Poisoned red kite found on Scottish grouse moor

Press release from Police Scotland (16th December 2020)

Appeal for information – poisoned bird of prey – Ruthven, Moy

Police Scotland has confirmed that a red kite found dead in the Ruthven area in October, had been poisoned with a banned pesticide.

[A poisoned red kite, photo by Marc Ruddock. NB: Not the poisoned red kite in this particular incident]

Further searches were carried out yesterday (15 December) with partner agency RSPB on hill ground near Meall a’ Bhreacraibh and Ruthven, Moy, in the northern Monadliath mountains.

No further poisoned raprtors or animals were identified.

Police Constable Daniel Sutherland, Highlands and Islands Wildlife crime Liaison officer, said:

Traces of a banned pesticide have been detected in a Red kite found in the area. This incident is sadly another example of where a bird of prey has been killed through ingestion of an illegally held poison.

I strongly urge anyone within the local and wider community to come forward with details on any information about this incident.”

Following consultation with the Scottish Government Rural Payments Directorate and the Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), Police Scotland requests members of the public and any dog walkers to be cautious when walking in the surrounding area and the immediate vicinity. 

Anybody who has information about this incident, banned pesticide possession or misuse, or other information relating to raptor persecution please contact Police Scotland on 101 or pass on information anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


This is a very good response from Police Scotland – a press release out the day after the police search and a clear warning to the public to be cautious in this area, especially if walking with dogs. The name of the banned poison isn’t given, probably for investigative purposes, but by telling the public it’s a banned poison we know it’s one of eight highly toxic pesticides (or perhaps a combination) listed on the Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005, which are Aldicarb, Alphachloralose, Aluminium phosphide,  Bendiocarb, Carbofuran, Mevinphos, Sodium cyanide and Strychnine.

Now, about the location. According to Andy Wightman’s excellent Who Owns Scotland website, the area of land mentioned in the police press release is part of the Moy Estate in the northern Monadhliaths. Or at least it was when Andy compiled his data – it’s possible, of course, that there have since been boundary changes.

Regular blog readers will be familiar with the Moy area. Moy Estate was raided by police ten years ago after the discovery of poisoned bait and dead raptors and illegally set traps. A gamekeeper was later convicted of possession of a red kite after its bloodied corpse was found in the back of his vehicle. It had two broken legs and a head injury. A bloodied shinty stick was also found in the back of the vehicle.

The remains of two further red kites were discovered on the moor, including a severed red kite leg and some wing tags that had previously been fitted to a kite, all found buried in holes under some moss. A jar in one of the gamekeeper’s houses contained the leg rings of four young golden eagles – nobody could account for how they had ended up inside that jar. A live hen harrier was found caught by its leg in an illegally-set spring trap. It survived after being rescued by raptor workers.

No further charges were brought against anyone for any of the offences uncovered at Moy.

In 2016 Police Scotland issued an appeal for information following the discovery of disturbed and abandoned buzzard and goshawk nests in the Moy Forest. One goshawk and four buzzard nests were abandoned in suspicious circumstances, with some evidence of illegal disturbance. These nests were being monitored by staff from Forestry Enterprise Scotland. No charges were brought.

For previous blogs on Moy see here.

I would imagine, after this latest discovery, that Ministers in the Scottish Government who recently decided to press on with the introduction of a licensing scheme for grouse shooting estates, despite cries of ‘It’s unnecessary regulation!‘ and ‘It’s all so unfair!‘ from the shooting industry, can today feel vindicated that their decision was the right one.

They now need to get on with it and get it implemented ASAP, because this latest victim is evidence that raptor persecution continues, despite all the denials routinely chuntered out by the so-called leaders in the game shooting industry.

UPDATE 17 December 2020: Poisoned red kite found dead on Scottish grouse moor – an interesting police investigation (here)

15 thoughts on “Poisoned red kite found on Scottish grouse moor”

  1. The victim (fledged in 2019) was from the first brood of Red Kites to fledge from the district of Badenoch & Strathspey since c1880. It was also from the first brood of Red Kites to fledge in the Cairngorms National Park. Prevention of raptor persecution is in reverse.

    1. That’s dreadfully sad- the expansion of the red kite population on Scotland has been so slow compared with Southern England. I wonder, has any scientific study looked at why? Lack of connecting areas of woodland may be one reasons, but I wonder what else might be different?

  2. If the Moy Estate fits within Alex Hogg’s definition of ‘a birdwatcher’s paradise’ one can only wonder what his concept of hell must be like.

    1. That’s easy hogwash’s hell would be all birds and mammals at natural density without a surfeit of damned game birds or their bloody handed minders.

  3. Funny it was only a couple of weeks ago I was arguing about raptor persecution in this area with a ‘lady’ who claimed there were lots of kites there. Well there’s one less now.

  4. This area is like the Bermuda triangle for raptors, except we know what is happening to them. So sad, and even worse given the proximity of the National Park.

  5. Isn’t it time that estates which have any sporting operation were regularly inspected (unannounced) and their medicine cabinets/chemical stores checked? Estates with a history of incidents might also be required to open up garages and keepers huts and other potentially hidden dens where dangerous and toxic poisons might be stored? Then linking to vicarious liability if any protected species were found dead on their land then there could be a suspension of shooting license? We need deterrents and yes I know there will be lots of folk saying you can’t prove etc. etc. With respect we need something that will cause these criminals to think twice before laying poisons etc.

    Apologies as I realise I’m preaching to the converted blog readers and I’m sure appeals to Government for schemes like this will have been made but to it’s time for actions not more consultation, reports or filibustering?

    1. Hi Nimby, agree with all of your thoughts. Searching the sheds around the keepers house(s) will reveal things only in the cases of the most arrogant and ignorant keepers and those who really couldn’t give a monkeys. But when an Estate knows it is under scrutiny, poisons (remember a little plastic sandwich box will hold enough to last for a lifetime) will be stashed down rabbit holes and under logs and rocks in far flung and inaccessible parts of the Estate. Detection will always be very rare, so for deterrent value I would say when someone is caught red-handed it should automatically be a prison sentence without any mucking about. Or better still – prison-time for the Agent(s) and Owners behind it all, instead of the keeper.

  6. Hopefully the Scottish government will reflect on this yet another example of the atrocious wildlife crimes which are occurring on or near grouse moors; and ask themselves whether it really is appropriate to include those bodies which represent the shooting industry in the consultation process regarding the introduction of licensing?

    These bodies have consistently failed to recognise the scale of criminality which is taking place, and are often in complete denial as to who is most likely to be responsible.

    Until the shooting industry openly recognises that some of those within grouse moor management are responsible for these crimes, and that its’ own efforts to end this criminal behaviour have been a failure, then surely its contribution to the licensing consultation process is likely to be one that will stifle effective measures to eradicate these horrendous raptor persecution crimes?

    For a crime to occur, the criminal needs both the means and motivation to carry out that crime, and have access to the location where the crime occurs.

    So for those who use this blog to post the usual drivel that there is no link between raptor persecution and grouse moor management ..please consider just who would have access this fairly remote part of the northern Monadliath mountains, be in possession of a banned pesticide and have the motivation to use this poison to kill birds of prey??
    Please don’t make the foolish suggestion that it was a member of some animal rights walking group, who drove all the way from conurbations in the lowlands, carrying a bag of death dust, just to spite the caring people who manage these moors. It’s just nonsense!!!

    1. ” failed to recognise the scale of criminality” or is it ‘chose to disregard the criminality’. The SG’s position is more like one of utter indifference to the problem.

  7. Top of my wish-list for the SG Licensing System would be that when more than one Estate within the portfolio of any given Sporting Agency is demonstrated to have broken the terms of the Licence, that Agency loses the right to operate any other Estate in Scotland. We might as well save time and wildlife, and cut to the chase.

    1. I’d like to add that, as a raptor may briefly fly on after being shot or poisoned but die shortly afterwards, it may cross the boundary between two adjacent estates. The estates will claim this as a reason why they should not have their licences revoked/suspended etc. To combat this clearly predictable tactic the rules should be that all estates within, say, 5 miles of the located bird should have their licences revoked/suspended until an investigation is complete. Given lack of police resources that could be six months, with any luck. Maybe longer…

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