What happened to this buzzard, caught in a trap on Leadhills Estate?

This buzzard was caught inside a crow cage trap on the Leadhills Estate in January 2019. It isn’t illegal to catch a buzzard in this sort of trap – it’s seen as accidental by-catch – but it is illegal for the trap operator not to release it immediately upon discovery and it’s also illegal to not check the trap at least once within every 24 hour period.

The trap, which was padlocked so was inaccessible to anyone without a key, was being filmed covertly by RSPB Scotland and their camera captured some interesting goings on in the night, with ‘somebody’ (unidentified, natch) rocking up on a quad bike, entering the padlocked trap, appearing to strike at something on the ground, removing something from the trap, and then driving off. As the cameras continued to roll, at dawn it became apparent that the buzzard was no longer in the trap.

Watch the video here:

According to a detailed blog (here) written by RSPB Scotland Head of Investigations Ian Thomson, there were at least two 24 hour periods where the trap was not checked by the trap operator, but despite a Police Scotland investigation, the trap operator could not be identified (presumably because the estate refused to divulge that information).

Nobody has been charged with anything relating to the operation of this trap.

Just as nobody has been charged for the witnessed shooting of a hen harrier on this estate in 2017 (here), or for the witnessed shooting of a short-eared owl on this estate in 2017 (here), or for the shooting of a buzzard found on this estate in 2018 (here), or for the savagely barbaric trapping of a hen harrier on this estate a couple of months ago (here). In fact, according to the RSPB, there have been a total of 72 confirmed raptor persecution incidents recorded on this estate since 2003 and only two of them have resulted in a successful prosecution.

Not only have there been no charges brought, but no civil sanctions either, such as a restriction on the use of the General Licence, which SNH has had the authority to impose since 1 January 2014 if there is sufficient evidence (from Police Scotland) that wildlife crimes have taken place but insufficient evidence to secure a criminal prosecution.

Great, isn’t it?

33 thoughts on “What happened to this buzzard, caught in a trap on Leadhills Estate?”

  1. It quite beggars belief that SNH have not placed a general licence restriction on this estate. Is it dereliction of duty or fear of the well known agent and his company. Come on SNH buck up and man up, time to do something positive here because currently it looks like you are falling well short of do a decent job.

    [Ed: Thanks, Paul. First para deleted, for obvious reasons, but yes, you’re spot on]

  2. I see from their website that there is an “Invitation to Leadhills Estate Information Day” 23rd October. Perhaps some people(!) could go along and get some information?

  3. WHY?
    Are the authorities in league with the m?
    Why hasn’t the RSPB press charges? Isn’t that what they are there for?
    If they can’t, then why are they not releasing these trapped creatures?

    1. Hi Angela,

      Not sure what your first sentence means.

      No, the RSPB cannot ‘press charges’ – they have no authority to do that – that’s the job of the police, often in consultation with the Crown Office. However, the police can’t press charges if they can’t identify the suspect, and if the estate won’t even tell the police which employee was legally responsible for the trap then the case is going nowhere.

      The RSPB are not releasing ‘these trapped creatures’ because it isn’t an offence to trap them in a crow cage trap, only an offence for the trap operator NOT to release them immediately when discovered during one of the required trap inspections which are supposed to take place at least once every 24hr period. Had the RSPB released the bird they may have been liable for prosecution for interfering with a legal activity and potentially for causing damage to the trap (remember it was padlocked).

      1. ‘and if the estate won’t even tell the police which employee was legally responsible for the trap then the case is going nowhere’
        I always thought it was an offence to withhold evidence. Obviously not.

  4. I am no lawyer and seek advice. If the estate refuses to divulge the name(s) of those managing the trap, are they not obstructing the course of justice? Is this not a criminal offence? In fact might the legal system regard this as more serious than killing a few pesky eagle/buzzards/harriers?

    1. I also find it difficult to believe that they can refuse to provide the police with this information. Surely there must be another reason?

  5. Looks certain to me that the Sc. Gov. are not going to do anything to tackle rampant wildlife crime.
    Meetings, presentations, speeches, consultations, focus groups, reports on and on ad infinitum. All a load of worthless tosh that only impresses those who want to be impressed by parliamentary effluent.

  6. Multi-catch bird traps like this are designed to be permanent or semi-permanent structures and the fencing around this one certainly suggests this is a permanent feature. I would have thought that if the cage had been inspected during daylight hours that an identifiable user would have been captured on camera. OK it might not have been the culprit but at least it would have been a person of interest to the police.

    Perhaps the RSPB need to not only have night vision cameras looking on the traps but also set up cameras at the entrances to the tracks leading to these types of traps because the tracks should be well used and if the vehicles have to stop at gateways (which almost certainly they will have to) then at least they may get number plates or images of vehicles and people getting out of vehicles to open gates.

    What a state of affairs when the General Licenses do not require users to log times traps are checked and anything of note, the species caught and released or killed and the waste transfer notes of the bodies disposed of by authorised waste carriers.

  7. You don’t have to be knowledgeable about raptor crime to realise that this type of incident represents the tip of a very large iceberg.

    It’s easy to focus on hen harriers, but buzzards are clearly persecuted on and around grouse moors, as well.

    A good indication of this, xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx is the constant declarations by gamekeepers and grouse lobby groups that there are “too many” buzzards, which is tacit admission that they are yet another ‘pest’ that requires removal by either shooting, poisoning or trapping. When people quite rightly question, for example, why red kites continually fail to colonise entire areas of land managed for grouse shooting, xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

    [Ed: some comments deleted as libellous]

    1. I recently heard a falconer on a pro fieldsports podcast say there were too many buzzards, he blamed them for brown hare decline due to munching on leverets and also killing off barn owls and kestrels! Of course he knows all of this because he’s a ‘countryman’. Every time a predator isn’t vanishingly rare anymore then it’s too common according to these self deluded pricks.

  8. This case demonstrates once again that wildlife crimes need to be increased on the scale of seriousness to allow the police greater powers to investigate alleged crimes. These are just a few thoughts …

    [Ed: rest of comment deleted as libellous]

    1. And the failure of police to properly investigate wildlife crimes needs to be ‘increased on the scale of seriousness’ too!

  9. Can someone with a little more legal knowledge than myself, (not difficult), and presumably others here, explain how a case can go nowhere because one person, an employer, refuses to pass on clearly known information, to the police during a police enquiry into a crime?
    “Please tell us Mr (Mrs) estate owner, who sets, manages, checks these traps, No? Oh, thats disappointing; never mind, have a good day, see on Saturday for a little light shooting!”
    Has anyone asked the police involved, why the case could go no further? Was there more justification for this than we are surmising, suggesting, in our cynical, narrowmindedness? I doubt it either.

  10. I have now completely lost faith in the Scottish government to address the issues that these incidents raise. The legislative programme the SNP have recently announced does include a wildlife bill, but there is no mention, as far as I can find, of any law to address the following issues: i) protection for mountain hares, ii) stink pits, iii) the us eof snares and traps v) ensuring successful prosecutions where photographic evidence is an indication of guilt. To be fair it does mention increased fines for wildlife crime, but if the detection rates are so low, almost non-existent, the level of fines is almost irrelevant, especially as those who study these matters make it clear that the real deterrent to crime is the chance of getting caught, not the punishment.

    The delay in issuing the results of the Werritty review until after the 2019-20 programme was released seems far too coincidental to me I am also informed by Police Scotland that they are correct to withhold information on whether a guilty offender has had his/her firearms licence withdrawn. I am writing to the information commissioner’s office to challenge this ruling and if he rules it correct, will be sending a Freedom of Information request to discover at least how many of the guilty still have firearms licences.

  11. I don’t see why the RSPB cannot publicise widely and conspicuously the fact that all of these incidents have happened on this estate. Libel laws may prevent them from naming individual people but it is a matter of incontrovertible fact that the incidents all occurred on this estate. If this is made widely, publicly known in such a way that potential wealthy shooting clients cannot avoid being aware of it that might have some impact on whether or not they wish to be associated with this criminality. If the RSPB stick to the known facts they cannot be successfully sued and in any case they surely have deep enough pockets to take the risk…

  12. Left to their own devices the police will not put wildlife crime in a high importance bracket. That is self evident. They can readily cite all manner of crimes against people and property that will always , theoretically, take priority.

    The vast majority of people who have suffered burglary, vandalism, car theft, yobs, drunks and junkies rolling about their street would become apoplectic at the thought of police resources being allocated to wildlife crime because victims of common everyday crime don’t seem to get much joy out of the law enforcement and criminal justice agencies either.
    Many no longer report crime because there is no point. Long experience of “damn all happens” has taught them that.
    Don’t even mention credit/debit card /internet fraud. That does not appear to be on any police “to do sometime, perhaps” list.

    The power to change the appalling situation with crime (all crime) lies with government and they failing us all on a spectacular level. Whether that is due to external influences pulling puppet strings or their own endless shenanigans with parliamentary processes is debatable.
    What is not debatable is that there are a very large heap of people in government who suffer from delusions of adequacy.

  13. I`m so sick of these low life thugs. The following piece I was able to publish in the local paper. Goshawk -update
    In February 2019 a male goshawk turned up in Privett and the Meon area. He favoured a certain wood but would hunt over a larger area which was indicated by the remains of wood pigeon kills (a round patch of plucked grey/white feathers) His diet was 95% wood pigeon. I caught sight of him on several occasions though they are extremely elusive, usually mobbing by crows or pigeons exploding from cover will reveal goshawk presence. I had high hopes of him attracting a female to his favoured patch, instead he vanished in March. No more fresh kills, he was gone. Just like the larger female in 2017.
    East Hampshire is a very well wooded area, suitable for many pairs of nesting goshawks. Prey species, ie; wood pigeons, crows, magpies and grey squirrels are abundant. So they should have everything they need to nest in the area, but as yet, to my knowledge, they have not done so.
    A few months ago I mentioned to a shooting enthusiast that the goshawks are back. His reply was “I know, I shot one and trapped one”. I was surprised and angered by his claim, but I kept calm and passed on this information to the Police.
    When this years young goshawks disperse from successful nest sights further afield, they will no doubt turn up again in the Meon/Privett area.
    I do pray that modern Gamekeepers do actually tolerate some pheasant loses to this splendid bird. Otherwise this pattern of `dispersal then disappearance` will continue.
    phil lavender phil@owlandkestrel.co.uk

  14. It seems the Estate wouldn’t or couldn’t identify the worker responsible.

    If the latter, I’m aware of a Lone Worker Policy in a different context. It’s not my subject, but I’d expect it to apply to a solitary worker driving a buggy alone on remote moorland at night. I’ll guess the norm might be to sign for buggy, record planned route, record departure time, estimate return time, and on return sign back in.

    I wonder if HSE might have an opinion.

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