Illegal traps on Invercauld Estate: part 2

Further to today’s news that illegally-set traps have been found on a grouse moor on Invercauld Estate in the Cairngorms National Park (see here), we are interested in the SSPCA’s role in this investigation.

As you’ll recall, RSPB Scotland notified the SSPCA about the severely injured gull caught by both legs in two spring traps. An SSPCA Inspector attended the scene (utilising powers under the Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Act) and was able to put the poor suffering bird out of its misery. However, the SSPCA Inspector did not conduct a wider search of the area for evidence because their current powers do not permit that.

Invercauld gull

Instead, the wider search was delayed until Police Scotland could attend (Police Scotland does have the authority to undertake searches of land to look for evidence of offences committed contrary to the Wildlife & Countryside Act). Now, this delay is NOT a criticism of Police Scotland’s actions in this case (they were on site relatively swiftly and invited both the SSPCA and RSPB Scotland Investigations to assist with the search. That’s a big improvement on some previous cases).

But, the problem of the SSPCA’s limited powers are clear in this case.

When the multi-agency search did take place ‘a few days later’, ‘clear evidence was found that eight similar traps had been deployed, attached to stakes and baited with dead rabbits, in a line stretching two hundred metres across the moor. It was also evident that these traps had been removed very recently’.

Whichever criminal had set these two traps that caught the gull was given the time to remove those further eight traps before the Police turned up.

How ridiculous is it that the SSPCA Inspector wasn’t allowed to walk two hundred metres across the grouse moor to retrieve those eight additional traps (and any other evidence that the criminal may have left lying around)? It’s plainly bonkers! Instead, there was an inevitable delay while the Police sorted themselves out (again, not a criticism in this case), allowing the criminal to distance him/herself from the crimes.

As many of you will know, on 1 Sept 2016 it will be two years since the closure of the Scottish Government’s public consultation on increased investigatory powers for the SSPCA. Three Environment Ministers later and we’re still waiting for a decision (see here). It’s pathetic.

More on this Invercauld case shortly…..

Illegally-set traps found on Invercauld Estate grouse moor, Cairngorms National Park

RSPB Scotland has today issued a press statement about the discovery of illegally-set traps found on a Royal Deeside grouse moor in the Cairngorms National Park (see here).

On 27 June 2016, two members of the public found a Common Gull that had been caught by the legs in two spring traps that had been positioned next to a dead rabbit that had been used as bait. The gull was distressed and bleeding profusely. The hill walkers called RSPB Scotland, who immediately alerted Police Scotland and the SSPCA. An SSPCA Inspector quickly attended the scene and the gull was found to have two broken legs. The bird’s injuries were so extensive it had to be euthanised.

Several days later, a multi-agency (Police Scotland, SSPCA, RSPB Scotland) search was undertaken on the grouse moor, ‘where clear evidence was found that eight similar traps had been deployed, attached to stakes and baited with dead rabbits, in a line stretching two hundred metres across the moor. It was also evident that these traps had been removed very recently’.

The press statement continues, ‘Police Scotland officers later spoke to a number of people involved with the management of the land on which the traps were found, but the identity of who had set the traps could not be established‘.

According to the press statement, the two hill walkers had found the distressed gull on “the northern slopes of Geallaig Hill, a few miles north west of Ballater“.

According to Andy Wightman’s fantastic website Who Owns Scotland, Geallaig Hill lies within the boundary of the Invercauld Estate. Using Andy’s data, we’ve created this map to show the position of Invercauld Estate within the Cairngorms National Park and the location of Geallaig Hill within the boundary of Invercauld Estate.

Cairngorms Invercauld - Copy

This is not the first time illegally-set spring traps have been found on Invercauld Estate. In 1997, a gamekeeper was fined £120 after admitting to illegally setting a spring trap to catch a rook (see here).

Spring traps can (currently) be used legally to catch stoats, weasels, rats etc BUT ONLY if they are placed inside a natural or artificial tunnel with a restricted entrance to minimise the risk of catching a non-target species. There are frequent reports of their illegal use on some shooting estates to trap birds of prey (e.g. set in the open next to a bait, or attached to the top of a post to turn them in to pole traps) – some recent examples can be found here, herehere, here, here, here, here, and of course the recent and now infamous Mossdale Estate traps here.

There’s a lot to discuss about this latest crime, and we’ll be doing just that in a series of blogs later this afternoon.

In the meantime, well done to the two hill walkers who reported this crime, well done to the SSPCA Inspector for a quick response, well done to the Police Scotland wildlife crime officers for a quick, multi-agency follow up and search, and well done to RSPB Scotland for a timely press release.

More shortly…..

UPDATE 2.30pm: Illegal traps on Invercauld Estate part 2 here

UPDATE 4.45pm: An astonishing statement from Invercauld Estate here

UPDATE 23 July 2016: SGA statement re: illegal traps found on Invercauld Estate here

Rare success for hen harriers on Mar Lodge Estate, Cairngorms National Park

The National Trust for Scotland is celebrating the rare success of a hen harrier nest on its Mar Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms National Park – see press release here.

For the first time in decades, four chicks have been produced. This is a fantastic result and all credit to the estate managers of this walked-up grouse moor. Their management techniques are obviously a lot more sensitive than the intensive, damaging techniques seen on many driven grouse moors in this National Park and beyond.

One of the chicks has been satellite-tagged as part of the RSPB’s Hen Harrier Life Project, helped by Lush Cosmetics’ Hen Harrier Bathbomb fundraising campaign (here), and the public will be able to follow this young bird’s movements (and, let’s face it, her probable early demise) on the Life Project website (here).


Let’s hope she gets clear of the eastern side of the Cairngorms National Park ASAP, a well-known black hole for hen harriers (see here) and other raptors (e.g. see here, here, here, here, here).

Although, if there was an estate licensing scheme in place, holding the raptor-killing estates to account, perhaps she’d stand more chance of survival in this area? It’s worth a go – you can sign the petition urging the Scottish Government to introduce such a licensing scheme HERE.

Photo of the satellite-tagged Mar Lodge hen harrier by Shaila Rao.