Environment Minister hails Scotland’s wildlife killers

The world’s gone bonkers.

A few days ago we had Scottish Natural Heritage, the Government’s statutory nature conservation body, promoting Scotland’s dead wildlife pantry and the grouse shooting industry, claiming that red grouse are ‘healthy’, natural’ and harvested ‘sustainably’ when actually they’re anything but (see here).

And now we have Scotland’s Environment Minister, Dr Aileen McLeod, praising “the significant and valuable contribution” of the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association as she presented the SGA’s Young Gamekeeper of the Year Award 2015 at the Scottish Game Fair yesterday. Here’s what she had to say:

I just want to say, obviously, thank you very much, Alex [Hogg], and I’m absolutely delighted to be invited here this afternoon, this is obviously my first time I’ve ever been to the game fair as well so I’m really delighted to be here, the opportunity to be next to Alex and this young man as well [Duncan Seaton, the recipient of the award], so also I just thought it’d be a good opportunity just to thank the Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association for all the long term support which you have provided to Scottish Government in various areas of policy, development and implementation and making sure we are implementing best practices of conservation and wildlife and wildlife management and I think to be really honest without your guys significant and valuable contribution to the management of Scotland’s countryside, we really wouldn’t have the world famous landscapes which many people from home and abroad enjoy which makes such a valuable contribution to Scotland’s rural economy“.

You can watch the video here.

No mention, then, of the hundreds of thousands of native animals that are snared, trapped and shot on an industrial scale every year by gamekeepers to ensure that an artificially high surplus of game birds (some non-native) is available to be, er, shot? And that’s just the legal killing. No mention either of the illegal poisoning, trapping, shooting and beating to death of protected wildlife, particularly birds of prey, which we know takes place on a significant scale because it affects the population range of a number of species; that doesn’t happen on that scale if it’s ‘just a few rogues at it’.

We’ve been waiting for Dr McLeod to show her hand since she first took office last November. It looks like she just has.

McLeod SGA Game Fair 2015

Red kite shot dead in Co Down

Red kite fawkes shot NI MAY 2015A female red kite, born in Wales and released in Northern Ireland as part of the reintroduction project there, has been found shot dead.

The bird, named ‘Fawkes’, hatched in Wales in 2010 and was donated to the Northern Ireland Red Kite Reintroduction Project – she had been adopted by the Ballyclare High School in 2011 and staff and pupils from the school had been following the bird’s progress over the last few years.

Her corpse was discovered on 20th May 2015 near Katesbridge. She was discovered in a breeding territory belonging to two known breeders, both of whom have ‘disappeared’ in recent weeks.

News article on UTV here

The loss of this bird is a big blow to the reintroduction project. With an estimated 14 breeding pairs of red kites in Northern Ireland, and no plans for further release of additional birds to boost the numbers, this tiny population looks set for certain demise.

Henry’s tour day 57: Kildrummy


Thurs 2 July 2015  CopyHenry called in at Kildrummy – the location of some pretty obscene ‘raptor management techniques’ recently- see here.

Rumour has it there’s a new keeper at Kildrummy Estate, following the incarceration of Scottish gamekeeper (and SGA member) George Mutch, (formerly of Kildrummy Estate), for his disgusting crimes.

The new keeper’s name? Local rumour suggests something quite incredible, but that can’t surely be true.

Here’s an anagram: Hmm crust

Shot peregrine found in County Durham has to be euthanised

shot perg june 2015 durham_peregrinefalconjohnolleyThe Police and the RSPB are appealing for information following the discovery of a shot peregrine last month.

The bird was found, still alive, on 4th June at Castle Lake, Bishop Middleham, a local nature reserve managed by Durham Bird Club.

After a veterinary examination the male’s injuries were considered so severe it was decided to put him to sleep.

The RSPB is offering a £1,000 reward for information that leads to a successful conviction.

RSPB press release here

Photo of shot peregrine by John Olley

Henry’s tour day 55: burn, baby, burn!

Tues 30 June 2015  Copy

Henry is growing increasingly interested in the management techniques used on intensively-managed driven grouse moors.

He was bemused to see this sign on the Nawton Tower Estate in the North York Moors National Park. ‘No fires’ on this designated Site of Special Scientific Interest….but what’s all that black, charred moor in the background?!

Mark Avery has today published a timely blog about the environmental effects of moorland burning – see here.

The Nawton Tower Estate is also known as the Bransdale Moor Estate, according to this parliamentary discussion. And actually, this discussion is rather interesting for another reason as it reveals details of tax breaks for grouse moor owners in return for public access rights, but after taking the tax breaks some landowners decided they wanted to restrict public access – it’s fascinating! The context of the above parliamentary discussion can be found in this Hansard report.

The grouse management on Bransdale Moor has been linked to Mark Osborne – see here, and apparently this grouse moor is ‘often described as the premier North Yorkshire Moors grouse shooting estate’ – see here.

Henry didn’t see any hen harriers during his visit but did see a lot of pheasants(?!) and a lot of red grouse.