked the Environment Minister for an update on the VL prosecution (see here). He replied in August and said it would be inappropriate to comment as police enquiries had not yet concluded (see here). Fair enough.

By early October we expected the police enquiries to have been completed, ten months after the original offence was committed, so we asked the Environment Minister for an update (see here).

One of our blog readers wrote the following comment a couple of days ago:

I duly sent an e-mail to Mr Wheelhouse about the update on whether or not there would be a prosecution under the vicarious liability following Mr Bells conviction. I’m apparently not allowed to post the reply anywhere but was told Mr Wheelhouse is unable to enter into discussion about such matters and I was pointed in the direction of The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for any information I might want“.

Interesting. So the first excuse given was that ‘police enquiries had not yet concluded’, and that has now changed to ‘Wheelhouse is unable to enter into discussion’ (and apparently members of the public are not permitted to publish the Minister’s replies to their queries).

Anyone getting the impression that these answers are designed to subdue any further reporting on this case?

Wheelhouse has apparently suggested contacting the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for the information. Let’s do that, taking note of the word ‘service’ – they are supposedly serving us, the general public.

The thing is, we’re not too sure who within COPFS to contact for this information. Rumour has it that the head of the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit (WECU) at COPFS, Craig Harris, has since moved on. Rumour also has it that a new head of unit has been installed although it’s not clear who that person is, although six-figure-Dysart’s name has been mentioned. Hmm.

We could ask the Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, who is the ministerial head of COPFS, although we’ve been unable to find a direct email address for him.

Let’s try our luck with the COPFS’s general email address and ask the following questions:


Please can you tell us the name of the new head of the Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit at COPFS? And please could you tell us whether there will be a prosecution under the vicarious liability legislation relating to the poisoning offences carried out at the Glasserton and Physgill Estates in December 2012? Thanks.

Emails to:

UPDATE: The email address to use is apparently this:  Please note the underscore at the beginning of the address. Thanks to the contributors who have provided this new address.

Langholm hen harrier ‘Miranda’ flies to Ireland

Hen-Harrier-1 avico ltd‘Miranda’, one of this year’s four satellite-tagged hen harriers from Langholm, has been tracked to the Irish Republic.

She’d been hanging around at Leadhills for a couple of weeks, which was a cause for concern (see here), but she managed to get out alive and headed south to Dumfries & Galloway, before jumping over to the Isle of Man and then onwards to Ireland.

She’s a good example of why we’re not only interested in persecution incidents that take place in Scotland – relentless and systematic raptor persecution in any part of our isles, be it in Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland or the Irish Republic has the potential for knock-on-population-level effects elsewhere.

Incredibly, all four sat-tagged Langholm harriers are still alive as we reach mid-October.

Well done Cat Barlow at Making the Most of Moorlands for publicising these harriers’ journeys.

Follow their movements here.

Countryside Alliance disputes evidence that Bowland Betty was shot

Bowland BettyThose luminaries of hen harrier conservation, The Countryside Alliance, are claiming that the scientific evidence used to show that Bowland Betty was shot was actually just ‘supposition’.

For those who don’t remember, Bowland Betty was a young satellite-tagged hen harrier who was found dead on a Yorkshire grouse moor in 2012 (see here). There followed a post-mortem carried out by the Zoological Society of London, which showed she had a fractured left leg which led to her death. There was then a pioneering forensic examination by scientists at the University College London Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science, which found a tiny fragment of lead at the site of the fracture, confirming that she had been shot (see here, scroll down to news item 9th January 2013, and later published in the journal Veterinary Record in 2015: hopkins-et-al-2015_bowlandbetty_vetrecord ).

According to a press statement on the Countryside Alliance website (see here), “The Countryside Alliance team has accessed and reviewed autopsy reports and has serious concerns about this claim“.

Hmm, I wonder how many professional forensic scientists are employed on the CA’s team? Probably the same number as the number of professional veterinary pathologists employed by the SGA when they challenged the findings about what had happened to the Deeside eagle (see here).

Of course, it’s not the first time that the Countryside Alliance have been in denial about the extent of hen harrier persecution – see here, here, here and here for starters. Blimey, even Nick Griffin MEP has a greater grasp of the dire straits this species is in (see here) and that’s saying something!

It’s worth remembering that the Countryside Alliance was a participant in the charade that was the ‘Hen Harrier Dialogue’ – until the RSPB, Northern England Raptor Forum and the Hawk & Owl Trust finally had enough after six years of utter game-playing and walked out. Also interesting to note that the Countryside Alliance is still a participant in the PAW England and Wales Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group, along with the likes of the Moorland Association (see here for their view on hen harrier conservation) and the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation (we wrote recently about their contribution to tackling illegal raptor persecution here). Yet another charade, almost identical to the Scottish Raptor Priority Group, portrayed as ‘partnership working’ when it’s anything but.

The illegal killing of Bowland Betty provided tangible evidence of what we all knew was happening to the thousands of ‘missing’ hen harriers on UK grouse moors, just as the Countryside Alliance’s latest denial lays bare what we already knew was their real attitude to hen harrier conservation. Bowland Betty wasn’t the first silent witness and certainly isn’t the last… this space…

Man arrested after owls found inside a freezer

_70396978_owl5_editA man has been arrested and bailed following the discovery of “a number of” dead owls in a freezer, as well as 25 stuffed birds, according to the BBC.

The 49 -year -old was detained on suspicion of trading in endangered species following a search of his property in Stanford-le-Hope in Essex. The arrest came as part of a wider joint enquiry involving the newly-formed National Crime Agency, the Border Force and the National Wildlife Crime Unit; an enquiry which apparently has so far identified around 150 endangered birds that are suspected to have been sold without the correct permits and certificates.

It’s great to see the new National Crime Agency getting involved with wildlife crime investigations….let’s hope that continues and that they turn their attention to the poisoning, shooting and trapping of UK raptors.

BBC article here.