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.
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, here, here, 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.
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