More raptor persecution uncovered in the Scottish Borders

We’re still working our way through RSPB Scotland’s recently published twenty-year review (see here) and what a fascinating read it’s proving to be. We’ve already blogged about two things that caught our eye (see here and here), and now here’s the third.

On page 14 of the report, the following has been written:

Lines 5, 6 and 7 of Table 4 describe the finding at one site, in an area intensively managed for driven grouse shooting, of a set crow trap, hidden within a small area of woodland, which was found to contain two feral pigeons indubitably being used as illegal lures to attract birds of prey. Under a tree, only a few metres away, were found the decomposed carcasses of four buzzards that had been shot, while a short distance from the crow trap a pigeon was found in a small circular cage, with four set spring traps set on the ground, hidden under moss, attached to the trap“.

Here’s a copy of Table 4, with lines 5, 6 and 7 highlighted:

Nr Heriot 2014

Also included in the report is a photograph of the pigeon inside a small cage with the four set spring traps hidden under moss:

Pigeon in trap Heriot 2014

So, according to the RSPB report, these offences were uncovered in May 2014 on a driven grouse moor in the Borders, with the location given as “nr Heriot“. Funny, we don’t remember seeing anything in the press about these crimes.

Hmm. Could these wildlife crimes be in any way related to SNH’s recent decision to serve a General Licence restriction order on parts of the Raeshaw Estate and Corsehope Estate (see here)? Both Raeshaw Estate and neighbouring Corsehope Estate can be described as being ‘nr Heriot’; indeed, the recorded property address for Raeshaw Estate is given as ‘Raeshaw House, Heriot, EH38 5YE’ (although the owner is only listed as Raeshaw Holdings Ltd., registered in the Channel Islands, natch), according to Andy Wightman’s excellent Who Owns Scotland website. And according to SNH, the General Licence restriction order on these two estates was served due to “issues about the illegal placement of traps” (see here). It’s possible that they’re connected, but it’s also possible that these crimes are unconnected with SNH’s General Licence restriction order on these two estates because Raeshaw isn’t the only grouse moor that could be described as being ‘nr Heriot’. Unfortunately, the (lack of) detail available in the public domain doesn’t allow us to be conclusive. Perhaps there’ll be some transparency once the legal arguments (see here) about the General Licence restrictions have concluded (which should happen fairly soon). Then again, perhaps there won’t.

If these crimes were not uncovered on either the Raeshaw or Corsehope Estates, we hope there’ll at least be a General Licence restriction order served on whichever grouse moor these traps were found because there’s been a clear breach of the General Licence rules – pigeons are not permitted as decoy birds in crow cage traps; set spring traps are not permitted out in the open; oh, and shooting buzzards is also illegal. There should also be a prosecution of course, but that’s highly improbable given the track record of non-prosecutions for raptor crimes uncovered in this part of the Borders.

There’s been a long history of raptor persecution “nr Heriot“, dating back to at least 2001. Here’s a list we’ve compiled of confirmed raptor persecution crimes, all listed within RSPB annual reports:

2001 May: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot Dale”. No prosecution

2003 Feb: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2003 Mar: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2003 Apr: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2003 Nov: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2004 Feb: Carbofuran (possession for use) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2004 Feb: two poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2004 Oct: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2005 Dec: poisoned buzzard & raven (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2006 Sep: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2006 Oct: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “Heriot”. No prosecution

2009 Mar: two poisoned buzzards (Carbofuran) “nr Heriot”. No prosecution

2009 Jun: poisoned red kite (Carbofuran) “nr Heriot”. No prosecution

2009 Jun: 4 x poisoned baits (2 x rabbits; 2 x pigeons) (Carbofuran) “nr Heriot”. No prosecution

2010 Nov: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “nr Heriot”. No prosecution

2011 Jan: poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “nr Heriot” No prosecution

2013 Jun: shot + poisoned buzzard (Carbofuran) “nr Heriot”. No prosecution

2014 May: crow trap baited with two live pigeon decoys “nr Heriot”. Prosecution?

2014 May: four set spring traps beside live pigeon decoy “nr Heriot”. Prosecution?

2014 May: four shot buzzards “nr Heriot” Prosecution?

Not included in an RSPB annual report (because it happened this year): 2015 Jul: shot buzzard “found by side of road between Heriot and Innerleithen” according to media reports (see here). Prosecution?

Interestingly, also not included in the RSPB’s annual reports but reported by the Southern Reporter (here) and the Guardian (here), a police raid on Raeshaw Estate in 2004 uncovered nine dead birds of prey, including five barn owls, two buzzards, a kestrel and a tawny owl, described as being “poisoned or shot“. In addition, “a number of illegal poisons were discovered but no-one was ever prosecuted“. According to both these articles, during a further police raid on Raeshaw in 2009 ‘three injured hunting dogs were seized by the SSPCA on suspicion of involvement with badger baiting’. We don’t know whether that resulted in a prosecution.

Also not included in the above list is the sudden ‘disappearance’ of a young satellite-tagged hen harrier in October 2011. This bird had fledged from Langholm and it’s last known signal came from Raeshaw Estate. A search failed to find the body or the tag.

Fascinating stuff.

13 thoughts on “More raptor persecution uncovered in the Scottish Borders”

  1. Some more sad facts here, that we will be documenting in the various species accounts in the forth coming local atlas “Birds of South-east Scotland 2007-13”. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to eliminate Barn Owls, what’s the reason? Tawny Owl I could perhaps understand a motive for, as they may be able to tackle a Pheasant, and we had one shot this side of the Lammermuirs at Gifford last year:

    These people, and those protecting them, are busy destroying our natural heritage and so far getting away with it…

  2. Gamekeepers are proving to be the most barbaric and cruel species living in the countryside. They are totally bad for said countryside and the environment, it is becoming time that they were forced into more wholesome and productive work.

  3. Fascinating stuff indeed. I don’t suppose in any of these cases the police have been over-whelmed with information or support from the local shooting “community” either…

    1. I believe that fingerprints and DNA were recovered from a vehicle (landrover) during an investigation into a raptor poisoning incident at Glen Ogil a few years back ……. BUT ……. as per usual, no charges ensued.

  4. Once again excellent work from RPS in highlighting the serious state of raptor persecution crimes on and around the grouse shooting estates, many of which have gone unreported until now.

    The RSPB Scotland’s recently published twenty-year review shows that these wildlife crimes continue unabated and that they are just the tip of the iceberg, they also show that very little if anything is being done to put a stop to it. I wonder when the Scottish government are going to realise that the police are totally failing to do their job in preventing raptor persecution, the fact is they’re not even trying to do their job. We’ve known for a long time and have tried to nudge them in the right direction through various articles, reports, posts and emails pointing out the obvious that they were negligent in their duties but it falls on deaf ears, or more likely ears unwilling to listen. Even the well documented escalation of wildlife crime on the grouse shooting estates seems to be ignored by our illustrious boys in blue, it’s almost as though because the illegal raptor persecution is taking place on or around grouse shooting estates they are told to ignore it !

    Our esteemed government ministers spout platitudes about how wildlife crime is decreasing thank’s to the new measures they have put in place when in fact it’s well known to be increasing.

    1. It isn’t just the cops that are failing to do their jobs. The procurator fiscal is failing to follow up even the few the cops are unable to ignore. Every single one of these incidents should have someone up in court, even if the chance of a conviction is nil there should still be someone charged just to give publicity to the litany of deaths. Eventually the public will get sick of hearing about animal deaths and no comeback and there will be real impetus for change. Change on wildlife crime and real change on land reform (and with luck also a shift to a YES position too, when they realize Westminster will not let Holyrood bring major land ownership reforms).

  5. Is there anything reported for the upper east corner of East Ayrshire or west of Strathaven? It is pheasant and trout country there, not grouse, but… Well, you know how it goes. Sparrowhawk shooting used to be a local event when I was young (although that is a few decades ago now). The local fishing/river protection group wrote off the death of an albino dog otter in that area as just roadkill last week. Got very testy when a couple of people challenged them on that.

  6. Events started when a dead buzzard was found on the estate which had been poisoned.

    A multi-agency search was carried out and a number of very specialised raptor traps were found. Close by was a pile of dead raptors. Most likely from raptors were being caught in the traps, killed and hidden.

    I will not go into the specifics of what happened next but very obvious and crucial avenues of investigation did not happen and no prosecutions resulted.

    This was a golden opportunity missed.

    This estate has an absolutely dreadful past record. The day which Dave Dick has highlighted uncovered 5x shot barn owls, 1 x shot kestrel, 2 poisoned buzzards, a quantity of banned pesticide and a large number of illegal traps being recovered.

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