Further to this morning’s blog about NatureScot imposing a three-year General Licence restriction on Lochan Estate, a grouse and pheasant-shooting estate in Strathbraan, Perthshire, after evidence of alleged raptor persecution was uncovered (see here), NatureScot has issued a press statement that provides more detail behind the restriction.
Thanks to the blog reader who pointed me to the press release (which isn’t mentioned on NatureScot’s General Licence restriction notices page). Here’s the statement in full:
26 January 2022
NatureScot has restricted the use of general licences on Lochan Estate in Perthshire. The decision was made on the basis of evidence provided by Police Scotland of wildlife crime against birds.
Evidence included a satellite-tagged hen harrier, found dead on Lochan estate in an illegally set spring trap.
General licences allow landowners or land managers to carry out actions which would otherwise be illegal, including controlling common species of wild birds to protect crops or livestock.
Donald Fraser, NatureScot’s Head of Wildlife Management, said:
“We are committed to using all the tools we have available to tackle wildlife crime. In this case, there is clear evidence that crime involving a wild bird occurred on this property. Because of this, and the risk of more wildlife crimes taking place, we have suspended the general licences on this property for three years. They may still apply for individual licences, but these will be closely monitored.
“This measure will help to protect wild birds in the area, while still allowing necessary land management activities to take place, although under tighter supervision. We believe this is a proportionate response to protect wild birds in the area and prevent further wildlife crime.
“We work closely with Police Scotland and will continue to consider information they provide us on cases which may warrant restriction of general licences. The detection of wildlife crime can be difficult but new and emerging technologies, along with a commitment from a range of partners to take a collective approach to these issues, will help us stop this from occurring in the future.”
Restrictions will prevent people from using the general licences on the land in question for three years. This period can increase if more evidence of offences comes to light.
See the full licence restrictions details on our website.
The satellite-tagged hen harrier found dead on Lochan Estate in an illegally-set spring trap is believed to be hen harrier Rannoch, according to a tweet by Ian Thomson, Head of Investigations at RSPB Scotland. You can read about Rannoch’s grisly ending here.
[Hen harrier Rannoch’s corpse found on Lochan Estate showing her foot caught in the illegally-set spring trap. Photos by RSPB Scotland]
Rannoch’s satellite tag data showed she was likely caught in this trap on 10th November 2018. Her body was eventually discovered in May 2019 and was sent off for a post mortem at SRUC veterinary lab, which subsequently concluded:
‘The bird was trapped by the left leg in a spring trap at time of death. Death will have been due to a combination of shock and blood loss if it died quickly or to exposure and dehydration/starvation if it died slowly. Either way the bird will have experienced significant unnecessary suffering‘.
Does that mean it’s taken NatureScot over three years to impose a General Licence restriction on Lochan Estate? Or were there any further alleged crimes recorded there between November 2018 and now?
NatureScot’s press release doesn’t provide any further detail about any other discoveries, it just says, ‘Evidence included a satellite-tagged hen harrier, found dead on Lochan estate in an illegally set spring trap‘ (emphasis is mine).
I guess the FoI request I’ve submitted to NatureScot will dig out anything else.
I did have a wry smile when reading the penultimate sentence of NatureScot’s press statement:
‘Restrictions will prevent people from using the general licences on the land in question for three years. This period can increase if more evidence of offences comes to light‘.
It all sounds very serious and convincingly restrictive doesn’t it, but as I’ve already mentioned in this morning’s blog (here) Lochan Estate’s General Licence restriction can simply be over-ridden by the estate if they apply for an Individual licence which will allow their gamekeepers to continue killing wild birds such as crows, rooks, jays, jackdaws etc as if nothing has happened. What sort of sanction is that? A useless one. That’s not NatureScot’s fault – they have to work with the regulations they’re given, but come on, where are all the civil servants pushing for legislative change to close this gaping loophole?
And that bit about the GL restriction ‘can be extended if more evidence of offences comes to light’ – yeah, like the extension applied to Leadhills Estate that runs concurrently with the estate’s original restriction, meaning that in effect, Leadhills has only been penalised for a further 8 months, not the three years claimed by NatureScot (see here).
The system’s a joke and an overhaul is long overdue.
UPDATE 27th January 2022: Lochan Estate says it will appeal General Licence restriction (here)