Birds killed after ingesting banned poison nr Kingussie in Cairngorms National Park

Police Scotland has issued the following statement (dated 24 May 2019):

We can confirm that enquiries are ongoing following the deaths of four geese, which were reported to the Police by concerned estate workers who had found the birds on their land near Kingussie in late April 2019.

Subsequent post-mortem examination of the birds found that they died as a result of ingesting a banned pesticide.

Searches by Police Scotland officers have been carried out in the area around Loch Gynack near Kingussie.

Officers are advising any members of the public or dog walkers who use the area recreationally to be aware and to consider their safety – or that of their pet – if walking in the area.

Inspector Vince Tough, Highlands and Islands Wildlife Crime Coordinator, said:

We do not wish a member of the public, a dog or any other animal to become unwell where it can be avoided’. Our enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances of this incident. In the meantime I would urge anyone who walks their dogs in the area to be aware as a precaution.

Anybody who has information is asked to contact Police Scotland immediately on 101, using reference NM1041/19, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”


According to Andy Wightman’s Who Owns Scotland website, which provides details of estate boundaries, Loch Gynack, the location of the police search area, is on the Pitmain Estate close to Kingussie, although that does not mean that’s where the geese ingested the banned poison. Depending on which poison was used and how much was ingested, the geese may have died within minutes of ingestion or may have been able to fly a short distance. There are a number of sporting and non-sporting estates whose boundaries converge around Kingussie, some with dodgy reputations, some with impeccable credentials, so it would be unwise to assume anything without further information from the police, although we do know that of 219 poisoning offences recorded in Scotland between 2005-2014, a staggering 81% were on land used for game-shooting (57% on grouse moors, 24% on lowland pheasant shoots).

The police have not named the banned poison but it will be one of the eight listed on The Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005. These eight substances are considered to be so lethally toxic it’s an offence just to be in possession of any of them, let alone use any of them to bait and kill wildlife:

Aluminium phosphide
Sodium cyanide

So once again we have a wildlife crime reported inside the Cairngorms National Park.

It was only three days ago that we were blogging about this so-called “Jewel in the Scottish and UK landscape” (ahem) following the suspicious disappearance of satellite-tagged hen harrier Marci on a grouse moor in the raptor persecution hotspot that is the eastern side of the Cairngorms National Park.

In that blog we’d included a long list of reported crimes against raptors since the Park’s inauguration in 2003. You can see that illegal poisoning was prevalent during the 2000s but then the criminals switched tactics and shooting and trapping became much more prominent. The last known use of illegal poison in the Park, at least that we’re aware of, was reported in 2011.

It’ll be interesting to see whether the Cairngorms National Park Authority bothers to issue a statement about this latest poisoning crime. As far as we can tell, they didn’t bother publishing anything on their website about missing hen harrier Marci.

They’d do well to take a leaf out of the North Pennines AONB’s book. Prepare some leaflets, stick them up on public noticeboards, deliver fliers to pubs and shops, write a damning statement of condemnation for the Park’s website, etc etc.

It’s 2019 for god’s sake. Why are we still seeing banned poisons used inside a National Park to kill wildlife, and potentially any resident or visitor or their pet unfortunate enough to stumble across it? And why is the Park Authority so impotent to act against it?

For that matter, why is the Scottish Government still so impotent to act against it?

This latest crime happened in the constituency of Kate Forbes MSP (SNP: Skye, Lochaber & Badenoch). If you’re one of Kate’s constituents, please contact her and ask her what she intends to do about it. (Remember, she probably didn’t lay the bait and this is probably the first she’ll have heard about the crime – please be polite but be clear that doing nothing is not an option).

If you’re not a constituent of Kate’s, you can contact her on Twitter (@KateForbesMSP) and ask the same question (again, politely, please).

UPDATE 31 May 2019: Political silence in response to wildlife crime in Cairngorms National Park (here)

22 thoughts on “Birds killed after ingesting banned poison nr Kingussie in Cairngorms National Park”

  1. Worrying to know these poisons are still out there with Springwatch coming from the Cairngorms and Chris Packham getting death threats.

  2. What sort of ‘human being’ lays out a banned lethal poison to the risk of their colleagues and the wider public?
    Just imagine the public outrage if there was to be a human fatality? What could possibly be worth the risk?

  3. Whilst I praise the police in this instance for bothering to warn people and pets in the area of the dangers they may be exposing themselves, their children and pets because of the danger these illegal poisons pose, a delay between late April and 24th May is just not acceptable. It may even help the police investigation if they make such an appeal, not after a banned poison has been confirmed, but as soon as it is suspected. Public safety needs to come first, not last. It is far better to advise the public that a poison was suspected to be present, but advise after tests that a poison was not detected. If you are going to undertake tests, warn the public about the location. It is not rocket science.

  4. For most people reading this as they awake, it will be just another in a line of very sad but similar blogs. We may tut and maybe write a comment, maybe contact the local MP but, in reality, what does it change.
    This however is personal.
    Two years ago, we discovered old friends running a hotel in Kingussie. Our normal Scottish haunts are mostly on the west coast, since we enjoy seeing a little wildlife and don’t want to be reminded of the bare, empty grouse farms of central Scotland.
    So we went for a visit. One of our walks whilst there took us past the fine Kingussie golf course and through the Pitmain Estate past Loch Gynack.
    There we witnessed what looked like work starting on a new road into the moors behind the Loch to the north.

    This year we repeated that same walk, just ten days ago in fact.
    On the short walk through the estate towards Newtonmore, we saw no less than six new roads into the hills. Six new roads in two years.
    And yes, along with Golden Eye and grebes, we saw geese, Greylag geese with goslings. Goslings that have now probably starved for lack of parents.
    And yes, our dog was with us, thankfully, unharmed this time.

    New signage is going up about how much wildlife you will see on this estate, signage that is supported by the usual suspects.(in fact we sent a photo to RPUK for info. Maybe they will use it sometime soon).

    Our friends hotel is up for sale. Once they go, there will be no reason for us ever to go back to this area full of crime and criminals. In three days, we saw one buzzard. That’s it. We sent it a prayer to leave the area, never thinking that it would be the geese that that took its bait.

  5. Last year I spent a week in the Forest of Bowland. My family and friends all enjoyed the visit, I did not.
    The reason? on so many walks I encountered wild animal traps and even what looked like poison bait, together with spent cartridge cases littering the path.
    Very little wildlife encountered , no raptors seen. I was quite pleased to get back to my home in Norfolk, having said that I know willife crime happens everywhere but at least it was not so “in your face” as it was in the Forest of Bowland.

    1. Likewise. Even as long ago as the mid 90s there wasn’t much to see in the FoB, I spent two week long conservation holidays there mostly clearing rhoddie and saw bugger all even when we went for walks on the hills. Conversely at a country park a few miles away from me in West Lothians I once heard a pair of sparrowhawk chittering away in a forestry plantation on the way up a small hill. There I saw and heard a raven, buzzard, kestrel. All of this in way under half an hour. FoB 0, Ilkley Moor 0, local Tesco supermarket car park 1 male kestrel.

    2. Depends where you were walking Ben if you were on abbeystead or bleasdale then I would agree with you but if you was on the united utilities bowland estate then I would have to say open your eyes, hen harriers buzzards Merlins peregrine short eared owls and kestrels all bred on this estate last year and most of these were easily seen

      1. Yes Barney it was. Youv’e guessed correctly, it was in the Abbeystead area, perhaps we should have gone elsewhere. I have heard about united utilities bowland estate. Obviously worth a visit.
        Les, thanks for confirming my observation re. Fof B. Likewise I was visiting Newcastle, there is a country park, (used to be an industrial site) Amazing number of birds even raptors plus of course the kites. Wonderful !
        Something I find puzzling. Countryfile and RSPB’s “Natures Home” is always going on about Britains amazing wildlife, yet scientists confirm that we are one of the worlds most depleted countries for wildlife. Which is true?

  6. Speaking of banned Poisons being used on shooting estates:

    Now this wasn’t yesterday or the day before, but as an Underkeeper, I had too carry Cymag Gas ( sodium cyanide ) in my van, for gassing Rabbits.

    In my pockets, I also had to carry a bottle of Alphachloralose, plus another small bottle of Strychnine, which we were expected to lace baits with, to kil – ‘Vermin’ … an accident, just waiting to happen!

    Of course, although Alphachloralose would do the same job, it was naturally much slower in acting, whereas if you killed a protected species with your Strychnine bait, it would be found near the bait, so you could then dispose of the evidence of your crime.

    I wonder how many Keepers still carry Strychnine for criminal purposes .. ?

  7. The delay in going public is not quite up there at the usual outrageous level. However, the fact that four birds were found should have sounded a red alert that poison was about. But then again, this is the country where a dozen red kites can be poisoned in a short space of time and no one is fingered.
    How fortunate we are to have the heroes of Holyrood on the case :- (

  8. So the police have issued a warning without naming the pesticide, what it looks like or how it might be used (presumably not under cover if geese can get at it). If it’s slow acting it wasn’t necessarily around the loch as you say. That’s real help to avoid further distress unless the advice is stay clear of the Kingussie area. Local businesses must be delighted.

  9. Good job they have the police Special Constables that Roseanna Cunningham implemented as an alternative to giving SSPCA increased powers to assist.

    SNP do not protect Scotlands environment or its birds and animals…….

  10. What saddens me is the attitude of the Scottish Government, and elements within it, which vaunt how great a country Scotland could become if it became detached from the UK. While being on a neutral stance on that political issue, I would think that if Scotland did become and independent state once again, then it would want to show itself as being capable of controlling the patchwork quilt of the present natural landscape, with all its little fiefdoms of estates, shooting and otherwise. Such an imbroglio may well require the cutting of this Gordian Knot, but we really need an Alexander the Great to do that. We have many bonny fighters on the side of animal welfare, and the conservation of species, plant and animal, but we do not have the financial resources and the backing from people of influence, to enable such a charismatic person to emerge. Sometimes, for such a person to come forth, a predecessor with a sledgehammer, a beefed up Thor, has to prepare the way. In short, we need to develop a real force to make our politicians act in the interest of land reform, natural landscape management, an Education policy to produce a new generation that will find it intolerant to exist in a country that has a medieval mob really running a large part of the country, as a blood sport pleasure park. We have to ensure that those wanting to enter politics, have to have the correct knowledge and attitude to enable Scotland to become REALLY FREE, by getting rid of the army of occupation that has controlled it since our weak kings brought in Norman land managers. A daily read of RPS, is a read of a comic book, as those killing our birds of prey and other wildlife are sadistic jokers, laughing at us all for being unable to effectively challenge them. Our aim should be to reverse this comic book, so that we are laughing at their discomfort for being dispossessed from their estates, if they do not comply with the law, and thereby experience the “sledgehammer” of a legal system bereft of their supporters, who have shielded them for far too long. Scotland needs tidying up and we just do not have the political machinery to do the job. We should recognise that we have quite a barbaric part of our population. We could become a model for the rest of the world, if we could get rid of this dross. A National Park should be a real National Park, where no MSP Minister can sanction cutting down Scots Pines for a crony hotelier, or support developments to create a few measly low paid jobs, or sanction an industry that is destroying our sea lochs, and endangering wild salmon. We can have shooting estates and salmon fishing, but not in the form we have at present, which have become a nightmare. A wee stubby tail wags the dog.

  11. It will be interesting to see whether Springwatch actually says anything about the level of criminality in the Cairngorms as they have moved location there this year? It will give the haters something else to hate Packham for (even if they get someone else to do the piece).

    1. I have no doubt that Chris Packham would be up for saying something, but whether the BBC will dip their toe in that water is far from certain.

  12. Unless I’ve somehow missed the detail, I can’t find any reference to what the actual bait might have been. There’ll be others who know more about these matters than I do, but poisoning of geese suggests to me the possible involvement of grain to which the poison has been applied. Indeed the list of poisons provided by RPUK include some for which I understand this was the approved method of application. Maybe the Police should include warnings to the public to watch out for grain, possibly showing tinges of colour caused by the poison on it. It will be interesting to see more information on this aspect of the case in due course.

  13. The Cairngorms National Park Authority have been utterly, utterly useless when it come to dealing with the rife wildlife crime and the Scottish Government have been insulting to the publics intelligence by appointing Special Consatbles to combat the serious situation.

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