Location of shot hen harrier revealed as Cabrach

In the week before Christmas, RSPB Scotland published a 20-year review of crimes against birds of prey. We blogged about it (here) and mentioned that a few things within the report had caught our eye and that we’d come back to them. Here’s the first of those things.

Cabrach shot HH 2013

Table 3 in the report (see above) included a listing for a hen harrier that had been shot in June 2013. We knew about this crime as it had previously been listed in the Scottish Government’s 2013 Annual Wildlife Crime Report, but this was the first time that a location had been given – Cabrach, in Moray.

Cabrach is a parish which is ‘almost entirely under the aegis of the Glenfiddich and Cabrach Estate’ according to this fascinating report (here) and has been at the centre of raptor persecution investigations for a very long time. In 1998, a joint RSPB and Police investigation recorded ten persecution incidents between February and May. These included the discovery of 24 poisoned baits (ten rabbits, six pigeons, six grouse and two hares) that had been laid out on the hill. Three illegal pole traps were also found on the estate as well as an owl with legs that had been smashed in a trap. A dead peregrine was also discovered in the back of the head gamekeeper’s Land Rover – tests revealed it had been poisoned with Carbofuran. The head gamekeeper was convicted (for possession of the dead peregrine) and fined £700 (see here) but prosecutions for the other offences were not forthcoming, presumably due to the difficulty of identifying an individual culprit.

In April 2006 another gamekeeper on this estate was filmed shooting two buzzards that had been caught inside a crow cage trap. After he’d shot them he hid them inside a nearby rabbit hole. He was convicted and fined a pathetic £200 (see here). What wasn’t mentioned in court was that the corpses of another eleven shot buzzards had been retrieved during the investigation from nearby rabbit holes. Here they are listed in the RSPB’s 2006 persecution report:

Cabrach 11 shot buzzards 2006

And so what of the hen harrier shooting in June 2013? We think that this is the crime for which a 58-year old man was reported to the Fiscal in January 2014 (see here) because the hen harrier shot at Cabrach was the only listed hen harrier persecution incident in the RSPB’s data for June 2013 (see top table above).

So, if the 58-year old man was reported to the Fiscal almost two years ago, time is now running out for a prosecution – this case will become time-barred in six months time (June 2016). Let’s hope the Crown is on top of it and that there’s good enough evidence to secure a conviction. It hasn’t been reported whether the 58 year-old man has any connection to the Glenfiddich and Cabrach Estate and so at this stage it shouldn’t be assumed that he has.

10 thoughts on “Location of shot hen harrier revealed as Cabrach”

  1. I can’t prove anything, but back in 1988 when doing the NCC Dotterel survey I found open fresh hen’s eggs laid out on a ridge near the Buck of Cabrach – pretty naive to raptor persecution possibilities (teenager) I was nevertheless sufficiently suspicious that I did not touch them, never reported them to anyone as I was not sure anyone would be interested…

  2. Just like the 16 red kites & 6 buzzards massacred on the Black Isle, Police Scotland were hoping this one would slip quietly away. The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals should have the powers to investigate these crimes which Police Scotland have proved incapable of. Every time a wildlife drime escapes punishment ( or detection ) it fuels more crimes & more criminals.

    1. ICT you,ve got.

      SSPCA may not be a silver bullet in what is a huge problem on an industrial scale but given their continued success I cannot see any credible reason why they are not given increased powers.

      The police are clearly struggling and not even firefighting wildlife crime.
      NWCU are all but non existent
      SNH are scared of their own shadow

      The powers of darkness have obviously managed to exert influence on the minister in what is a no brainer.

    2. How do you know what Police Scotland is hoping for?

      If this is indeed the case which was posted on this blog on 14 January 2014, then it seems that the police reported the incident to the procurator fiscal. If they were hoping that this case would ‘slip quietly away’ then submitting a report to the fiscal is hardly the best way!

      I think is a bit early to say that this person had escaped ‘punishment’ as it would seem that the report is currently with the fiscals. According to the post the case will not time-bar until June, which gives plenty of time to build a strong case (considering there is sufficient evidence). I don’t think that it’s unusual that a case will go to court years after it was reported to the police or the fiscals.

      I agree with Micky Rooney that giving increased powers to SSPCA will not in itself eradicate wildlife crime. I’m not even convinced that it would have a significant impact on it, especially if the enforcement and the sentencing would remain inconsistent.

  3. Yes the SSPCA should be given the necessary powers & yes the hierarchy in SNH are thoughtless, clueless & toothless. The Scottish Government could do so, so much more to deter wildlife crime. They promise so much but deliver so, so little. With Cunningham & Lockhead there was hope, with McLeod there is just more death, Doctor Death. Away from raptors we were promised a decision on beavers in the spring of 2015 but like the SSPCA issue not a word in public. Meanwhile landowners in Strathmore are killing these delightful creatures & destroying their habitat. Mr Swinney is well aware of this. Not much better than Westminister’s Tory Toffs.

    1. I agree with what you say, Pheasant beater. I am quickly losing patience with this SNP government. It all went very quickly went from hope to despair, with the appointment of McLeod.

  4. I stand corrected Adam. We’ll see if a prosecution materialises, but going on form, the system doesn’t inspire any hope of raptor persecution abating.

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