Birds of prey killed by criminals in Aberdeenshire ‘shows no sign of abating’

From goshawks, falcons to golden eagles and buzzards, dozens of our most treasured wild birds were brutally targeted and killed last year in Aberdeenshire according to the latest figures from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

Thursday, 15th October 2020, 10:18 am

The charity said evidence shows birds of prey killings have been largely concentrated on and near grouse shooting moors.

It is now calling on the UK governments to toughen legislation on grouse shooting.

Despite being legally protected, there have been 40 confirmed incidents of birds of prey persecution in Aberdeenshire since 2007.

Confirmed incidents include:

· A golden eagle was found to have been poisoned after testing positive for Carbofuran.

· A goshawk was found grounded and suffering injuries after being shot.

· A barn owl was spotted with an illegal trap clamped to its leg.

The Scottish Government said it is considering licensing of grouse moor shooting.

Despite the shocking numbers, the RSPB said the figures collected by their investigations team and other sources only represent known incidents, with many remaining undetected and unreported, especially in remote areas.

The RSPB said half of the confirmed incidents occurred within protected landscapes, with many happening on and near driven grouse moors, where teams of beaters push grouse towards shooters.

Grouse shooting is legal in the UK but killing a protected bird could result in an unlimited fine or a jail sentence.

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s Head of Investigations said: “The very clear pattern of bird of prey persecution cases occurring on Scotland’s driven grouse moors has been repeated year after year, and as Birdcrime 2019 outlines shows no sign of abating.

“Indeed, even during the COVID-19 lockdown this year, these crimes have continued, as has the predictable campaign of denial and misinformation from a grouse shooting industry that has demonstrably and repeatedly failed in its attempts at self-regulation.

“The recent recovery of a satellite-tag from a golden eagle, which disappeared on a Perthshire grouse moor in 2016, wrapped in lead sheeting and thrown into a river, is unequivocal proof not only of serious, organised crime, but also the lengths to which the perpetrators of these offences will go to dispose of evidence and cover up these crimes.

It is long overdue the Scottish Government ends this appalling cycle of destruction of our natural heritage, by enacting a licencing system for grouse shooting, with immediate effect.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government condemns all crime against our wildlife and we are taking decisive action in a range of ways to tackle it. The Animals and Wildlife Act, which recently became law, increases the maximum penalties for the most serious wildlife crime to five years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine, and extends the time available to Police Scotland to investigate.

“We are giving careful consideration to the recommendations in the Werritty report – the in-depth independent review of grouse moor management we commissioned and we will publish our response later this autumn.

“However, as we have already said, we are considering licensing of grouse moor shooting and, if we go down that route, we will likely move faster than the five-year period suggested in the report.”

The spokesperson added: “We are monitoring activity very closely and criminal acts carried out now will be taken into account if and when we come to consider any licensing decisions in the future.”