Illegally-set traps found on Invercauld Estate grouse moor, Cairngorms National Park

RSPB Scotland has today issued a press statement about the discovery of illegally-set traps found on a Royal Deeside grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (see here).

On 27 June 2016, two members of the public found a Common Gull that had been caught by the legs in two spring traps that had been positioned next to a dead rabbit that had been used as bait. The gull was distressed and bleeding profusely. The hill walkers called RSPB Scotland, who immediately alerted Police Scotland and the SSPCA. An SSPCA Inspector quickly attended the scene and the gull was found to have two broken legs. The bird’s injuries were so extensive it had to be euthanised.

Several days later, a multi-agency (Police Scotland, SSPCA, RSPB Scotland) search was undertaken on the grouse moor, ‘where clear evidence was found that eight similar traps had been deployed, attached to stakes and baited with dead rabbits, in a line stretching two hundred metres across the moor. It was also evident that these traps had been removed very recently’.

The press statement continues, ‘Police Scotland officers later spoke to a number of people involved with the management of the land on which the traps were found, but the identity of who had set the traps could not be established‘.

According to the press statement, the two hill walkers had found the distressed gull on “the northern slopes of Geallaig Hill, a few miles north west of Ballater“.

According to Andy Wightman’s fantastic website Who Owns Scotland, Geallaig Hill lies within the boundary of the Invercauld Estate. Using Andy’s data, we’ve created this map to show the position of Invercauld Estate within the Cairngorms National Park and the location of Geallaig Hill within the boundary of Invercauld Estate.

Cairngorms Invercauld - Copy

This is not the first time illegally-set spring traps have been found on Invercauld Estate. In 1997, a gamekeeper was fined £120 after admitting to illegally setting a spring trap to catch a rook (see here).

Spring traps can (currently) be used legally to catch stoats, weasels, rats etc BUT ONLY if they are placed inside a natural or artificial tunnel with a restricted entrance to minimise the risk of catching a non-target species. There are frequent reports of their illegal use on some shooting estates to trap birds of prey (e.g. set in the open next to a bait, or attached to the top of a post to turn them in to pole traps) – some recent examples can be found here, herehere, here, here, here, here, and of course the recent and now infamous Mossdale Estate traps here.

There’s a lot to discuss about this latest crime, and we’ll be doing just that in a series of blogs later this afternoon.

In the meantime, well done to the two hill walkers who reported this crime, well done to the SSPCA Inspector for a quick response, well done to the Police Scotland wildlife crime officers for a quick, multi-agency follow up and search, and well done to RSPB Scotland for a timely press release.

More shortly…..

UPDATE 2.30pm: Illegal traps on Invercauld Estate part 2 here

UPDATE 4.45pm: An astonishing statement from Invercauld Estate here

UPDATE 23 July 2016: SGA statement re: illegal traps found on Invercauld Estate here

36 thoughts on “Illegally-set traps found on Invercauld Estate grouse moor, Cairngorms National Park”

    1. That is what happens if you don’t weed them out as soon as you find them, you get a whole rotten barrel.

  1. In case any visitor to this blog should still be in any doubt why someone might place spring traps next to a dead rabbit on Geallaig Hill take a look at Google Maps [earth view..other maps are available!] and see the devastated strip burnt landscape typical of heavily “managed” grouse moor…..shooting estates do wipe out common gull [and other gull sp] nesting colonies on moors but I would suggest that this individual was after bigger game [eagle, harrier, buzzard] using a meat bait, all of those would have been vulnerable to this in that area.. Using spring traps in the open has been illegal in Scotland since 1904 [just 112 years then].Ban Driven Grouse Shooting.

    [Ed: Thanks Dave – one word edited, you’ll understand why!]

  2. Surely they know who the particular ‘beat’ keeper is and he should be responsible for anything going on in that area?

    1. Yes, obviously and just as obvious is the denial that they do.
      I am very hazy about vicarious liability. Surely it applies here. A crime has been committed, the culprit can’t be proven but there is liability. Loss of subsidy candidate #?

  3. I’m sure you will ask why it took days for the authorities to get up there, allowing time for evidence of other traps to be removed.

    The lesson for ordinary honest hillwalkers must be to look for and document (photos and satnav) any other traps that may be nearby.

    Thanks to you and to the RSPB.

    1. Well the police have to phone their mates in the trade and make sure they know to move their traps and evidence in advance of the raid. It is the same pattern you always see in places where the cops are corrupt and in league with the local bad deed doers. Delay in order to enable warning and clearing out. Just because in this case the reward is likely to be membership of the best golf clubs and social events instead of a brown envelope full of used notes does not make it any less corrupt.

    1. I think the video highlights the attitudes we are up against. So ironic! What a load of cobblers! Pine martens and Goshawk – ruthless killers, doing it just for fun. So what about his job killing predators just for money and an admitted loathing of predators! I think we can read between the lines and ask where does his gun aim and what are the traps for? Another self admitted Victorian attitude to predators. To provide shooting for the well heeled, just for fun!!

  4. My sister lives on the boundaries of this estate. Think I might be spending some time walking there next spring, eyes will be peeled!

  5. …..and well done RPUK for bringing this abuse to public attention. If these inbreds get their way you have a job for life!

  6. These killing estates should all be banned from within a National Park, surely the idea of a NP is to protect species and the environment not to kill and spoil it.

  7. “Several days later,” And presumably several telephone calls to the local keepering establishment too, I’ll bet. No wonder the identity of the culprit could not be established, not that the police would ask too hard or the PF would be willing to prosecute if they did. Rotten from top to bottom, this is why there needs to be a new law Enforcement Agency whose only remit is the investigation and prosecution of wildlife crime. Although even then I bet they’d spend most of their time on small scale poachers and kids from housing estates. It’d still be a step forward though, at least it would be harder to hide incompetence on this scale.

  8. The whole system is corrupt. I am sure that the front-line police must get frustrated when their hard work is derailed by senior officers hob-nobbing with the criminals. Then, of course, if it gets to court, the judges are just as corrupt: slaps on wrists and no real action. Then the RPA and the trade associations ignore the criminality, when confirmed. The whole thing needs closing down. Sign the petition.

    1. In my experience it is usually the front line officers that are around first with their hands out looking for their bribe. I might just be letting my experiences with the Met in the 1980s colour my perceptions, but corruption runs all the way through the police. The constable tips the wink to the keeper, the keeper mentions to lordship’s man about the usefulness of said constable, the lordship mentions this to the superintendent on the golf course, and in due course a set of sergeant’s stripes arrives on the now former constable’s arm. Of course the newly minted sergeant will have to work closely with the keepers, and make sure the superintendent is not dropped in the muck by having inconvenient evidence lying around and will be expected to be seen out on the moors doing the dirty work. If they do it well enough then an inspector’s pip might be in the offing. The inspector will of course be required to make sure the constables and sergeants under him are of the right stuff, and who are on their own correct path to promotion, but the new inspector will get an introduction to the golf course as a junior member and their path to superintendent will be smoothed… You see how it goes. Each stage looks after the next. Corruption pervades.

  9. I have to wonder what these traps would do to a small child’s feet, were they to step on one? Looked upon in that light, this is much more than wildlife crime.

    Come on Scottish government, make the estate liable, rather than an individual. The law as it currently stands, is almost impossible.

    With this overwhelming evidence, reclaim all subsidy, cancel all gun licences, CLOSE IT DOWN.

    How much evidence do you need?

  10. But remember this shooting industry is worth £200 million to the Scottish Government [who don’t get a penny I added]! This is what a John Gray working for the Government replied to my need to expand a ‘Wildlife Tourism’ industry east into Red Grouse moors. I then had to explain that the Scottish Government had already commissioned a report to show that Wildlife Tourism was worth £65 million and if it was allowed to expand into shooting areas would take up any loss made by reducing this shooting industry as there would be no need to kill the so called protected species wanted for the Wildlife Tourism Industry!

    1. The estates will receive far more than £65 million in grants and subsidy, I suspect they cost us money.

      Time for serious land reform.

  11. Readers might be interested to know that ANY spring traps (even the tunnel ones) are illegal within 10km of red squirrel populations. Download the guidance here:

    You can check for red squirrel records in a particular area using the NBN website –

    If you see lethal tunnel traps being deployed within 10km of a red squirrel record you can report it your Wildlife Crime Officer. Estates who wish to control stoats, weasels, rats in such areas should first be capturing animals in non-lethal traps which must legally be checked within 24 hours of being set.

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