Report on poisoned birds of prey ‘depressing’, RSPB says

Red kite
Four red kites were among birds of prey poisoned last year

RSPB Scotland has renewed its call for landowners and their staff in some parts of Scotland to do more to protect raptors from being killed illegally.

Director Stuart Housden said “intolerance” had been shown to the birds in parts of the eastern and central Highlands and southern uplands.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said illegal killing was not tolerated.

The SGA added that landowners and employees had worked hard to reduce incidents of bird of prey abuse.

In the RSPB’s newly-published report, The illegal killing of birds of prey in Scotland in 2011, Mr Housden praised land managers’ efforts to conserve species of birds such as lapwing and capercaillie. But he said birds of prey continued to be persecuted. Fewer raptors were found poisoned in Scotland in 2011 than recorded in the previous year’s RSPB report. The fact that the illegal killing of birds of prey in Scotland has continued is inescapable”

Tests confirmed 20 raptors, including a golden eagle, seven buzzards and four red kites, were poisoned in 2011. In 2010, 29 birds were found killed in this way according to the RSPB.

But Mr Housden said potentially more birds were killed but not found. He said 2011’s toll still made for “depressing reading”. As well as the poisonings, there were 16 incidents where birds were killed illegally by other means.

Buzzards were found dead in crow traps in Perthshire, a peregrine was shot near Ballater and a short-eared owl was shot in Strathdon, both in Aberdeenshire. A goshawk nest near Peebles in the Borders was also recorded to have been shot at.

‘Highest ever’

In the report, Mr Housden said many landowners and their employees acted responsibly and helped in efforts to conserve species such as lapwing, corncrakes and capercaillie.

However, he added: “The fact that the illegal killing of birds of prey in Scotland has continued is inescapable.

“What is also clear is that had it not been for the development of new satellite-based technology, some of these victims would never have been found.”

Comment from the Scottish Gamekeeper’s Association.

SGA chairman Alex Hogg said the figures in the RSPB report were similar to Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture statistics, that were published in March and September this year.

He said 2011 had seen an increased number of investigations that had found fewer cases of abuse, but had instead uncovered deaths caused by birds colliding with power lines and vehicles.

Mr Hogg said: “This is at a time when raptor numbers are, in many cases, the highest ever recorded and more and more people are losing increasing number of livestock to birds of prey, putting jobs and families at risk in a difficult time for the Scottish economy.

“Given that background, partners were rightly encouraged that the huge amount of work that has been done to educate and raise awareness, is working.”

He added: “The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has an unequivocal stance against the abuse of birds of prey and will continue to work hard, as it has done, to keep bringing these figures down.”

Red Grouse shooting a major factor

As in recent years, the majority of illegal killings took place in areas managed for driven grouse shooting, particularly in the Eastern and Central Highlands and the Southern Uplands.

RSPB bosses said 2012 has brought continued persecution of iconic species, highlighting the case of a golden eagle found dumped in Aberdeenshire, thought to have been caught in an illegal trap.

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Golden Eagle dumped in a lay-by after both legs were broken in a trap. (Photo: RSPB Scotland).

Satellite data showed the bird was motionless for 15 hours on an Angus glen the day before its carcass was discovered. The circumstances of the May incident remain a mystery.

Head of investigations Ian Thomson said: ”Many of these crimes were discovered purely by chance, by walkers or birdwatchers, in remote areas of countryside.

”It’s safe to assume that many victims of illegal killing are not detected or reported.

”While at last there may be some welcome indications that the indiscriminate use of illegal poisons is on the wane, it is clear from this report — and the events of the last few months — that there is a long way to go before these crimes are eradicated.”


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1 comment to Report on poisoned birds of prey ‘depressing’, RSPB says

  • Jimmy

    Its about time the SGA were seriously tackled over their ongoing campaign of black propganda and mis-information against protected raptors.