Police investigate more wildlife crime allegations on Leadhills grouse moor

Last Friday investigative journalist Rob Edwards published an article in The Ferret on two new police investigations into alleged raptor persecution on the Leadhills Estate, an infamous grouse moor in South Lanarkshire.

The first investigation centres on the suspicious disappearance of yet another satellite-tagged hen harrier, this one named ‘Silver’, who was nesting on Leadhills Estate but whose tag suddenly stopped transmitting and she vanished without trace on 27th May 2020.

[Hen harrier ‘Silver’ was satellite tagged as a young bird and like so many others, has now vanished in suspicious circumstances on a grouse moor. Photo by RSPB]

The second incident being investigated is the alleged shooting of a short-eared owl, witnessed by a local man and his eight-year-old son on the evening of 2nd July 2020.

They watched a man dressed in camouflage shoot the owl and collect the body before he drove off across the moorland on a quad bike. A blurry photo was taken and the police were called.

[Unidentified man on a quad bike driving off across the Leadhills Estate grouse moor. Photo by Anjo Abelaira]

Rob’s article in The Ferret has more details about both investigations and a response from the estate – read here.

Regular blog readers will be familiar with the name Leadhills Estate (also previously known as the Hopetoun Estate) as it’s been mentioned here many, many times before.

Here’s a video we made with Chris Packham just last year following the savage brutality inflicted on a hen harrier nesting in this area. Nobody was prosecuted for that barbaric crime:

Regular blog readers will also know that in November 2019, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) imposed a three-year General Licence restriction on Leadhills Estate in South Lanarkshire following ‘clear evidence from Police Scotland that wildlife crimes had been committed on this estate’ (see herehere, and here).

Those alleged offences included the ‘illegal killing of a short-eared owl, two buzzards and three hen harriers’ that were ‘shot or caught in traps’ on Leadhills Estate since 1 January 2014 (when SNH was first given powers to impose a General Licence restriction). SNH had also claimed that ‘wild birds’ nests had also been disturbed’, although there was no further detail on this. The estate consistently denied responsibility.

You might also remember the fascinating correspondence between the Leadhills Estate’s lawyer and SNH when the estate unsuccessfully appealed against the General Licence restriction (see here).

There’s a lot more that can be said about the current investigations at Leadhills Estate but time is short right now – it’s a subject that we’ll try to re-visit in the not-too-distant future.


If you’re sick to the back teeth of illegal raptor persecution on grouse moors, please consider participating in this quick and easy e-action to send a letter to your local Parliamentary representative (MSP/MP/MS) urging action. Launched on Saturday by Wild Justice, RSPB and Hen Harrier Action, approx 19,000 people have signed up so far. Please join in HERE

Thank you

UPDATE 30th September 2021: Extension of General Licence restriction at Leadhills Estate confirmed as pitiful 8 months (here)

14 thoughts on “Police investigate more wildlife crime allegations on Leadhills grouse moor”

  1. I note the estate response contains the usual deflection claims of vandalism. Do they have crime numbers for those?

  2. XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX Info from local resident said they have went from 3 keepers to 4 with a general restriction licence you have to pinch yourself to believe this………….

  3. I’m a bit confused…..
    The article in The Ferret says:
    “The latest incident at Leadhills happened just after 8.40 pm on 2 July 2020. A local resident, Anjo Abelaira, out with his eight-year old son, Fingal, witnessed a man, dressed in camouflage, shoot a short-eared owl.

    The man collected the owl’s body, and drove off across the moorland on a quad bike. Abelaira took a blurry photo of his departure and called the police, who attended”

    It then quotes Leadhills Estates response as: “Leadhills Estate said it had not been aware of the latest allegations until very recently and had sought further clarification to establish the facts. “It is premature to say that crime has been committed and we would condemn it unreservedly if that were the case,” an estate spokesperson told The Ferret”

    How could they not be aware of the latest allegations until very recently if the police responded immediately. Surely they spoke to the estate immediately!? The facts seem pretty clear, with eye witness reports and a photograph of the person driving away on a quad bike!?

  4. Surely this estate has pointed the finger at person or persons outside the estate doing these deeds yet they have multiple game keepers for a DGS estate which has not run but one shoot per year over the past eight years or so. Yet this outside perpetrator has intimate knowledge of what birds of prey are where on the estate such that they can make these lightning raids – and in broad daylight under the public gaze, fully equipped with all the tools of trade of the game keeper. Unfortunately this team of gamekeepers, unlike those vigilant at minimising public access on other estates, has been asleep on the job to the extent that all of this has taken place right under their noses. They must be a sharp bunch akin to the Key Stone Cops of old.

    What is more the perpetrator has been getting away with it for many years and the estate have been dumb enough to attempt to counter the SNH restriction on it’s general licence and argue against what is blindingly obvious to all including SNH.

    It’s way past time for the Scottish Government to recognise that we can all see exactly what goes on and that their refusal to take action in any meaningful way condemns them as being as much a part of the problem as the killers themselves. xxxx xxxxx and these goings on take the whole issue way beyond farce proportions to a ridiculous state of affairs. xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

  5. I think we can conclude that the Scottish Government colludes in these criminal activities. This is by virtue of their persistent failure to act to stop these crimes. The elections are coming up next year and I suggest we organise to publicise the failures of the Scottish Government to protect wildlife and raptors in particular. Is it feasible to put up candidates to stand on a wildlife protection policy?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s