Peregrine found shot dead on grouse moor in Strathbraan – Police Scotland refuse to publicise

A peregrine falcon was found shot dead on a grouse-shooting estate in the Strathbraan area of Perthshire in November 2020.

The discovery was made during a police-led multi-agency raid following reports of suspected wildlife crime taking place on the estate. I blogged about that raid in February this year (see here).

This is an estate that has previously been under investigation for alleged wildlife crime offences.

My understanding is that the Scottish SPCA are progressing a case for alleged snaring offences but that Police Scotland were dealing with the shot peregrine (because it was already dead and so was beyond the (current) remit of the SSPCA)

Strathbraan is an area that has received much attention on this blog. Dominated by grouse-shooting estates, it has a very well-earned reputation as a wildlife crime hotspot, and is particularly notorious for the suspicious disappearance of satellite-tagged eagles (one of whose tags turned up in a river, its harness cut and the tag wrapped in lead sheeting to prevent transmission – see here). It is also the area where SNH issued a (flawed) licence in 2018 permitting the mass killing of ravens on the basis of ‘seeing what happened’ – but which was later withdrawn after a legal challenge by the Scottish Raptor Study Group.

[Evidence of intensive grouse moor management in Strathbraan. Photo by Ruth Tingay]

Given the reputation of Strathbraan as a wildlife crime hotspot, and given that raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority, and given that Police Scotland has spent much of the last year with a dedicated campaign to try and raise public awareness of wildlife crime and encourage people to recognise and report suspected incidents, it’s difficult to understand why the police have deliberately withheld this crime from the public.

And it has been deliberately withheld. This wasn’t an oversight, or an admin error. It was a conscious decision not to say anything about it. How do I know that? Well, because I’ve been talking to Police Scotland about this crime since January 2021 and have asked, repeatedly, when they were planning on putting out the news / making an appeal for information because I believed it to be in the public interest to do so.

At first I was told that no press release was planned “until I have done a little bit more enquiry in to the circumstances“.

Fair enough.

Three months later I asked again but got no response. I tried again at four months and then finally five months later I was told, “There was no need for us to put out anything in the press from our perspective“, and “As you say from the evidence we have, we will never know where and when it was shot“.

Good grief.

Where’s the x-ray of the shot bird? An examination of its injuries (e.g. broken wings) would provide a pretty good indication of whether it was shot close to where it had been found dead, or whether it might have had the capacity to fly several miles before succumbing to its injuries. In which case, an appeal for information would have been a logical next-step, surely?

And if the police decide to say nothing, as they have in this case, where is the public record of this offence? It’s been almost a year since it was found.

How many more raptor persecution crimes are Police Scotland keeping quiet about? Quite a few, as it happens. More to come….

UPDATE 21st September 2021: Long-eared owl illegally held in trap on same Strathbraan grouse moor where shot peregrine was found (here)

26 thoughts on “Peregrine found shot dead on grouse moor in Strathbraan – Police Scotland refuse to publicise”

  1. There has been an ongoing situation in Perthshire involving a sea eagle with a malformed beak which was poorly when found by a gamekeeper. No less that three articles appeared in the Dundee Courier over a short period of time that praised the gamekeeper while taking the opportunity to severely criticise the Scottish SPCA who had previously released the bird. Unlike the 99 per cent of the articles relating to gamekeepers and injured birds of prey this one was the exception where gamekeeper wished to remain anonymous — unlike most of his colleagues who do not find an issue with being a named source in situations like this. (There was one in Kirriemuir not too long ago where the recovered bird and the gamekeeper were photographed and the man named.)
    To put it bluntly this looks like a piece of well crafted journalism designed to promote a positive view of gamekeepers while being strongly criticial of the ScottishSPCA.
    By this time most everyone knows that the shooting lobby and their allies, though claiming they are strongly against the persecution of raptors, are dead set against the Scottish SPCA gaining the powers to investigate crimes against wild animals and birds. These discussions are a part of the ongoing talks in contection with licensing DGM’s and, in my opinion, the DGM’s are afraid of investigations being held in a situation outwith their influence. As a result I view the article in question as having been written with that in mind to help sway opinions.
    The fight to get a more effective policing of crimes against raptors is far from won, as the behaviour and responses highlighted underline.

    1. Thanks, George – there are a number of unanswered questions about the supposed ‘discovery’ of that ‘poorly’ sea eagle – some are suggesting it was actually caught in a crow cage trap around the start of the grouse shooting season. If that’s accurate, it doesn’t take much to put two and two together – the gamekeeper would want rid of it but couldn’t kill it because it was being satellite-tracked and NatureScot knew where it was. What better way to get some much-needed propaganda about ‘saving’ the eagle whilst simultaneously having it removed, officially, from the grouse moor?

      1. Thanks for letting me know what’s being said RPUK. It sounds about right to me. Dealing with these guys tests one’s faith in the human race.

      2. Yeah that sounds far more plausible. I know that one of the investigating officers from the RSPB has in the past said some of these crow traps have clearly been designed to catch eagle sized ‘crows’.

  2. The only good thing here (struggling to find something ‘good’) is that you never give up. For which enormous ‘Thank you!’! I shudder to think what they would do, or not do, if they thought you weren’t watching them!

  3. This makes me so angry. The only conclusion I can come to is that the police are in cahoots with or being leant on by the local landowners, and Scottish politicians are in no hurry to change this state of affairs. Allowing the SSPCA to investigate needs to happen now not in the future and this is a great example why.
    A pathetic response from police Scotland (the small p is intentional)

  4. “…raptor persecution is a national wildlife crime priority…”

    Would anyone notice if they decided it wasn’t a priority after all?

    1. I would suggest its a national wildlife crime priority in words only!!
      This starts at the top with Ministers who deny the real issues, and then permeates down through the system.
      There doesn’t even appear to be a national approach to how the police investigate these crimes.
      The result- almost zero prosecutions despite the continuous reports of these crimes across the country.
      National wildlife crime priority?- more like national disgrace!!

  5. Surprised we have any raptors left in the UK – total failure of statutory services. I can only think that Police Scotland are colluding with the grouse moor owners in this issue.

  6. Is the relevant SNP ministers happy to stand over this approach by the police?? Whill the Greens do anything about it at Holyrood??

  7. It appears to be awfully likely that many of the people who should be pursuing criminals or are in positions where they should be ensuring that the forces of law and order carry out their duties are as pure as the driven slush.

    It is all very sickening.

  8. Whenever the police (north or south of the border) say they cannot – when evidence is seemingly thin on the ground – justify investigating a dead bird, a pelleted cat or a badger in a snare, etc, etc due to lack of resources – I can accept that there will be an element of truth to it. However, to publicise the discovery of this bird with a quick post on social media or to send the details to an interested reporter with a regional paper would be a small effort costing next to nothing in time and money To not have the will to do so, and in fact to put effort into avoiding doing so, stinks worse than a stink-pit full of fish guts on a summers day.

  9. The simple fact is that senior police and the CPS are just not interested. They make the occasional statement about how raptor persecution is a priority, they window-dress the role of wildlife crime units, but what do they ever achieve? Catching a few hare coursers and badger baiters is not successfully fighting the war on wildlife crime – it is a smokescreen, whilst their lords and masters continue to direct the killing of of our raptors. Even if they don’t directly get their hands dirty there is always some forelock-tugging minion to do their dirty work for them,.

  10. Yet another example of blatant raptor persecution on a driven Grouse Moor and in this case , at a notorious raptor persecution hot spot!- the awful Strathbraan. I completely fail to understand why PS (or as someone else said, pS) FAILED TO PUBLICISE THIS APPALLING INCIDENT-quite apart from the disgusting and cowardly act of deliberately killing a Peregrine falcon by no doubt, some gamekeeper or one of his cronies, it is the job of PS. and of course all police forces everywhere to investigate criminal activity. You really do wonder after all this time what on earth the role of wildlife crime officers are!-is it naive of me to suppose that police forces (and especially PS) devote much or indeed in this case any effort to solving wildlife crimes.
    Shockingly , in this case it really does seem like they could not be bothered!

    I wonder what the owners of these Driven Grouse Moors have got in terms of influence-this seems like institutional oversight by PS -frankly I think that the Scottish Government should be hauling in senior police officials for some sort of urgent inquiry-but of course there is a lot of hot air in political circles and very little action on the ground, both North and South of the border

    I can smell the stench of Strathbraan from hundreds of miles away-the system of investigating wildlife crime is institutionally useless-I am even tempted to use the term corrupt and this whole thing sickens me as I am sure it does for all decent people who love wildlife.

    The sooner that this disgusting and archaic so called ” sport” known as DGS. is confined to the history books(with things like witchcraft) the better it will be for the vast majority of people living in our islands and our beleaguered wildlife!

  11. As the coordinated raid was not happening without reasonable suspicion and the shot peregrine is a clear crime…
    ….what are SNH doing about the removal of the general licence ? What are the RPID people doing about the examining potential breaches of grant conditions?

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