So at last there has been a result, albeit, minor, against the catalogue of wildlife crime discovered on Edradynate Estate at Strathtay, Perthshire. Scottish Natural Heritage has restricted the use on the estate of general licences which give the privilege of killing certain birds they may consider as pests. These licences allow landowners or managers to carry out actions which would otherwise be illegal, such as controlling crows by shooting or trapping them to protect wild birds.
For those who are unaware, Edradynate Estate at Strathtay, Perthshire, was one that the police had to visit regularly because of poisoned baits or their victims being found. Between 1993 and 2011 14 poisoned baits were collected, involving the banned pesticides mevinphos, carbofuran and alpha-chloralose; 31 poisoned victims were found which included 17 buzzards, 4 carrion crows, 2 sparrowhawks, 2 tawny owls, a domestic cat, a common gull, a red kite and a polecat. If these were the baits and victims recovered consider how many more were missed, or picked up and disposed of by the criminal involved in setting out the baits. In addition, traces of pesticides were found in the then headkeeper’s landrover, on his clothing and in game bags. On every visit by the police it was the same gamekeeper, David Campbell, that was in charge.
It was the most recent discovery by the police in 2015 of two poisoned buzzards that led to Scottish Natural Heritage removing the right of general licences being used on the estate. The restriction took effect from 15 September this year and will be in force for three years.
A new man took over gamekeeping duties around the end of 2016, so he could have had nothing to do with any illegality prior to that. He may be considered unfortunate that he has to pay the penalty for activities committed by someone else. Whether being unable to control crows will make any difference to the number of pheasants shown over the guns during the next three shooting seasons is open to debate.
Though I have a degree of sympathy for the new man on an estate that has such a high level of negative publicity, I have no sympathy for the owner of the estate. He has had plenty opportunity to ensure that wildlife laws were adhered to as there is no doubt he would be aware every time there was a police search on the estate and of what was found. It’s not as if there were just a couple of searches: there have been at least ten.
Edradynate is the third estate in Scotland to have been hit with a restriction on the use of general licences, though, unusually, at the same time as the imposition on Edradynate, an un-named gamekeeper from the north-east of Scotland was also given a restriction. This man had been filmed by RSPB ‘allegedly setting illegal traps, baited with a dead woodpigeon, very close to a goshawk nest.’ The film, which is dated March 2014, had been passed to the police.
This is the first time a restriction has been imposed on an individual, and it is even more unusual in that he is not named. The fact that there is a restriction on a person rather than on a piece of land suggests to me that the illegality took place on land for which the gamekeeper had no responsibility. This is even more likely since the target is suspected to be a goshawk, a bird that normally nests in mature woodland. If the gamekeeper was ‘trespassing’ to commit this crime there is maybe even more need for the public to know his identify. One reason not to identify the man is if there is a case pending in relation to the setting of the trap, but Ian Thomson, head of RSPB Scotland Investigations, said he was “disappointed” no prosecutions had arisen from either case.
It is a great pity that SNH were not (or could not be?) more open about this second restriction.
There is a suggestion of the location of the trapping incident at https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2017/09/27/more-on-the-mystery-gamekeeper-with-the-general-licence-restriction/
As a postscript, an article in The Courier of 22 June 2017 showed that David Campbell appeared at Perth Sheriff Court charged with maliciously damaging crops on Edradynate Estate between April 14 and 16, 2017 by spraying them with an unknown substance, causing them to rot and perish, plus the theft of a thermal imaging spotting scope. He made no plea or declaration and his case has been continued.