Shot goshawk in notorious persecution black spot: police investigation reaches dead end

In July this year, a shot goshawk was found in one the country’s most notorious raptor persecution black spots in the northern Monadhliaths in the Highlands (see here).

A member of the public discovered the dead bird in woodland managed by Forestry Land Scotland (FLS), which is close to land managed for grouse and pheasant shooting. The corpse was retrieved by the Police, FLS and the RSPB and sent for post mortem where it was confirmed it had been shot.

It is by no means unusual that masked gunmen will visit public woodland to attack goshawk nests (e.g. see herehere and here) especially as this highly efficient predator is a perceived threat to gamebird stocks and as such is despised by many in the game-shooting industry.

[Goshawk photo by Martha de Jong-Lantink]

Police Scotland issued a timely appeal for information (here) and opened a criminal investigation.

Unfortunately, as with so many raptor persecution crimes, that investigation has now reached a dead end. A police spokesperson has advised that ‘all lines of enquiry have been completed, including CCTV, door to door enquiries, local enquiries, vet analysis of the remains, x-ray of remains, background checks, social media and traditional media press release‘.

There haven’t been any arrests and there won’t be any prosecutions unless new information comes to light.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the crime didn’t take place (some in the game-shooting industry would have you believe that no prosecution = no crime), it just means that yet again, someone with access to a gun in this area has been able to commit a crime and will face zero consequences, just like the last time, and the time before that, and the time before that, and…..etc etc.

35 thoughts on “Shot goshawk in notorious persecution black spot: police investigation reaches dead end”

  1. They need a draconian response: any raptor shot should lead to all shotgun licences in a 10 mile radius being suspended for 6 months. If and when licensing arrives, all estates in that area lose their licence for the next shooting season.

    1. They don’t even do that for people found shot dead:-( But they do perform undercover surveillance on chief suspects. But I doubt that the Police consider a dead Raptor sufficiently heinous to warrant such drastic action.

  2. In the light of the Plymouth shooting (and discussion of licences, gun ownership and psychological suitability etc etc) it really is time that shotguns and rifles should be taken out of the hands of weak-minded or psychopathic and sociopathic people. Shooting estates and clay pigeon businesses should only be allowed to store them – and only allowed to take them out during daylight hours on the day of a shoot. No individual should be allowed to possess a weapon in any other property or house. Being found with a shotgun outwith a strictly limited situation (an organised, controlled shoot; a clay-pigeon shoot) should be treated in the same way – with the same penalties – as illegal handguns.
    And if a gun was used – as in this case of the goshawk – then it’d point, a little more sharply, at the nearby shooting estate as the culprit.
    No one needs to keep a gun. Not even farmers.

      1. I think that should you trouble to do a spot of research, you will find that criminals very often have access to completely illegal guns and indeed find it much easier to get hold of illegal weapons than legal ones. Simply criminalising all guns will not do what you think it will do, and without the conservation actions of legal shooters, much of the UK would either be wilderness grazed within an inch of its life, or argrarian monoculture.

        1. “without the conservation actions of legal shooters, much of the UK would either be wilderness grazed within an inch of its life, or argrarian monoculture.”

          Yet more of the same, tired old nonsense.

          1. PS. “I think that should you trouble to do a spot of research” (sic)…

            into the meaning of the word “wilderness”.

          2. Yes and how much of the land currently having the native flora and fauna choked out of it by Rhododendron ponticum, cotoneaster, cherry laurel, salmonberry, snowberry and other non native, invasive shrub species can trace the original source of the infestation back to a planting to keep pheasants nice and cosy?

        2. I think if you actually undertook some research you would find that criminals tend to favour pistols which are more easy to hide and conceal than a rifle or shotgun.
          Illegal gun ownership by the criminal fraternity is usually centred around gang activity or serious organised crime.
          What evidence is there that these gang or serious organised crime syndicate members are coming out into the countryside and shooting raptors?
          From the reports of illegal raptor persecution, it also seems very clear that the majority of the birds are being shot with shotguns or air weapons. There is little or no evidence to suggest the weapons used in the illegal persecution of raptors is being conducted with illegally owned weapons.
          Most of the criminals who possess illegal guns probably have no motive or desire to travel out the urban areas into the countryside and start shooting at wildlife. To do so would simply carry too many risks, draw attention to their illegal ownership of guns, enable the police to intercept them in possession of illegal firearms for which, if caught, the penalty would be severe.
          The evidence all seems to point to people who have legitimate ownership of a firearm as being responsible for the criminal persecution of raptors.
          The fact that such individuals are committing crimes with their firearms clearly indicates they aren’t suitable or proper persons to be in possession of a firearm. Banning private ownership of firearms would take gun ownership out of their hands, and may lead to a position that the police are more able to trace and identify those committing wildlife crimes.
          But it would be totally unfair to all those responsible gun owners who adhere strictly to the Code of Good Shooting Practice as promoted by organisations such as GWCT or BASC.

          As for your claim that the UK countryside would be reduced to a “wilderness grazed within an inch of its life or agrarian monoculture if it wasn’t for the conservation actions of legal shooters is simply not true.
          Countryside stewardship grants and conservation does not rest solely on the land being used for the rearing of game birds. The change to farm payments should help ensure that farmers are rewarded for good countryside management and stewardship. I am assured by my MP that a forthcoming Green Paper will explore how the government might deliver world leading ambitions for nature, including how to improve the status of native species and protect 30% of land in order to halt the decline of nature in England. I hope that COP26 will bring forth legally binding targets for conservation. No doubt there will be a place for proper conservation driven shooting land management within this.

          But this does not solve the problem of the illegal killing and persecution of raptors.

          Until the game shooting industry recognises that many of the criminals behind this despicable behaviour are hiding within their ranks, then the problem will persist.
          It is something that all those who wish to engage in sustainable shooting and hunting need to take responsibility for and address. Perhaps if they publicly spoke out against raptor persecution, helped the police identify those responsible for the crimes, and shunned those shooting estates where dubious practices are permitted, it would be a step in the right direction?
          However one of the obstacles to this appears to be driven grouse shooting, where all the evidence seems to suggest that in order to provide the artificially high grouse densities to satisfy a desire for large game bags and a good number of shoot days, then raptor numbers need to be supressed. Is it this which leads some to stoop to criminal behaviour? Many commentators think so.
          Until this problem is solved, as part of the process in reducing raptor persecution, people will rightly call for restrictions on the firearms which are responsible for so much of the illegal persecution of wildlife.

          1. ‘As for your claim that the UK countryside would be reduced to a “wilderness grazed within an inch of its life or agrarian monoculture if it wasn’t for the conservation actions of legal shooters is simply not true.’

            I regard that as the Agricultural Vandalism Threat, first seen from the pro-hunting lobby. It took the form of Let us hunt or we’ll cut down coppices and hedges, or so I seem to remember.

    1. “No one needs to keep a gun. Not even farmers.”

      They do. Farmers run pheasant shoots. They have the right to protect their crops too. There is what is known as a measured response and a complete knee-jerk. A farmer’s spouse isn’t even allowed to know how to get into the gun cabinet – it is for the licensee only.

      Yes, regulation needs to be tighter. What there needs to be is licensing of activities e.g. driven Grouse shoots. You are not going to completely ban something overnight. We need steps in the right direction.

      There still is no vicarious liability law!

      I work with a number of good farmers (it is my family background as well) that are committed, conservationists. Yes, they do have pheasant shoots for income, they do predator control. I know sometimes pheasants and conservation do not necessarily go together – but the choice is stark. More monoculture or areas planted with wildflowers or for seed for farmland birds. On one farm I counted over 1000 Yellowhammers alone last winter. They do not tolerate raptor persecution and in fact, have loads of nest boxes for them.

      Instead of all the social media knee-jerking, there has to be a coordinated plan that is funded. Conservation needs to be put first – but farming is an industry. People forget the landscape is actually man-made and an industrial one. The twee Countryfile image is a mirage. Instead of a ban, ban, ban we need funded schemes. We need licensed protocols that driven Grouse shoots must operate with.

      There is a middle-ground here. There is also the opportunity to have a strict licensing system that involves making the land viable for breeding raptors and if any raptor persecution is found then the license is revoked. The trouble with the middle-ground is there will be two sides that will never be happy, but so as conservation, strict regulation, and protection is at the forefront then it can work.

      I am afraid using Plymouth as an excuse is wrong. However, I would agree that if you can not be a model citizen in everything you do, there is no way you should have access to a weapon.

      1. I have some family background in farming too and lived for some years by a farm. I’ve seen silly misuse of a shotgun (to blast rooks, for example, which, on a bit of dissecting, had been feeding on leatherjackets – not the barley that had been knocked down by wind). There are always alternatives in ‘crop protection’.
        I think your last para undermines your position: there have been too many crimes committed by legally-held guns. It would be far better to severely limit the easy access to weapons than to continually see the results of their criminal use.
        And we have vicarious liability in Scotland-but the Crown’s Prosecution Service seems to be more than a little reluctant to apply it.

      2. ” I know sometimes pheasants and conservation do not necessarily go together – but the choice is stark. More monoculture or areas planted with wildflowers or for seed for farmland birds.”

        This is, quite simply, untrue.

      3. There’s no “middle ground” any more. We all know who are killing birds of prey, the grouse industry has failed to regulate itself or to help catch these criminals because they are the criminals. I used to share your opinion, but now believe all grouse moors should be shut down, unless they can demonstrate a diversity of species on their land which reflects what should be there. Shut them down.

        1. Go up to upper Teasdale in the Spring and see the good numbers of red listed birds, then many successfully breed, far more there than on many nature reserves, and theres raptors, plenty of diversity, just have a wander and see, you will be more than welcome

          1. Heard it all before. Funny how you lot never manage to include any real statistics in support of your wild statements.

    2. At the very least it should be an offence carrying very stiff penalties for anyone carrying a shotgun (whether in use or not) to go about with their face masked and their identity concealed.

      1. Hi John, there is definetly something in what you say. How many of your typical ‘quad-bike with gun-rack keepers’ with theur camo-masks are ever stopped and checked by police while buzzing about on the very minor (but still Public) roads. I would also bet good money that the police would find a good few of these guys who are toting a 5-shot Semi-Auto shotgun (legally requiring a Firearm Certificate) are actually just the YT lad borrowing the keepers spare gun – and that they themselves only hold a Shotgun Certificate which (critically) only allow legal possession of a shotgun which is up to a 3-shot. They will squirm out of this by saying they were supervised by the keeper. Really? When he is a mile down the road checking traps.

          1. Thanks John, well that leads me to a little hunch of mine that I would again put money on – that some of them leave as much mud splatter & general crud on the number plates as they can, just to obscure the VRN.

        1. Wrong, theyve all got a firearm certificate, its the first thing on a keepers shopping list, and anyone else wanting to become a keeper,

          1. Hi, Raymond lover of “Teasdale”. re the Certs I’ll explain what happens in the real world – in Teesdale and other places, maybe even in “Teasdale” too. A young lad gets up to a decent physical size (about 13/14) and Dad says “well, son it’s about time to get you a 20 bore on your own Shotgun Certificate”. He gets it. Time elapses and the young lad wants to be a keeper so at 16 signs up to be a YT lad (or the modern equivalent). He gets well into it and soon wants a 5-shot Semi-Auto to fit in with the Real Men. But the wise Headkeeper says, “aye dint thee hurry – just use mine for a bit until your Shotgun Certicate is about due for renewal then apply for a Co-Terminous Shotgun & Firearms Certificate”. It saves time and money – and the police only have to come out the once, which suits all parties. So you see there is a window of time where a good number of young trainees are using a Firearm (e.g. a 5 cartridge-capacity Shotgun and/or the Estate’s .22 rimfire) under the “supervision” of a keeper who is maybe right next to him, or maybe one field away, or maybe one mile away.

    3. What about me then, needing to kill a sheep that has had listeria, when theres no hope of it recovering, or to kill the many cage trapped rats, or the mink ive caught also in a cage trap, and what about people who travel maybe a couple of hours to go to their shoot and will be travelling each way in darkness in Winter.
      Some farmers live a long way from a vet, putting down stock at home is part of a farmers job.

  3. I gather that Chief Constables have been pressing for tighter laws regarding shotguns but that the proposed measures to do so were “kicked into the long grass” by this government. Can anyone confirm this? If so is it not too paranoid to wonder about the shooting lobby’s role in any such delay since we know that they have disproportionate influence amongst Tory MPs.

  4. Farmers are a very heavily armed community and the loneliness and pressure of the occupation leads to high levels of self harm also: like wise there are always unresolved crimes but this would matter less if some at least were? The clear perversity of video evidence being debarred in these cases in remote locations is surely clear bias when CCTV is routinely used in urban crime scenes on a daily basis? Can this not be challenged?

  5. From RPUK opener:-
    “It is by no means unusual that masked gunmen will visit public woodland to attack goshawk”.

    High time that wearing a face covering and/or disguise when in possession of a weapon should be an offence.

    Try walking into a bank wearing a mask …………… alarm is sounded.

    1. One of the more common items of apparel in a shooter’s wardrobe is always going to be a face veil. This is because a bright white face looking up at them is easily seen by most birds, and this makes pest control much more difficult. Gloves are word for similar reasons, and when the shooter is in the middle of land with no public access, what the hell does it matter what they are wearing?

      1. Funny how the old boys never wore daft things like face masks or scarves, and would have been embarrassed to except for when lamping at night in winter. They were happy wearing their flat caps and deerstalkers and the like to (as you say) obscure their white-face from the avian vermin circling above. The wearing of the camo mask has evolved in tandem with the quality of cameras on mobile phones. Odd that.

  6. It’s the one bird that all Gamekeepers fear. In reality the local roads will kill more game birds by far and actually not all Goshawks will take them (although some/maybe most certainly do). As the law stands it’s nearly impossible to get a conviction and if trespass is criminalised heaven help us, zero chance of getting caught and almost zero of it being discovered… It has to change and shoots need to be held accountable.

  7. Coop wrote (in reply to Dan Holdsworth)
    August 19, 2021 at 10:21 am

    “without the conservation actions of legal shooters, much of the UK would either be wilderness grazed within an inch of its life, or argrarian monoculture.”

    Yet more of the same, tired old nonsense.”

    Yes, any old excuse to keep killing wildlife.

    Where I reside, several thousand pheasant poults are bought every summer by one of the “guardians of the countryside” (as he unashamedly is fond of describing his purpose in life). All year round there is wholesale slaughter of any creature that poses a real or imaginary threat to a pheasant.

    Roe deer are also killed by gunslingers because they are inclined to be disturbed by the beaters and run through the drives which spoils the “guns” sport.

    So dysfunctional are these shooting people that they describe themselves as “guns”.

  8. I’m just a Townie, but a wildlife lover.
    So if this is a regular hotspot. I suppose details of when the shoots are on could be known.
    So my question is this :

    [Ed: Hi John, thanks but the rest of your comment has been deleted. I’m not prepared to encourage the sort of behaviour you are suggesting]

  9. I’m always left feeling the same, when ‘no further action’ is the outcome of an investigation into illegal raptor persecution. Sickened! God knows how the various NGO and Police Investigations Teams feel!
    How can people still believe that most local landowners / farmers / pigeon fanciers / shoot syndicates / keepers etc. care enough to ‘police’ their own ‘hobby / sport / job’ to stamp raptor persecution out, when nothing seems to improve? By actually not caring about these illegal, immoral and indefensible acts, they are in truth supporting the actions of the perpetrators. On grouse moors and pheasant / partridge / rough shoots etc. keepers often profess to know exactly what’s going on, on and around their beats. If that’s really so, why then, when BOP persecution takes place, do they profess not to know what’s happened / when it happened / where it happened / why it happened and, indeed, who is responsible for what happened? It’s worse than a school playground!
    Local knowledge is, as usual, the key to identifying culprits and the willingness of local communities to act, is the catalyst for real change! If only!
    The thought of kids with guns / young lads (more likely than young lasses) with guns appalls me. They emulate their awful role model adults, it seems, and BOP persecution becomes a perpetual problem.
    So … do us all a favour, point the finger and grass these buggers up!

  10. There`s a pub in Portsmouth called The Honest Politician. It would be good to have one called The Honest Gamekeeper!

    1. “It would be good to have one called The Honest Gamekeeper!” :-

      xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

Leave a Reply

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

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: