Alleged ‘coordinated hunt & shooting’ of a hen harrier on a Scottish grouse moor

News has emerged today of an incident that allegedly took place on a grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park, Aberdeenshire, over a year ago.

According to an RSPB press release, on May 30th 2013, two witnesses contacted Police Scotland about what they described as a “coordinated hunt” of a male hen harrier, which ended with the bird allegedly being shot.

Hen Harrier male Robin Newlin

‘They explained watching for almost three hours as two individuals, armed with shotguns, criss-crossed the moor, with at least one other individual directing them by radio from his vehicle to the location of where the bird was seen perched’.

Police Scotland launched an ‘investigation’ but apparently insufficient evidence meant that nobody has been charged.

Read the RSPB press release here.

It’s all so depressingly familiar.

The ‘investigation’ probably went something like this:

Police Officer: “Have you been shooting at hen harriers?”

Gamekeeper: “No comment”.

Police Officer: “Ok thanks, sorry to have troubled you”.

The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association has issued a statement about this alleged incident – it’s exactly what you would expect from them – read it here. Apparently the alleged incident never happened and it’s unfair for the RSPB to blame gamekeepers for killing raptors blah blah blah.

Meanwhile, we’re still waiting to hear whether another gamekeeper, who allegedly killed a hen harrier in Aberdeenshire a year ago, will face prosecution. We blogged about his case being reported to the Crown in January this year (see here). It seems the Crown is taking its time to decide whether to proceed, which is quite surprising when you consider that hen harrier persecution is supposedly a wildlife crime priority. Seven months from the time of the alleged incident to report it to the Fiscal? Another five months (& counting) for the Fiscal to decide whether to proceed with a prosecution? Yep, it’s a real priority, isn’t it? Time is running out though – the Fiscal has until mid-July to decide what to do…

If, like us, you’re sick of all the denials, and all the failed ‘investigations’, and all the incidents that The Untouchables keep getting away with, you can sign this petition to ban driven grouse shooting (background info here, sign it here) and you can make plans to take part in one of several peaceful protests against hen harrier persecution – see here for info.

Photo of a male Hen Harrier by Robin Newlin.

14 thoughts on “Alleged ‘coordinated hunt & shooting’ of a hen harrier on a Scottish grouse moor”

  1. Such an incident would not be unusual..Ive been told of coordinated line searches and shootings of harriers, using radios, on several occasions – including the use of lookouts on a public road….and of course there was the case where keepers came in in the dark with torches to a harrier nest near Abington, a few years ago and shot the female at the nest – to avoid their crime being filmed….but hey, if the SGA says keepers dont do these things who are we to argue?…You dont think someone could be lying about that do you??

  2. Part of the persecution problem is, I think, that some killers of raptors are people with money (and I mean really a lot of money). They think they can get away shooting protected animals. They were born into the social upper class which protects itself -and that´s the reason the police is not very keen to go after them. It´s not only the shooting of birds of prey which is the crime, the biggest crime is standing above the law, any law, international or national. Sounds almost medieval…
    Further, because they are of the social upper classes, they do recycle their old, old idea´s about how to protect ´their´ animals/game and that´s the biggest problem. All the scientific data, all the new discovery´s of how raptors really behave is useless, when people do not understand, that the idea´s and thoughts they have are hopelessly out of time. I once met IN A SPIRITUAL CENTER a bloke who proudly told, how he caught cats and sparrowhawks with meat and plastic pipes. He did it, because his parents and all the other people in his environment thought, it was the right thing to do… for a ´better world´! It´s the thoughts, the idea´s in our head´s which makes monsters of us.

  3. It would be wonderful if the two observers come forward with their version of events – was it filmed or photographed in any way, vehicle registration numbers taken, etc., and if this was all dismissed by Police Scotland.

    And once again, we have the sly, duplicitous actions of the SGA, trying to use outdated data from a declining Hen Harrier population in Orkney (in a pathetic attempt to deviate from an alleged persecution issue), and completely ignoring more up to date data proving that the species has recovered from this local decline and is now coping quite well in the exact same area.

  4. Fair enough but you may have been watching too many cop shows on tv. Suspects, when approached by the police, tend not to immediately put their hands up and say “It’s a fair cop guv; you’ve got me banged to rights and no mistake”. In reality, a successful criminal conviction depends on the acquisition of credible and compelling evidence. Those who perpetrate crimes against raptors do so in remote locations where the risk of detection is negligible and the early disposal of incriminating evidence childishly simple. Sadly – and they know this very well – the land management fraternity can almost always play a much stronger hand than the police and other investigative bodies when confronted with fragmentary evidence of wildlife crime. I don’t like it any more than you do but you need to be realistic .

  5. A depressingly familiar story. The recent reply I received from the Minister, in response to a letter re apparent inaction/inadequate responses to fillegal killing of raptors, indicated that he intended to step up action if he perceived that the current regime is not working. Yet more fancy words, but where’s the action to implement this on the ground. Nothing chtanges – a hundred years ago, rural Scotland was ruled by a class of people who regarded themselves as answerable to no one except themselves. Can we really believe we’ve seen progress when yobs with guns still apparently do what they like, irrespective of the law? The very worst kind of law is the one which exists but is not enforced.

  6. Great to have more action Chrissie and I have signed up. Trouble is as mentioned above is getting a prosecution. It really is so difficult. Imagine you witness someone throwing six pieces of meat into a field of grass, you witness a kite picking up a piece of meat, you witness the kite falling out of the sky dead. No brainer you might think. Prove the piece of meat picked up was thrown by the person you saw. “I saw someone here yesterday feeding the kites so I thought I would do it too.” might be the response.

    Hopefully you could get that through as a prosecution but don’t bet on it.

    We need changes in the way prosecutions are made for being in possession of banned poisons with vicarious liability for the landowner and or employer.
    We need licencing of grouse shoots in a way that they can lose that licence if there is the slightest hint of raptor persecution or even positive action required to keep the licence such as an agreed five year forward plan for the area to ensure an improvement in raptor numbers on the land.

    Somewhere down the line, if we keep up the pressure, change will come. Just don’t hold your breath.

    I suspect one of the biggest issues that can move this along is the public perception of Scotland going down the pan because of its reputation for raptor persecution.

    I sent an email to channel four despatches suggesting there was a story. Maybe if more people did that it would spur them into action. BBC’s Panorama?

  7. And we have been informed on various media today that two Hen Harrier chicks were taken into care by the SSPCA on Tuesday, after the adult female was found dead in suspicious circumstances. The incident occurred on moorland near Muirkirk in Ayrshire, so I would imagine it has something to do with a shooting estate.

  8. I’m not shocked by the incident, its been going on for decades across all grouse moors. I am shocked however that the Scottish Government still allows it. No other industry in the land depends on criminality to function. I’m also shocked that the SGA instead of cleaning up their sporting industry tries quite blatantly to cover up for the villains.

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