Reported by many sources was the trapping of a buzzard on the south slopes of Beinn Bhreac, which is in the Monadhliaths in Inverness-shire. The RSPB report stated this is a grouse moor, which comes as no surprise, though the estate is not named.
The trap appears to be baited with a dead woodpigeon and, being set amongst moss, would be easy to conceal. Before it caught the buzzard it would be completely invisible and would only be found if someone inspected the dead pigeon. I assumed the trap was a Fenn trap, though it is difficult to confirm this in the photo. It would be naïve to think that the trap was set by someone other than an estate employee. Since there are few predators away out on a grouse moor that cause problems for sheep farming it is reasonable to assume the person most likely to have set the trap would be a gamekeeper. Most farmers have little use for traps in any case.
That the trap was set at all beggars belief and confirms the arrogance of the criminal involved that (1) no-one would find the trap and (2) if they did, the police would not manage to obtain evidence to link it back to him.
I looked for responses from gamekeeping and landowning organisations. All I could see was a feeble couple of lines from The Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association:
“The SGA has a strict policy and condemns wildlife crime. Should any member be convicted of such a crime they will be removed from the membership. The SGA advocates legal solutions as the only means to solve species conflicts”.
Why do they mention ‘species’ conflicts? The important conflict is not between grouse and raptors; the law makes that abundantly clear: raptors are protected and that is unlikely to change. It is surely between gamekeepers who put two fingers up to legislation and the law-abiding public, which of course includes law-abiding gamekeepers who must be heartily sick of being condemned alongside their criminal colleagues.
These organisations know at least as well as the police who the rogues are. They must also see this is yet more evidence to convince the Scottish Government to licence shooting. So why are gamekeeping and landowning organisations doing bugger all to deter these folk?
Reading a comment on the Raptor Persecution UK report on this incident it struck me that the law may not be as well-known as I thought. The person commenting wrote:
“Are the police doing random checks to ensure compliance? I’d love to see the stats on that? The number of registered trap users who have been inspected? Sadly…probably not available because it’s probably not being done. So really they are not doing anything other than responding to complaints when the public report these very hard to detect crimes”.
Firstly Fenn traps do not need to be registered with the police, registration is limited to corvid cage traps and snares. Neither can the police do random checks to ensure compliance with any type of ‘pest’ control. A police officer can only enter land to inspect any of these traps when there is reasonable suspicion that they are being used illegally. The last line of the comment is entirely accurate. When Scottish Government get around to licensing, which I think is now inevitable, it would be wise to factor in a power to the police to inspect pest control methods as a condition of the licence.