Freedom of information documents highlight gamekeepers, fox hunting and raptor persecution in 3 public forests

The Scottish animal welfare charity OneKind has today revealed that Forestry Land Scotland (FLS) is still permitting the use of fox-hunting foot packs in several public forests, partly for the benefit of privately-owned grouse shooting estates. These public forests also happen to be in well-known raptor persecution hotspots.

In a freedom of information response, FLS admitted allowing the fox-hunt foot packs to operate in three public woodlands near Inverness: Loch Farr Wood, Farr Wood and Meall Mor near Moy.

[Moy has long been of interest to this blog, mostly for the frequency of illegal raptor persecution incidents recorded there for over a decade. And then there’s this: a photo to illustrate the stupidity of setting fire to the moor for grouse management, a few hundred yards from some publicly-subsidised wind turbines!]

The FoI documents also reveal that FLS staff suspected that gamekeepers were visiting the forests to look for fox dens to block up, which also happened to be beside Schedule 1 raptor nests, some of which have been repeatedly attacked in previous years.

For example, in 2016 Police Scotland issued an appeal for information after one goshawk and four buzzard nests were abandoned in suspicious circumstances in Moy Forest (see here).

In 2017, also in Moy Forest, masked gunmen were caught on camera underneath a goshawk nest. The nest, containing a clutch of eggs, was mysteriously abandoned shortly afterwards (see here and here).

In July this year, Police Scotland appealed for information after a dead goshawk was found in Loch Farr Wood – this bird had been shot (see here).

The issue of fox-hunting is beyond the remit of this blog although I’d question whether a Scottish Government agency should be complicit in supporting the eradication of native predators for the benefit of driven grouse shooting, which is what appears to be happening here.

If you’d like to read more about OneKind’s freedom of information request and FLS’s response about fox-hunting, gamekeepers and raptor persecution in these public forests, please see the OneKind blog (here) and an article in today’s National (here).

Meanwhile, as the authorities seem unable to tackle raptor persecution in public forests, we’re all still waiting to see whether NatureScot will impose a General Licence restriction on Moy Estate following the discovery of a poisoned satellite-tagged red kite found on the grouse moor almost a year ago, in October 2020 (see here).

7 thoughts on “Freedom of information documents highlight gamekeepers, fox hunting and raptor persecution in 3 public forests”

  1. The utter stupidity of this is remarkable. I’m reminded of when I lived on a farm in Suffolk and the farmers were happy with the local fox shooter, a guy called Trevor with no front teeth, visiting their farms to kill foxes when they actually had a massive problem with rabbits. Deer, rabbits, voles and other herbivores are the enemies of young trees not foxes or raptors – the latter are in fact the forester’s friend, because they eat at least some of the former – unless I am sorely mistaken forestry involves growing trees not shooting grouse for fun. Even if we did everything possible to reduce the amount of wood we consume in various forms (and there’s a lot that could be done on that front), we’d still need some forestry. We don’t need ANY form of grouse shooting, least of all driven grouse shooting. Forestry and Land Scotland shouldn’t be allowing grouse moors to potentially damage their own economic activities!! Another point aren’t young conifer plantations actually good places for hen harriers (and short eared owls) to nest, another reason why some might want access to them?

  2. If these people are all in cahoots there seems little point in even trying to stop them ultimately its the government at fault.

  3. From The National: “In April 2020, internal documents released by Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) and published by The Ferret revealed that officials reversed two decisions barring fox control with hounds on FLS land near Inverness after “considerable” pressure from ministers.”


    “We revealed that between 2017 and 2019, rural economy and tourism secretary Fergus Ewing MSP was asked to intervene in three cases where foot packs were denied permission to enter FLS public land to flush foxes to the guns. In two of these cases, FLS’s decision was overturned.”

    The Scottish Greens will be crucified politically if they are seen to uphold a party which facilitates such activity.

  4. I’m quite shocked that fForestry, Land Scotland would allow this activity by gamekeepers given the recent persecution incidents at Farr & Moy. It beggars belief, they are themselves partly (significantly) to blame

  5. Regards keepers making incursions into FC forests – the bottom line is they all hate to have forestry on the doorstep of their beats, which is why owners love to buy it up and chop it down as soon as they can. Commercial forestry harbours “vermin” that is difficult to totally eliminate (without a lot of use of poison baits). Most keepers genuinely do believe that if vermin is coming onto their ground from next door and nailing their grouse – even if it is a public owned forest – then they are morally in the right to sneak in and deal with it. If they daren’t sneak in for fear of being reported, the next best thing is to have a good load of traps and snares right on the boundary. Anyone who thinks their lovely public forest next door to a big estate is a protected nature sanctuary, may very likely be upset to realise the truth. FC haven’t the staff – and sometimes maybe not even the inclination – to police their remote boundaries at all hours of the day.

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