Number of poisoned raptors in Scotland more than quadrupled in 2014

Persecution map 2010 to 2014 - CopyThe Scottish Government has today released the annual poisoning and persecution maps relating to crimes against raptors in 2014.

The accompanying press release is a careful study in damage limitation. We can’t blame them – it must be a constant source of embarrassment for them that raptor persecution continues with virtual impunity so of course they’re going to put out a statement that showcases the positives (there aren’t that many) and plays down the negatives (there are many).

The basic premise of their press release is that reported raptor crimes (incidents) have dropped from 23 in 2013 to 19 in 2014. Sounds like progress, eh? But wait – what if you look at the actual number of persecuted raptors – that tells a completely different story!

Let’s ignore the different types of persecution crimes (e.g. shooting, trapping, disturbance) for a minute and just start with poisoning. Here are the Government’s official number of reported poisoning incidents for the last three years:

2014: 6

2013: 6

2012: 3

So on the face of it, no change from last year and still double the number of reported incidents in 2012. But now let’s look at the number of reported individual raptors that were poisoned over those three years:

2014: 27 (17 x red kite; 7 x buzzard; 1 x peregrine; 2 x unknown because Police Scotland hasn’t released the data)

2013: 6 (1 x red kite; 4 x buzzard; 1 x golden eagle – data from Scot Gov annual report on wildlife crime)

2012: 3 (2 x buzzard; 1 x golden eagle – data from Scot Gov annual report on wildlife crime)

That’s quite an increase, isn’t it? Three reported in 2012, 6 in 2013 and a whopping 27 reported in 2014. Does that sound like raptor poisoning in Scotland is in decline? Nope, it shows that the number of poisoned raptors actually quadrupled in 2014.

However, the Government doesn’t agree that 27 raptors were poisoned in 2014. According to their data, only 16 raptors were poisoned in the Ross-shire Massacre (12 red kites + 4 buzzards). They seem to have conveniently forgotten that 22 dead birds were found, not 16. Even Environment Minister Aileen McLeod ignores the ‘missing six’ and just refers to the poisoned 16 in today’s press release! Sure, there may only be toxicology reports for 16 of those victims – we don’t know the cause of death for the remaining six victims because Police Scotland hasn’t bothered to tell us. But surely they and the Scottish Government aren’t trying to convince us that the remaining six victims (four red kites + two buzzards) weren’t poisoned at all, but that they all just happened to die of natural causes at the same time and in the same fields as the other 16 poisoned birds? Come on. Why try and diminish the extent of such an appalling crime?

And, once again, the poisoning maps exclude other crimes where bait was discovered but with no apparent raptor victim. We know of at least one of these incidents that occurred in 2014 – a poisoned rook found in January close to a poisoned rabbit bait and a poisoned hare bait (Carbofuran & Chloralose) (here). Why doesn’t this count?

Now let’s have a look at the other types of raptor persecution crimes reported in 2014. These include shooting, trapping and disturbance. According to the Government’s data released today, there were 8 reported shootings, 2 reported trapping offences, 1 reported disturbance incident and 2 listed as ‘other’.

Interestingly, they’ve excluded incidents where satellite-tagged raptors have (un)mysteriously disappeared in known persecution hotspot areas, such as the young white-tailed eagle (see here) and several others that Police Scotland has so far chosen to keep under wraps.

They’ve also excluded incidents where illegally-set traps have been found but without an apparent raptor victim. Again, the police have chosen to keep these under wraps. Why don’t those count?

So let’s now look at the Government’s ‘official’ three-year figures for all types of raptor persecution incidents in Scotland (including poisoning, shooting, trapping, disturbance, and ‘other’):

2014: 19

2013: 23

2012: 13

As we said at the beginning, on a superficial level it appears that reported raptor persecution incidents have declined since 2013, although we now know that the Government has excluded several known incidents, and we also know that these are only the reported crimes – many more will have occurred but weren’t detected. But let’s have a look at the number of known raptor victims during that three-year period:

2014: 40

2013: 23

2012: 13

That’s pretty clear then. Illegal raptor persecution continued in 2014 and the number of (known) victims rose considerably from the previous year and the year before that.

What an utter disgrace.

Scottish Government press release here

Scottish Government’s persecution maps and background data can be downloaded here:

Scottish Gov background raptor persecution data (released 31 Mar 2015)

15 thoughts on “Number of poisoned raptors in Scotland more than quadrupled in 2014”

  1. Trying to brush it under the carpet as usual. They know it’s happening, if they published true figures then they would have to do something about it and that would upset the tweeds.

  2. Just another in a long line of establishment cover-ups, it’s obviously far too embarrassing for them to let ordinary people, you know, the common every day people who are not capable of thinking logically for themselves, know what is really happening to our so-called protected wildlife at the hands of the shooting fraternity and their cohorts. It just wouldn’t do would it !!!

  3. Just when I was believing the Scottish Government were serious about dealing with wildlife crime, they have turned to cooking the books. I don’t think Wheelhouse would have endorsed this. A shocking & shameless policy by any administration. Leading up to an election what other figures are we to be deceived by?

  4. This makes me so angry. To ignore cases the police won’t divulge -which dramatically skews the figures -is a complete travesty!
    Were they having a laugh when they argued that the SSPCA aren’t accountable?! We need to bring the authorities to account here…they are pulling the wool over our eyes at every turn and it is simply not acceptable.

  5. In the late nineteen seventies and early nineteen eighties I holidayed regularly in Scotland, it was the mecca for raptor enthusiasts and there was a saying that every mile travelled would produce at least a Buzzard on a post at the road side, I travelled through Lancashire and Cumbria in eager anticipation of the wildlife to be found. I have made the same pilgrimage twice in recent years and have been completely disappointed on both journeys‘. on both occasions I saw more raptors in the short trip in England up to Scotland than I did in the whole of my holiday in Scotland, with the exception of Mull, Wales now has become a much more attractive destination to the majority of bird watchers than Scotland, this situation has arisen because of the selfish actions of certain land owners whose own self importance and greed have denied the vast majority of the public the chance of observing our native wildlife, this situation is still regressing
    Without hindsight several of us who comment regularly on this valuable website said at the time that both the police and the government would call the Ross shire massacre one incident in a lame attempt to keep the figures down. Some of us also said that Wheelhouse would come and go without disturbing the water, apart from introducing a law to take general licenses off Estates that “MIGHT” be “SUSPECTED” of wildlife crime and that can quite easily be circum navigated what did he do, remember there is a general election coming up!
    Vicarious Liability has caused problems, you only have to look at a recent case were a Q.C. has been brought in to represent a Gamekeeper to see this, but already actions have been taken to stop the flow of money to Estates being suspended if raptor persecution has occurred, please keep up the good work guys you are making a massive difference and it is much appreciated.

    1. Well said Merlin – between criminal gamekeepers and the march of wind farms across Scotlands iconic landscapes, I would be very slow to recommend the place to any wildlife/nature enthusiasts.

  6. Scotland is now becoming a joke with regard to raptors, apart from a sparrow hawk that recently ate one of my pigeons, I still haven’t seen a raptor in the Cairngorms National ‘Development’ Park since my last comment on this, which Grouseman ridiculed.

    The SNP government, having moved Paul Wheelhouse (who did appear to be getting on top of things) out of his job ( maybe because he was ruffling a few feathers) seem to have back tracked on their commitment to wildlife crime.

    I no longer have any faith in Police Scotland with regard to raptor persecution, and even the RSPB has recently come out in favour of pheasant shoots, which they claim are good for birds. Is there any hope left?

    1. I’m going to ridicule you again I’m afraid because once again you are either visually impared, a lier or in imbicile! I spent today inside one small area in the national park today and saw the grand total of 6 different red kites, 11 buzzards and a cock peregrine! Either u need to stop lying to everyone or pull your head out your and look at the things that are visabke everyday!

        1. My first reply to Grouseman was written in anger at his accusations towards myself. I take it back and hope he does the same. I do not like being called a liar, imbicile or visually impaired. If what he says is true regarding seeing all those birds of prey, then would he please state where in the park he was. I would love to see a red kite in the Cairngorms.

          As I stated before I am not a ‘birder’ and do not go around all day looking up into the sky, but past years I often on a casual basis saw a buzzard circling overhead of my home, but unfortunately seldom do now..

          On a 60 mile round trip to Forres yesterday I didn’t see one raptor, on a similar drive in the Chilterns I would most likely see at least a dozen red kites. Our killing estates are obviously to good at controlling what they regard as vermin.

          1. If Grouseman you are unable to say where you allegedly saw all these raptors, we can only come to one conclusion – you are either a liar, imbicile or prone to optical illusions.

  7. Could it may be have something to do with some of the “Estates” now having more than one “owner” for example some have several interested parties i.e off shore banks,UK registered banks,foreign investors etc,etc and they are cashing in on the money handed to them by Bills passed by our Goverment and charging a disturbing amount of money for a “shoot” to disturbed people who think blasting birds full of lead shot as they attempt to fly to a safer area is a sport…..aye right. How much of the money makes its way back into the local community where the “Estates” are and how much goes into the pockets of the so called interested parties ?
    Ain’t our politicians great at finding ways of giving money to those who already have enough of it but want more for doing not much more than SFA.

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