The missing waders (and not a raven to be seen either)

Lapwing and chick on farmland on North Uist

Oystercatcher on nest on farmland on North Uist

Oystercatcher nest on farmland in Perthshire

I was at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court on Thursday to give evidence of opinion in a hare coursing trial. I travelled there and back by train, which is much more relaxing than driving.  It is also a great opportunity to see how the sowing of crops is progressing and to look at both wildlife and farm animals.

Fertiliser has now been put on many fields and grass and winter cereal crops are fairly greening up. Leaves are starting to appear on some trees but are still away behind the norm. Probably those that looked best were the hawthorn trees on railway bankings, interspersed in many places with yellow primroses.

Many fields had been recently sown with spring cereal, harrowed and rolled. I expected to see one or two oystercatchers sitting disconsolately in these barren fields, having lost their clutch of eggs to the farm machinery, but they were as bare of birds as they were of any greenery. There were still many fields that had been ploughed in the autumn awaiting the arrival of a tractor and implements to sow or to plant whatever crop was to be grown there. These are favourite nesting places for both oystercatchers and lapwings. I looked in vain for any lapwings tumbling over the field in their fantastic spring display, all the while calling peeee-weep, weep weep, peeee-weep (which of course I wouldn’t have heard from the train). I looked also for the easily spotted black and white oystercatchers that may have been sitting on eggs. Nothing. Bare. Empty.

I was surprised seeing one or two lovely marshy patches on the west side of the train. Some of those would be ideal for nesting waders, especially curlew. Again, not a single wader graced these areas, I visualised a curlew rising in the air and fluttering back to the ground in their typical springtime display. Unfortunately not even a mirage. Even grass fields with sheep, where I might have expected there to have been a few feeding waders, held nothing but a few jackdaws. No waders, and not a single raven to be seen either.

When I think of the numbers of waders (and skylarks) on farmland when I was younger it is really sad that now that these same fields are almost completely devoid of these lovely birds. The cause is clearly in a change in farming practices, where almost every nest in cultivated and even some grass fields fields is flattened. Worse still, if the birds manage to re-lay and hatch chicks, these is so much spraying of insecticides that chicks have no food supply.

Is this not a more important type of habitat for Scottish Natural Heritage to be encouraging change rather than in the Perthshire uplands? Would many more areas left uncultivated, undrained, deliberately flooded (by beavers?) and with no spraying of pesticides not be worth encouraging, especially if a subsidy was available?

The only good news of the day was the hare coursing case. Of the two accused, one failed to appear and a warrant was granted for his arrest. At the last minute (4.00 pm) the other accused change his plea to guilty of attempting to take a hare with a dog. He was fined £500, which the sheriff reduced to £450 for his eventual guilty plea. (see )

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The Bleasdale Estate case and other frustrating news – comment.

Peregrine and chicks at nest. (Photo courtesy of Neil Macdonald)

Raven (Photo courtesy of Sean Bradley)

I meant to comment on the Bleasdale case earlier but a decent spell of weather meant that my energies were channeled into getting vegetables planted and sown in my garden.

For those who are unaware, the Bleasdale case related to charges made against the gamekeeper on Bleasdale Estate, a grouse moor in the Forest of Bowland. A covert surveillance camera had been placed by RSPB covering a peregrine nesting site that it is claimed had failed over a succession of years. This, in many cases, means that human interference is the cause. The camera covered the nest site only and, since peregrines are protected as birds included in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the camera was only likely to record the presence of a person licensed to disturb the bird or a person with criminal intent.

On 13 April 2016 the camera recorded the female peregrine flushing off the eggs then four gunshots followed. Shortly after, a man wearing a camouflage suit and in possession of a hammer went to the nest and left within a few minutes. It seems likely he was setting a trap.

On the following day a peregrine, possibly the male of the pair, landed on the nest ledge and was soon caught in a spring trap. After dark, a man with a torch visited the nest site and daylight the following day revealed that the peregrine was gone, assumed to have been removed by the man with the torch.

The court  case commenced but collapsed on a series of technicalities that are well reported in the blog Raptor Persecution UK.

The first thing that struck me about the case were the number of charges:

1) On 13 April Intentionally disturbing the nesting site of a Schedule 1 wild bird; 2) Killing a Schedule 1 wild bird; 3) Possessing an article capable of being used to commit a summary offence under section 1 to 13 or 15 to 17 (a shotgun, a trap?) 4) On 14 April Intentionally killing a Schedule 1 wild bird (the trapped peregrine); 5) Setting a trap to cause injury to a wild bird; 6) Intentionally taking a Schedule 1 wild bird; 7) Possessing a live / dead Schedule 1 wild bird or its parts; 8) Between 12 and 27 April Possessing an article capable of being used to commit a summary offence under section 1 to 13 or 15 to 17 (possibly a knife and a hammer recovered during a police search of the suspect’s outbuilding and bearing races of peregrine DNA; and 9) On 14 or 15 April Causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal.

I don’t have access to the same amount of information as the reporting police officer or the CPS but I have never been a believer in confusing a court by throwing in as many charges as possible. I believe it is far better to stick to the main issues, though in this case the disturbance may be more easily proved than the more serious charge of killing the peregrine. Firstly, there is evidence that the peregrine had been disturbed since it flew off amid a series of shotgun shots. There seems little evidence that the shots hit their mark. The court may have been able to revert to a conviction of attempting to shoot the bird, though there is little real evidence of what took place outwith the view of the camera and seems circumstantial. That four shots were required does not indicate a very accurate shooter, or indeed may there have been two people involved?  The circumstances suggest that the man with the camouflage suit and the hammer was setting the trap near the nest scrape to trap either the male peregrine (or either bird if the four shots had missed the flushed peregrine).

No shotgun was recovered and I assume CPS were depending on the circumstantial evidence that for four shots to have been heard a shotgun must have been present. The circumstantial evidence indicating that the suspect fired the shots or was even present was weak and would have been strengthened had the camouflage suit been recovered at the suspect’s premises during a police search a few days later.

Charges 4 and 5 seem superfluous, with no evidence that the trapped peregrine was killed (though undoubtedly it was). Charge 6 covers the circumstances perfectly and has the same penalty as charges 4 and 5.  I see no evidence for charge 7, unless CPS is depending on peregrine DNA to account for peregrine ‘parts.’  Indeed if the crown had managed to secure a conviction for intentional disturbance, intentionally taking a peregrine and possession of the trap, hammer and knife as items capable of being used to commit and offence that would have been a most satisfactory conclusion.

However the complications of the use of covert surveillance had to be overcome first. This is always a difficult hurdle for the prosecution and was certainly in this case not helped by what appears to have been a very inadequate and ill-prepared prosecutor. He may even have been a barrister, though that seems almost unbelievable. There was a catalogue of apparent incompetence which is very well set out in Raptor Persecution UK. This ineptitude, in the distant past, has been replicated in wildlife crime cases in Scotland, but has been overcome by the appointment of specialist wildlife and environment prosecutors. They train alongside police wildlife crime officers and work closely with them, in many cases from the very start of an investigation.

One of the legal arguments put forward successfully by the defence was that the RSPB and the police are so inextricably linked in the investigation of some raptor-related crime that the police must be aware that the RSPB use covert surveillance. In Scotland, if RSPB Investigations staff discuss the use of covert surveillance with the police before installation, and it relates to a situation where RIP(S)A authority is required, then the police would be obliged to take over responsibility for the installation of the equipment. if (a very big IF) they can obtain authority. I suspect the same would apply in England and Wales. If the RSPB fail to inform the police, as the district judge in this case stated, then the RSPB have effectively taken on the role of the police, but without the statutory scrutiny that accompanies the work of a public body.

I have discussed this thorny issue elsewhere in this blog and in even greater detail in my book Killing by Proxy but the solution is far from simple. A better prepared prosecutor may have managed to convince the judge to allow the evidence in this particular case but more often than not evidence arising from covert surveillance on shooting estates is either not accepted by the court or indeed by the prosecutor. In many – indeed most – of investigations of this type the police would not be able to gain RIPA or RIP(S)A authority so who can blame the RSPB Investigations staff for obtaining evidence of a crime and at least putting that evidence into the public domain.

It’s been a bad couple of weeks for some of our other interesting bird species. Yet another satellite-tagged white-tailed eagle has disappeared in an area of Perthshire with a history of crime committed against raptors, and this has been well publicised in media and on social media. The circumstances of its disappearance strongly suggest criminal intervention. A search was carried out for the missing bird, organised by the police and utilising RSPB Investigations staff and a number of gamekeepers local to the area in which the bird disappeared. While at least some of the gamekeepers involved in the search were no doubt there with the best of intentions it can’t be discounted that a person with some involvement or even knowledge of the bird’s disappearance was present. In the circumstances I think this was a bad call by the police.

Compounding the public’s anger and frustration was the announcement by Scottish Natural Heritage of a cull over 5 years of 300 ravens in the same area of Perthshire in which the white-tailed eagle disappeared. This is claimed to be an experiment to see if wader numbers improve. I think what seems to have annoyed most folks is that the decision was reached to grant a licence without consultation with some of the people or groups with most knowledge of ravens in the area. There has been a massive outcry, rightly so, and I would hope that SNH reconsider and ditch this daft idea, which parallels the stupidity of Defra’s proposed hen harrier brood translocation. Both seem a sop to driven grouse shooting, which needs to put its house in order before being awarded concessions of any kind.


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Book review – A Last Wild Place by Mike Tomkies

A Last Wild Place, by Mike Tomkies

In A Last Wild Place Mike Tomkies tells the story of his struggle to survive in often extreme weather in a remote part of the Highlands of Scotland where the only access to his cottage is by boat. In winter and early spring his difficulties almost mirror those of some of the wildlife he encounters on a daily basis, a position he describes as ‘close to the animal state oneself’.

Mike’s frequent treks in the area round his wilderness home demonstrate the seasonal changes in the woodlands, in the mountains and on the loch, which is his ‘main road’. His phenomenal knowledge of wildlife is not limited to mammals and birds but includes trees, wild plants and insects, particularly butterflies. At close quarters he studies and writes of golden eagles, buzzards, black-throated divers and red deer.

His chapters on deer in winter are particularly poignant and dramatically demonstrate the heavy death toll on deer in bad weather, especially when their numbers are too high or when they are fenced out of what would have been their traditional winter sheltering grounds. He attempts to rescue several exhausted deer, on occasions bringing them into his kitchen or workshop to dry them and heat them up. His empathy with wildlife is such that he put himself at considerable risk rescuing a red deer calf that had fallen into a raging burn and was close to being swept over a waterfall.

Whether his subject is the birds round his cottage, the common gulls nesting on an island in the loch, the butterflies in summer or the deer at their calving grounds, Mike Tomkies can include more valuable detail in a single paragraph than some writers can put in a chapter. He is an extraordinary naturalist and his tales are made all the more interesting by the presence of his constant companion, his experienced German shepherd dog Moobli.

I read this book when it was first published in the 1980s. I’m so glad I read it again.

A Last Wild Place, Mike Tomkies.  Whittles Publishing, Dunbeath, Caithness, KW6 6EG.  £18.99

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Listen to the birds

The blackbirds and chaffinches drew my attention to this snoozy tawny owl

If you are observant and can read the signs it’s amazing what wildlife can tell you. Here are just three examples of listening and understanding from a couple of my books:

On one occasion when I was detective sergeant I was with a colleague, detective constable Willie Gibson. A man involved in a robbery in Perth had driven off in a car pursued by another two detective officers, but had abandoned the car at the edge of a large wood. Knowing the area well I decided that we would park up in sight of the far side of the wood and just sit quietly and watch. We had been sitting in the car for half an hour or so on this spring afternoon and, as well as keeping a lookout for our robber, I was enjoying the wildlife all around me.

At one point I said to Willie, ‘There’s a cat about Willie.’ ‘How do you know that?’ was his response. ‘I can hear the birds,’ I answered. He probably thought I had gone off my head but there was a chaffinch sounding a steady pink, pink, pink call which is always worth investigating. There was also a blackbird alarming with a regular tak, tak, tak call, a clear indicator of a predator on the ground (its loud and piercing chatter, a completely different alarm call, is reserved for an avian predator).

I continued, ‘The cat’s just over there where that hedge meets that shed.’ ‘Can you see it?’ queried Willie. ‘No,’ I said, ‘but that’s where the birds are telling me it is.’ Willie was anything but convinced and said, ‘Well if there’s a cat appears over there I’ll eat my hat.’ At that a white cat appeared from the end of the shed. Unfortunately Willie didn’t have his hat with him!

And the robber? He was capable of terrorising helpless elderly shopkeepers but he was out of his league in a dark wood on his own. He only ventured into the wood a short distance and was caught within an hour.


This incident relates to one of my walks on a Highland Perthshire Estate while carrying out a wildlife survey for the owner:

I followed the fence line along – the boundary with the estate to the east – and climbed over once I came to Geordie’s Moor. I cut through the junipers and at the end crossed a boggy patch, again sticking to the rabbit hops to ensure I didn’t sink in the bog. The rabbits had developed this safe route over many years and I’d have been daft not to trust to it. I could see two blue tits on top of a blackthorn bush at the side of the drystane dyke separating Geordie’s Moor from the grass field beyond. They were flicking their wings and clearly alarmed. I couldn’t hear them at that point but as I got closer I could hear their tsee tsee tsee alarm calls. Their calls attracted another blue tit and there were now three on top of the bush warning fellow birds and mammals of danger.

I had a good idea what the danger was and made a squeaking sound, sucking with my lips, somewhat (hopefully) resembling a rabbit squealing in distress. Within a few seconds a small brown triangular face, with two dark eyes and an equally dark and shiny nose, poked out of the dyke. Knowing how inquisitive stoats and weasels are, I continued squeaking and he (or she) came out a bit further, resting his front paws on one of the stones to get a better look at me. He was a smart wee chap, with a light brown coat and white belly. He went back into the dyke and re-appeared two or three stones further up, repeating this twice more before giving up on identifying the cause of the squeaking.

Whatever the weasel had been up to – or was going to be up to – the blue tits had given everyone around an early warning.


On yet another day of my survey:

My attention was immediately taken by two new inhabitants of the shooting lodge loch on my arrival at the estate. With the brief glance I had I was sure that new arrivals were Canada geese, and I went on to the veranda of the shooting lodge overlooking the loch to confirm. Sure enough a Canada goose and gander were proudly resting on the island, the gander considerably larger and slightly paler in colour. The four resident mute swans were close by and there seemed to be no animosity with their recently-arrived wildfowl cousins.

As I watched them I became aware of a blackbird chattering behind me in the small conifer wood adjacent to the lodge. I couldn’t see the blackbird, but knew its tone meant an avian predator, probably an owl. Blackbirds in particular are great at letting any observer know what is about – provided of course the observer can read the signs. In contrast to the high-pitched chattering, the blackbird gives a pink pink or tak tak note if it spots a predator such as a cat, stoat or weasel on the ground, with this warning repeated for as long as the danger persists.

I could now see two chaffinches joining in the warning, emitting a similar pinking note, though pitched higher than that of the blackbird. They were nervously flitting about the branches half-way up a sitka spruce tree near the corner of the wood. I went round the lodge to get to the edge of the wood and looked up into the trees. Barely visible, and blending perfectly with the trunk and branches, was a tawny owl. It was tight against the trunk of the tree, and had I not been peering up with some confidence of what would be there I probably wouldn’t have seen it.

With my presence the small birds had gone, their whistle-blowing job done. Having brown feathers streaked down the breast with white, the owl merged perfectly with the dappled shade of the woodland. Its head looked almost as wide as its body, with a creamy white semicircle on each side and a brown stripe down the centre, ending in its beak. Its eyes were firmly shut, and it seemed to be enjoying its siesta despite its raucous and inconsiderate neighbours. This could well have been the owl that I heard in daytime on my visit a mere five days before. I went to the car for my camera and managed to get a few decent photos that rather surprisingly looked as if I were opposite the bird rather than underneath it.


See A Wealth of Wildlife, A Lone Furrow and other books on this blog. If you would like a signed copy, plus a free copy of another of my books, The Thin Green Line, contact me on

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Captive fox kept for hunting? Comment.


The BBC and other media reported on 29 March that ‘A gamekeeper who kept a fox captive in a brick shed – allegedly so it could be hunted – has been found guilty of an animal welfare offence’. (see )

After a report to the League against Cruel Sports (LACS) in December 2017 their staff found a fox inside a brick shed on the Buckminster Estate, which is on the Leicestershire/Lincolnshire border. They suspected that the fox was kept for the purpose of fox hunting and set up video surveillance on the shed. The following day they watched a man come to the shed, then leave again shortly after.

LACS were aware that the Belvoir Hunt were due to meet for fox hunting the following day, 17 December, so they informed the police of what was happening, the terrible conditions in which the fox was being held, the fact it had no water, and returned to the shed to rescue the fox.

On the day the Belvoir Hunt were due to meet, the same man – later identified as the gamekeeper on the estate – returned to the shed. This time he was carrying a net and a hessian sack. The inference from these items was that he was going to catch and bag the fox. Though common sense cannot be used in evidence, it was clear the fox was to be released so that it could be hunted by hounds.

The gamekeeper, Nigel Smith, was arrested by the police and interviewed. In the typical fashion of most hardened criminals and suspect gamekeepers he made ‘No comment’ replies to each of the questions put to him by the officers. The principal questions were:

“Are you willing to tell me why you had that fox in the building?”

“Has somebody asked you to catch that fox for them?”

“Have you got that fox as a pet?”

“Would you generally keep a fox as a pet?”

“Have you any links to the Belvoir Hunt or Belvoir Estate?”

“Were you going to give it to one of the members of the hunt?”

Smith was fined and ordered to pay costs totalling £1640. He was also disqualified from keeping foxes (which is a strange acquisitive pastime in any case) or being involved in fox hunting for five years.

This is yet another incident demonstrating the illegality involved in fox hunting and is one of several cases where a fox or foxes have been held captive by people linked to a fox hunt. The common-sense suspicion that the fox was to be released blows completely out of the water the claim that mounted fox hunting is carried out as fox control.

This was a great bit of work by LACS. There was certainly the issue of the suffering of the fox and its need to be released from that suffering. The fox was a ‘protected animal’ in terms of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 since it was under the control of man. It was being subjected to unnecessary suffering, not only because of the poor conditions under which it was kept but because of its captivity, being a wild animal, and its visits from its most deadly predator, man.

Section 18 (1) of the Act gives the delegated power to LACS to seize the fox, stating:

If an inspector or a constable reasonably believes that a protected animal is suffering, he may take, or arrange for the taking of, such steps as appear to him to be immediately necessary to alleviate the animal’s suffering.

But it again brings up the confusing position of covert surveillance on what I am sure would be private land and whether or not it can be admitted in evidence. The police, CPS and the court in this case, thankfully, accepted the evidence of the covert surveillance, but unfortunately appeared to give no explanation for future cases as to why it did so.

The other aspect of the case worthy of comment was that the judge said he had drawn an “adverse inference” from the fact that Smith did not give evidence at his trial. I’m not particularly acquaint with court procedures in England but I can’t imagine a judge saying this in a Scottish court, where an accused person has the right to remain silent and it is up to the Crown to prove evidence of guilt.

In any event it was a good conviction, albeit it was only in relation to an offence under the Animal Welfare Act rather than under the Hunting Act 2004. It also provides more ammunition for the complete banning of the ‘sport’ of mounted fox hunting.

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The use of clam traps in England

Home-made and extremely powerful clam trap set in a woodland. The gamekeeper who set it admitted it was to catch a buzzard.

The trap photographed by the Hunt Investigation Team in the Peak District

I looked at a photo put on Twitter this morning by the Hunt Investigation Team. It was a clam or Larsen mate trap set with a pheasant carcass as bait. The caption was ‘Here is another clam trap, baited with carrion by a grouse moor gamekeeper, in an area populated by buzzards in the Peak District’.

The use of these traps, also known as Larsen mate traps, is permitted in Scotland only under specific conditions and following a year-long trial to see whether or not they would catch non-target species. I have always been doubtful about these traps, especially since the ones I was involved with before retirement were clearly set for buzzards. The trap resembles a clam and the principle is that a bird lands on the perch to get to the bait, causing the two sides of the clam to spring shut and trap the bird inside. For a big bird such as a buzzard this was likely to mean that it could be caught with its wings up in the air and sticking out of the top of the trap. The trial showed that, while this could happen, manufacturing the trap so that its two sides did not close completely would allow the bird to retract its wings.

During the period of the trial the traps were allowed to be used but only with bait of bread or eggs, which would still attract crows but much less likely to attract raptors. Since the beginning of 2017 the traps were then permitted to be used with a meat bait but the operators have to provide to Scottish Natural Heritage Licencing Section their names and contact details, the number and types of traps used and the area in which they will be used.

I wondered then what the legal position was in England, where this trap was alleged to have been used.

The general licence for England made no reference to any trap other than, generically, to a cage trap. Cage traps come in different sizes and designs, but the licence does not even define or describe any of those. I have found over the years that good clear definitions within legislation makes a world of difference. Could a Larsen mate or clam trap be said to be a cage trap? I would doubt it. I think the prosecution may be able to argue that it is a spring trap, and that its use would fall within the terms of Section 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, this being, (in Scotland) :

Prohibition of certain methods of killing or taking wild birds.

5.–(1)   Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person–

(a)        sets in position any of the following articles, being an article which is of such a nature and is so placed as to be likely to cause bodily injury to any wild bird coming into contact therewith, that is to say, any springe, trap, gin, snare, hook and line, any electrical device for killing, stunning or frightening or any poisonous, poisoned or stupefying substance;

(b)       uses for the purpose of killing or taking any wild bird any such article as aforesaid, whether or not of such a nature and so placed as aforesaid, or any net, baited board, bird-lime or substance of a like nature to bird-lime;

Clam traps being included in the general licence in Scotland, of course, derogates from the terms of the legislation.

But the equivalent section for England weakens any prosecution argument by the use of a term much more difficult to prove: ‘calculated’

5.-(1)  Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person—

(a)         sets in position any of the following articles, being an article which is of such a nature and is so placed as to be calculated to cause bodily injury to any wild bird coming into contact therewith, that is to say, any springe, trap, gin, snare, hook and line, any electrical device for killing, stunning or frightening or any poisonous, poisoned or stupefying substance;

This is yet another example of where wildlife legislation covering England is weak and full of loopholes that can allow a suspect an easy escape route.

While it does not seem that the use of Larsen mate traps is legal in England I telephoned the licensing telephone number to ask their advice. The girl I spoke to had clearly never heard of a Larsen mate or a clam trap. She took my details and said she would make enquiries and phone me back. It must have been a tricky puzzle as by the end of the day I had not had a response. If I do (eventually) get a response I’ll add it to this post.

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Abandoning guinea pigs in winter

Guinea Pig Dead

One of the dead guinea pigs

Guinea Pig

The rescued guinea pig that required to have an eye removed

The Courier of 3 March carried a story of a timid tri-coloured guinea pig which was found in the Reid Park, Forfar, by a dog walker. The guinea pig was taken to a local vet and though it appeared to be OK there was no way of knowing how long it had been out in the snowy conditions or where it had come from, since the nearest houses were some way off.

The story reminded me of an incident which we dealt with as wildlife crime officers in Tayside, probably around 2005. A person who had been walking in Little Glenshee in Perthshire reported that he had found some dead guinea pigs near a roadside banking of whin bushes. He said there were ‘some small ones and some larger ones’ and he had also seen some live ones in the thick jaggy bushes.

I met the man reporting the incident and he showed me where these guinea pigs were. There were indeed several dead ones, unsurprising considering the freezing weather conditions in the month of December when the incident took place. There were also some ‘small ones’ as well, which the witness had not realised were hamsters, not guinea pigs.

It was clear that these poor wee beasties had been dumped in the countryside. Between the cold and predators such as stoats and weasels they had next to no chance of survival. Some of those that were dead had been partly eaten, though this might have been after death. It was sad to see the remaining live guinea pigs in the impenetrable bank of whins and I wondered how – if at all – they could be caught.

The nearest house, almost a mile away, was that of a gamekeeper. I called on him to see if he had some live-catch traps that we could use to try to tempt the live guinea pigs into. He provided several traps and some carrots to bait them and helped set the traps round the bank of whins. We agreed between us to check the traps three times a day, with him carrying out the early morning and late afternoon checks and me carrying out a late morning check.

Unfortunately only two guinea pigs entered the traps. These two might have been the only two remaining, we had no way of knowing. No hamsters were caught, nor were any live hamsters ever seen.

As had happened at the Reid Park, the trapped guinea pigs were taken to a vet, this time in Perth. One was quite healthy and recovered well after being warmed up. The other had a damaged eye, which had to be removed, though it recovered after its surgery.

This was a case that I was especially keen to solve. To release pet animals to certain death is cruel in the extreme and I worked closely with the media for help in tracing the person who had dumped them. I was sure that someone would be aware of a neighbour or acquaintance who had a shed-full of guinea pigs and hamsters one day and an empty shed the next day. Sadly there was not a single response to my media appeals. It was incredibly disappointing.

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