Towlersonsafari

Driven Grouse Shooting a UK Disgrace?

139 posts in this topic

RSPB criticises Crown Office over dropped raptor case.

 

Confidence in prosecutors' ability to convict for crimes against birds of prey is being significantly undermined, according to RSPB Scotland.
The charity has questioned the Crown Office's decision to drop the case against a gamekeeper accused of setting an illegal trap.
It has released footage which was due to be used in the trial purporting to show a "pole trap" being laid out.
The case against Craig Graham has been discontinued.
The gamekeeper, of Brewlands in Angus, was due to be tried next week.
It follows a decision to drop proceedings against another gamekeeper, Stanley Gordon, from Cabrach in Moray.
The Crown Office said video evidence provided by the RSPB in both cases was not admissible to the court because it was filmed for the purposes of gathering evidence.
The charity has insisted that was not the case and that the crimes were recorded accidently.

 

 

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What makes these decisions unfathomable is that evidence like this has been used in Scottish criminal courts and the point has been argued before a judge.I cannot see how land could be entered illegally bearing in mind Scotland access laws @Czaba

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I thought it might be interesting to provide an update on the exciting world of Driven grouse Shooting.

Recently the RSPB released a press statement about a decision by the Crown Office(The body in Scotland that decides on whether to proceed in criminal cases) after 9 court hearings and before the trial, of a now former game keeper and his illegal killing of a Hen Harrier on a grouse moor estate The only evidence was video evidence that was obtained as part of the RSPB monitoring of Hen Harriers to see what problems they face whilst nesting. The Crown office press statement says

The RSPB have now released the video which is on Youtube and also hopefully here

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-39803548

 

“A Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) spokesman said: "In accordance with the Crown's ongoing duty to keep prosecutions under review and after carrying out a detailed review of all of the relevant material, Crown counsel considered that the inevitable conclusion was that RSPB investigators entered the land in question and embarked upon evidence gathering for the purpose of prosecution.

"Discussions have taken place over a number of years between RSPB and COPFS about the admissibility of evidence obtained through the use of covert surveillance.

"The Crown has consistently made it clear that strict legal tests must be met before evidence which has been obtained irregularly, such as the evidence in this case, is admissible. We will continue to have further dialogue with RSPB.

"In the whole circumstances, Crown counsel concluded that the evidence would not be admissible in court.

"In light of that conclusion it was entirely appropriate that proceedings were brought to an end."

This is strange in that video evidence has been successfully used in similar prosecutions before and argued about in court as to if they are advisable. At the very least it is a point that should be up to the Judge. The RSPB put the camera there (I think they need a licence to do so) to help research on the problems Hen Harrier’s face in raising young. Indeed a RSPB government project uses such cameras as part of its remit

Earlier this year a gentleman in the Lammermuirs was photographed next to his tethered Eagle Owl near a buzzards nest, now I often take my Eagle Owls for a walk and tether it near a nest, as I am sure we all do from time to time. He however had a shotgun but left with his owl when photographed.

In better news Golden Eagle pairs now are over 500, but there are still gaps where they should be, these gaps coincidentally being where there are grouse moor hotspots. A young satellite tagged Golden Eagle did seemingly disappear over a Grouse Moor estate near the Cairngorms National Park. Now satellite tags are not infallible. A tagged Hen Harrier that was thought to have been killed did resurface this year. And indeed just around the time the Golden Eagle disappeared, and just after news of its disappearance had been announced the estate released video footage of what they said was the very bird, which is nice. You can judge for yourself

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0NYoMmHvvs

The estate, the North Glenbuchat Estate, is a bit of a Bermuda triangle where satellite Birds of Prey are concerned. Here is a list of Birds whose tags have failed and who have not been seen again over the estate,

In September 2011 a satellite-tagged eagle (#95065, named Strathy) ‘disappeared‘ on North Glenbuchat Estate. Its tag had been functioning perfectly well before it suddenly and inexplicably stopped.

In February 2012 a satellite-tagged eagle (#57111) ‘disappeared’ on North Glenbuchat Estate. Its tag had been functioning perfectly well before it suddenly and inexplicably stopped.

In May 2013 a satellite-tagged eagle (#84133, named Angus 33) ‘disappeared‘ on North Glenbuchat Estate. Its tag had been functioning perfectly well before it suddenly and inexplicably stopped.

In April 2014 a satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle (White 1) ‘disappeared‘ on North Glenbuchat Estate. Its tag had been functioning perfectly well before it suddenly and inexplicably stopped.

In April 2014 a satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle (White 1) ‘disappeared‘ on North Glenbuchat Estate. Its tag had been functioning perfectly well before it suddenly and inexplicably stopped. This bird I think was the first successfully fledged from the East Scotland reintroduction project

The Scottish government are still looking at the possible licencing of grouse shooting ( and given the above what other option is there?)and as part of that they commissioned a report on how hunting is licenced in other European countries. It makes interesting if lengthy reading and can be found here,

http://www.snh.org.uk/pdfs/publications/commissioned_reports/942.pdf

It would be interesting to see what hunters in Europe can add to the debate and how such regulation works. In all the 14 countries reviewed, those wanting to hunt have to take an exam and part of the exam involves understanding the ecology of the hunted species. There is no such requirement in the UK. In many countries the game bird hunting is on state land and so there is less of desire to kill birds of prey. There is a wide variety of systems and it is difficult to draw conclusions that might work in Scotland or indeed England.

The go ahead for a reintroduction project in the South of Scotland for Golden Eagles has been given. There are only 5-6 pairs where there should be a lot more. The biggest factor on numbers is, yes you’ve guessed it, illegal persecution from grouse moors!. This will still continue unless the publicity about the project puts those committed law breakers off so let us keep our fingers crossed. It has been given lottery funding

https://www.goldeneaglessouthofscotland.co.uk/

 

As for a Hen Harrier project, it is mired in difficulty, not least the continued persecution. a couple of potential southern sites have been identified, but birds cannot be taken from UK populations and so far only Russia have not said no to the possibility of supplying birds. The problem is that by their very nature Hen Harriers are wanderers A bird fledged in the south of England would not stay there, and sooner or later it will fly over a grouse moor

 

It's too bad the families of those poor birds of prey cannot file civil suits against the gamekeeper!

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News of another Hen Harrier illegally shot this time in southern Scotland, another hotspot for this kind of thing. according to the local paper the Police are appealing for witnesses and CCTV footage as presumably they don't yet realize the Scottish Crown office do not like that kind of evidence! you don't need me to tell you it took place on a grouse moor do you?

apparently a gentleman armed with a shotgun and with his face covered was seen at the scene and left on a quadbike. A couple of years ago a tagged hen Harrier "Annie" was shot about 2 miles from here and another tagged bird "Chance" vanished near here last year. In fact there have been 48 reported crimes involving birds of prey in this area in the last 14 years with only 2 prosecutions many involving the illegal use of carbofuran as a poisoned bait and in 2013 an otter was shot!

some might think this is more evidence that Grouse moors should be licenced

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at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Sunday Herald, a Scottish newspaper reported yesterday that the Crown Office has refused a request from the Scottish police to bring a prosecution against a gamekeeper for alleged poisoning of 2 buzzards on the Edradynate Estate, a grouse shooting estate in Perthshire. This relates to an incident in 2015 when 2 buzzards were discovered close to the estate and following a raid it is alleged that a third poisoned bird was discovered.

Readers may not be surprised to know that this is another unfortunate estate where strange things appear to happen.As long ago as 2002 charges were brought but then dropped in relation to 9 alleged offences relating to poison bait and spring traps.2010 a poisoned Red kite was discovered and in the last 15 years 9 buzzards 2 sparrowhawks 1 gull 1 tawny owl, 1 polecat and 1 domestic cat have all been found poisoned. 2011 a banned poison was found. The Scottish govt are again considering if there is a problem and if licencing is the answer tomorrow when a committee will report back to the government. the Scottish government is also supposed to be releasing a report on satellite tagged birds of prey. finally some good news, it appears that Hen Harrier numbers in Wales are increasing, a country with no real driven grouse shooting, I think, but with foxes and other predators of ground nesting birds present

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By a narrow margin, the committee of the Scottish government has voted to recommend to the government that they explore the idea of a licensing system for Driven Grouse moors It has a long way to go but Hurrah!

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Sounds positive :)

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Last Week the Scottish Government -well SNH Scottish Natural Heritage published the long awaited report on the fates of satellite tagged Young Golden Eagles between 2004 and 2016. the report can be found here (hopefully)

www.snh.gov.uk › Publications, data and research › Publications ›

Of 131 young eagles tagged 41 (31%) "disappeared under suspicious circumstances significantly connected with contemporaneous records of illegal persecution"

The deaths occurred mainly in 6 areas predominately in Central and Eastern Highlands.the report concludes;

"some but not all areas managed as grouse moors were strongly associated with the disappearance of many of the tagged eagles" "Tagging revealed that the persecution of young eagles is suppressing the the golden eagle population in the central and

eastern highlands"

​the research showed that no deaths were associated with wind farms and that tagging did not affect the behavour welfare or survival of the eagles. There is some good news.The Scottish government is now going to commission research as to the effectiveness or otherwise of a licencing scheme for driven grouse moors, looking into not just illegal persecution as above, but muirburn, medicated grit, benefit to the economy etc

Slowly something is being done

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On 5/13/2017 at 6:50 AM, offshorebirder said:

It's too bad the families of those poor birds of prey cannot file civil suits against the gamekeeper!

 

~ @offshorebirder

 

As ‘friends of the court’?

 

With rather special standing, such as it might be.

 

Tom K.

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Sadly a short eared owl was shot and killed at the same location as per post #129-I mention  this to help illustrate a point that is better made by the BTO-The British Trust for Ornithology a respected research organisation on the occasion of the publication of the latest Hen Harrier survey which has  attracted some media attention in the news here in the UK The RSPB comment here,

https://www.rspb.org.uk/.../organising-the-uk-wide-hen-harrier-survey-in-2016.aspx.

The BTO conclude in their press release and i hope it is ok to quote them,

"Stopping management for grouse has been suggested as a means of improving the fortunes of Hen Harriers (Thompson 2009). However, although this would remove the main proximal constraint on populations in some areas, it might not translate straightforwardly into increases in Hen Harrier populations. In areas currently dominated by grouse-moor, a shift to alternative land uses such as forestry or high-density stocking with sheep or deer, could diminish the value of the land for harriers by decreasing food availability or nesting success. Efforts are still ongoing by scientists and practitioners on both sides of this conflict to find a way to manage for grouse without illegally controlling raptors (Amar 2014). If such a solution can be found, it has the potential to benefit both the grouse shooting industry and Hen Harrier conservation more than alternative scenarios in which the existence of one precludes the other."

And this is a very good point and something that makes the current situation so frustrating. Grouse moors could be good for birds of prey.I personally am not keen not only of shooting but of general predator control but there is no doubt that  areas such as the Isle of Skye, where there is no illegal killing but Hen harriers can be impacted by foxes, can be used as evidence to support predator control in certain situations.I think this supports the licencing of grouse moors where good behavour is rewarded by , for example, subsidy and bad behavour such as that shown in areas near the Cairngorms or the Southern Scotland estate, is punished  severely

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 @Towlersonsafari this is a timely update for me as I've just been reading and thoroughly enjoying "The Meaning of Birds" by Simon Barnes.

 

The book is packed with interesting information about birds and also contains references to the illegal shooting of birds of prey on grouse shooting estates.

 

Pleasing to see from your recent posts that there's a prospect of a licensing system that might address the core problem

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To celebrate the "Glorious 12th" -the start of the UK Driven grouse shooting season, lets .........kill a Marsh Harrier! Hurrah! I do  try to find different birds that have been killed by those who may well have a connection with Grouse Moor interests and  I do think Marsh Harriers are a first. north Yorkshire police have released an appeal for more information abut the deliberate killing of a Marsh Harrier nesting on moorland near Ilkley (although they were sadly wearing hats) a notorious illegal raptor killing hotspot the RSPB were monitoring the nest which had 5 eggs the link to the press release is hopefully, here

https://en-gb.facebook.com/NorthYorkshirePolice/

the RSPB have released video footage, which is not pleasant , but which you can see on the RSPB blog site. anyone would think this was yet another reason why grouse moors should be licenced .

In better news the same survey on the Isle of Skye that i have mentioned on this thread that found all 5 nest sites of Hen Harriers  failed last year-from natural causes, found 7 successes this year.That is on the Skye Birds site.Interestingly the  nests were observed from more of a distance and the author wonders whether that helped in avoiding fox predation.

the some might say foolish plan to release Hen Harriers in the south of England is struggling to find suitable sights-shooting interests are protesting-this is pheasant shooting I understand.

I say foolish because the problem with any zonal scheme or southern relocation scheme is that Hen Harriers can fly-of and in the UK wander widely -of the birds nesting in the North of Scotland, the Orkneys, Hebrides etc many will winter in the south

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@Towlersonsafari I thought this might be of interest 

 

Movie star otters and pipe-smoking bears: the fabulous animal films of David Cobham - the guardian
https://apple.news/AbrqBjeQPPT2AOg9bFP5jeQ

 

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Thanks @ld1 i haven't read the book yet-I fear it will just make me angry!

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