Wildlife Special Constables take up duties in Cairngorms
16 March 2018
An initiative to tackle wildlife crime in the Cairngorms was launched today when the first Police Scotland Special Constables to tackle wildlife and rural issues within Cairngorms National Park formally took up their duties.
The Scottish Government and the Cairngorms National Park Authority is funding the pilot project, which will see five officers, who are all currently Special Constables and based across the three Police Scotland divisions which are covered by the National Park area, concentrate on wildlife and rural crime issues. They will engage with other agencies to prevent wildlife crime and build on existing relationships with those living and working in the Cairngorms National Park.
Detective Chief Superintendent David McLaren from Police Scotland said, “Tackling wildlife crime in Scotland is something that Police Scotland takes very seriously. Our priority should be preventing these crimes in the first place and we can only do this through strong partnership working and with the help of the public.
“It is our hope that by having this additional policing resource within the Cairngorms National Park we will be able to deter wildlife criminals. By building good relationships with those using the park, for work or leisure, we will also seek to better educate the public in identifying and reporting suspicious activity.”
Grant Moir, CEO of Cairngorms National Park Authority said, "Wildlife crime is unacceptable and damages the reputation of the Cairngorms as an outstanding National Park for nature. I am pleased to see the start of the special constable pilot with Scottish Government and Police Scotland to tackle this issue, but of course I would much prefer that this sort of resource was not needed to tackle an issue that should not be happening in 21st century Scotland.
“This is just part of the work that we are all undertaking to tackle this issue and the CNPA look forward to working closely with the Special Constables and Police Scotland.”
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said, “Scotland’s wildlife is precious and a huge part of our national identity, and these additional officers will be a valuable resource in tackling wildlife crime in the Cairngorms National Park.
“I announced this programme following a report that found many of our golden eagles are disappearing in suspicious circumstances. Golden eagles are in the news again with reports of another missing bird, which further underlines the importance of this work.
“It is my hope that the success of this pilot scheme will allow us extend it more widely across Scotland. We are absolutely determined to crack down on those who commit crime against our wildlife.”
Anyone with any relevant information on the fates of missing golden eagles or suspected wildlife crime in general, is urged to report this to Police Scotland on 101.
Notable wildlife crime convictions - Hare coursing and CITES
21 February 2018
The past week has seen a couple of notable convictions for wildlife crime offences.
James McPhee, of Angus, admitted two charges of hare coursing on farmland near Forfar in 2017, and was sentenced to 195 days in prison last week. Hare coursing (the hunting of hare with dogs) can cause considerable suffering to the animals targeted, and is illegal in Scotland under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002. Laura Buchan of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) said:
"This custodial sentence should send a message to anyone involved in hare coursing in Scotland.
"The Crown will continue to work with Police Scotland to ensure that anyone who is involved in the cruel and illegal practice of hunting hares with dogs is brought to justice.
"We would encourage anyone who may have information on hare coursing to contact the police."
And on Monday this week, a man who was found in possession of protected animal parts including raptor feathers and barn owl heads, was fined. The National Wildlife Crime Unit issued the following statement:
An Inverness man was fined fined £750 for keeping parts of protected species for sale at Inverness Sheriff Court on Monday 19th February 2018. Gordon Taylor ran an on-line business under the name "Wild Wizard Crafts" selling products for the shaman and pagan market from an address in Leyton Drive, Inverness. On 4 November 2015, the premises was searched under warrant by Police Scotland officers, assisted by the National Wildlife Crime Unit and a Wildlife Inspector from Animal & Plant Health Agency. The search revealed a small workshop within a cupboard and quantity of items containing bird derivatives. 11 of these items contained parts of protected species including buzzard, barn owl and tawny owl, carrying a possible sales value of £695, for which the court also issued a forfeiture order.
The Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997 prohibit the sale of certain species of bird or their derivatives. The highest category of protection under this legislation is afforded to Annex A species which are considered threatened by extinction due to trade. All Scotland's raptors fall into this category, including buzzards, barn owls and tawny owls.
Head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, Lou Hubble, said, "There is a world-wide campaign to stop the illegal trade in endangered species which can have an enormous impact on animals living in the wild. Legislation exists to protect those species. Members of the public should understand that some of the UK's iconic wildlife is protected by this legislation and need to ensure trading in any animal parts or derivatives is lawful."
Cabinet Secretary interview with Chris Packham about raptor persecution
15 February 2018
PAW Scotland Chair and Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, spoke to wildlife broadcaster Chris Packham, in a film made following the recent suspicious disappearance of a satellite tagged golden eagle in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh, on the morning of 21 January 2018.
Watch the film, including an interview with Roseanna Cunningham...
Anyone with any information about the fate of this eagle is urged to contact Police Scotland on 101.
UPDATE - A longer version of the interview is also available...
Annual wildlife crime report
Offence numbers down on previous year
8 December 2017
Recorded wildlife crime has fallen by 8%, according to the latest official figures.
The annual wildlife crime report, published today, shows reported offences have dropped from 284 in 2014/15 to 261 the following year.
Fish poaching, which remains the most prolific wildlife crime, was down by 26% on the year before.
The report shows an increase in hunting with dogs offences to 44 - up 24 offences on the previous year and the highest number over the five-year recording period.
Read the full Scottish Government news release...
Read the Wildlife Crime Annual Report 2016...
Restaurants urged to check Venison Dealers Licences to help curtail deer poaching
6 December 2017
Responsibly sourced Scottish venison is a nutritious and healthy organic meat, however hotels and restaurants are being advised to check where they get their venison, to ensure they’re not breaking the law or endangering their customers’ health. It’s part of the battle against illegal deer poaching in Scotland - a criminal activity which can also cause additional suffering to the deer themselves.
The call was made today by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW Scotland), a stakeholder group aimed at tackling crimes against wildlife. Members of the partnership include the Scottish Government and Police Scotland.
Restaurants and caterers are being asked to ensure they only purchase from a vendor with a Venison Dealers Licence (VDL), which is required by law under The Deer (Scotland) Act 1996 to sell venison. If a purchaser is unsure whether a vendor has a VDL then they can enquire with their local authority who are obliged to keep a register of licenced sellers.
Purchasers are also being warned that where deer have been knowingly killed unlawfully and then sold, both parties – vendor and purchaser - could face prosecution. Police have the power to inspect premises or vehicles if they have reasonable grounds to suspect an offence has been committed and seize carcasses where necessary. Scottish Natural Heritage and police also have the right to inspect transaction records which should be kept by licensed venison dealers.
Penalties for the purchase, sale or exchange of venison, which is known or suspected to have been killed illegally, include fines of up to £2,500 and sentences of up to three months in prison.
Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham said: “Going into the festive season we are urging people to check the labelling and licensing of venison to help us tackle wildlife crime and crackdown on illegal poaching.
“We are committed to ensuring the highest welfare standards for all animals, including those in the wild, and encourage everyone to notify Police Scotland if anyone is suspected of breaking the law."
Police Scotland Wildlife Crime Coordinator, Sergeant Andrew Mavin said: "Deer poaching is a national wildlife crime priority for Police Scotland. Those involved in poaching have little or no concern for the welfare of the animal nor are they concerned with maintaining the necessary levels of hygiene required when venison enters the food chain. It is important that people know that their venison was sourced legitimately or they could be committing an offence."
Scottish Land & Estates, one of the partners in PAW Scotland, said there are additional checks that a purchaser could make to ensure their venison was from a legitimate source.
Tim Baynes, from Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Purchasers should first and foremost check the Venison Dealers Licence, but questions may also be raised if they are offered a deer carcass that is heavily bruised or broken.
“Venison that is being traded legally will have been properly taken in compliance with the law. But if the carcass is heavily bruised or looks to be in a poor condition, the deer is more likely to have been killed by unlawful methods which may cause significant additional injury. This could also pose a real danger to human health where the carcass has not been properly handled, with a risk of contamination from various aspects of the meat.”
Purchasers can also check the type of deer they are buying, with different species only available during permitted stalking seasons in the calendar. Venison made available in periods outside of this calendar may also raise suspicion. For more information on deer close seasons, visit the British Deer Society. Further information on Venison Dealer Licences can be found at www.gov.uk/venison-dealer-licence-scotland, and for more information on deer poaching please visit the PAW Scotland website. The Wild Venison Partnership is working to maintain high standards of welfare, carcass handling and hygiene across the industry, for more information visit www.scottish-venison.info. For helpful cooking and preparation hints visit http://scotlandsnaturallarder.co.uk.
For further information:-
Scottish Land & Estates, tel: 0131 653 5400
Police Scotland Corporate Media Team, tel: 01786 896720
New group to focus on sustainability of driven-grouse moors
24 November 2017
Membership of an independent group to ensure grouse moor management practices are sustainable and legally compliant has been confirmed.
The new group will be led by Professor Alan Werrity, who previously chaired a Scottish Natural Heritage review into sustainable moorland management. It includes scientists, moorland managers, regulatory experts and advisers from SNH, Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.
Read the full Scottish Government news release...
General licences restricted in light of wildlife crimes
27 September 2017
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has restricted the use of general licences in two separate cases this week. The decision was made on the basis of evidence provided by Police Scotland of wildlife crime against birds.
These are the third and fourth such restrictions imposed by SNH. A property in Perthshire and an individual will have their licences restricted. They may still apply for individual licences, but these will be closely monitored.
Read the full SNH press release...
Satellite tagged hen harrier disappears in Cairngorms National Park
1 September 2017
RSPB Scotland has issued an appeal for information after a young hen harrier disappeared in suspicious circumstances. The bird, known as 'Calluna', had been fitted with a satellite tag as part of RSPB's EU-funded Hen Harrier LIFE project. Transmissions from the satellite tag ended suddenly on the 12 August 2017, north of Ballater, in the Cairngorms National Park.
Anyone with information about the fate of this bird should contact Police Scotland on 101. Information can also be reported anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Earlier this year, a report analysing the fates of satellite tracked golden eagles in Scotland concluded that almost a third of tagged eagles between 2004 and 2016 had disappeared in suspicious circumstances, with the majority of cases found in areas associated with driven grouse shooting. Following the publication of this report, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, announced a package of new measures to tackle wildlife crime.
PAW Scotland warns of risky dolphin and whale encounters in Scotland this summer
28 August 2017
Several incidents in Scotland this summer involving dolphins, orcas and humpback whales have endangered not only the animals, but also boat operators.
The Scottish Government-led Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW Scotland) is urging boat and marine craft operators to respect Scotland’s marine wildlife or they could risk endangering themselves and the animals, as well as face criminal charges.
This follows a number of incidents around Scotland this summer which are being investigated by Police Scotland: in Shetland, a photographer in a boat circled a pod of killer whales too closely and then split the pod; and there have been boats causing problems with dolphins at Chanonry Point and at Aberdeen Harbour. There have also been a number of other incidents in Shetland where boats near busy marinas or harbours have been too close to or going too fast near pods of killer whales, and ongoing issues on the Tay with jet skiers and dolphins, particularly near Broughty Ferry. Members of the public have also raised concerns about boats going to close to humpback whales seen recently at St Cyrus National Nature Reserve.
Read the full story on the Scottish Natural Heritage website...
Police Scotland investigating after buzzard caught in spring trap
4 July 2017
Police Scotland have launched an investigation into the alleged illegal setting of traps to deliberately target birds of prey near Auchintoul, Strathdearn.
Police were informed of an incident that occurred on 7 June 2017 where a buzzard was found after having been illegally trapped on the south slopes of Beinn Bhreac. The bird (pictured above) was found by a member of the public and was released.
Inspector Mike Middlehurst said: "It is very disappointing to have an incident like this reported, especially when there is a great deal of positive work going on in the Highlands to tackle wildlife crime. Unfortunately, there are some who continue to deliberately target birds of prey; there is nothing accidental in the setup of these traps.
"I am grateful to the member of the public who came across the bird and for their assistance in trying to free it. They were slightly injured in the process of releasing the bird and had the knowledge to photograph it. We are keen to speak to anybody who was walking or mountain biking in this area over the weekend of 3 and 4 June 2017. If anyone saw people or vehicles on these tracks that they thought out of place or acting suspiciously I would encourage them to contact us.
"Anyone with information is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101 quoting reference NN13977/17 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 if you wish to remain anonymous."
First conviction for mounted fox hunting
29 June 2017
Two huntsmen have been found guilty and fined for illegally hunting a fox with dogs. While there have been numerous previous convictions under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 for hare coursing or other hunting with dogs offences, this is first conviction involving a mounted fox hunt.
The men were fined £400 and £250 for the offence, which took place near Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders in 2016.
Read the full story... (PAW Scotland are not responsible for the content of external links)
Police appeal for information on shooting of short-eared owl near Leadhills
26 June 2017
Police Scotland are appealing for information after the shooting of a short-eared owl was witnessed near Leadhills, North Lanarkshire on 31 May. A police spokesman said:
"The person responsible is described as being small or medium build, driving a black 4x4 type vehicle with a dark canopy on it.
"The vehicle thereafter drove off to the B7040 Elvanfoot Road. Witnesses are sought, and those with information are urged to call Police Scotland 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."
This incident comes after the shooting of a hen harrier was reported near the same location, earlier in May (see below).
Golden eagle deaths
Extra measures to protect Scotland’s birds of prey
31 May 2017
Almost a third of golden eagles being tracked by satellite died in suspicious circumstances, scientists have found.
The Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) research identified that the majority of cases were found where land is intensively managed for driven grouse shooting.
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham confirmed to the Scottish Parliament she will now set up an expert group to look at managing grouse moors sustainably and within the law. Following a request by the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee the group will also advise on the option of licensing grouse shooting businesses.
Read the full satellite tagging report on the SNH website...
Read the Scottish Government press release...
SNH revokes licence on Raeshaw Estate after suspected wildlife crime offences
26 May 2017
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has revoked a licence to control wild birds at Raeshaw Estates as a result of on-going concerns about wildlife crime.
Police Scotland is now investigating the potential offences on the Scottish Borders estate.
SNH imposed a general licence restriction on Raeshaw Estates in 2015 on the basis of clear evidence provided by Police Scotland that wildlife crimes had been committed on the estate. The estate challenged the restriction through a judicial review, but the restriction was upheld in March this year.
During a compliance check this month, SNH staff found multiple instances of breaches of conditions of an individual licence that had been granted to cover essential management activities on the estate. These breaches may also constitute offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, so SNH has reported the details to Police Scotland.
Read the full SNH press release...
Police appeal for information after hen harrier shot dead
16 May 2017
Police Scotland are investigating the death of a female hen harrier near Leadhills in South Lanarkshire. According to several witnesses, a man on a quad bike is thought to have shot the endangered bird close to the B7040 at Elvanfoot at about 17:15 on 4 May. He then drove away before Police arrived.
Sgt Craig Smith said: "Police Scotland is committed to tackling wildlife crime and reducing the number of crimes against our iconic birds of prey.
"We will continue to work with partners and the public to protect Scotland's wildlife.
"At this time I am asking for anyone who witnessed a man on a quad bike between Elvanfoot and Leadhills on the evening of Thursday 4 May to please contact police. You may hold valuable information which could assist our inquiry."
Anyone with information which may be of assistance should contact Police Scotland on the non-emergency number 101. Information can also be reported anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Report any suspicions of wildlife crime to the Police
11 April 2017
Through social media we recently had our attention drawn to an incident involving an eagle owl tethered to a post, and a suspicion that someone might be using this to attract and then kill potential predators. This incident was not reported to the Police, but should have been. Instead, there was a lot of social media commentary regarding the incident reported on a website.
We urge people to report such incidents to the Police, who can judge if a crime has been committed. In this case, Police Scotland are making investigations, but direct information is vital. Please report any such incidents to the Police, and do so before making any public comment.
- Suspected crimes can be reported to Police Scotland on the non-emergency number 101
- In an emergency, if a crime is in progress or a suspect is still on the scene, please dial 999
- Information can be reported anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
- If a live animal or bird is injured or in distress, please contact the SSPCA on 03000 999 999
Public urged to avoid birds’ nests during gardening and building work
5 April 2017
As birds begin to nest this spring, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and PAW Scotland are reminding the public to be aware that birds are vulnerable at this time of year and destroying or damaging a nest while it’s in use is illegal and could result in a penalty.
Every year, birds’ nests are destroyed by people felling or pruning trees and scrub or doing building work. Other common examples are blocking entry holes to swift and starling nests located in houses, house martin nests being damaged under the eaves of houses, and bird nests being damaged while sites are being cleared for development. As well as these risks to wildlife, dogs which aren’t under control may disturb ground nesting birds.
Read the full SNH press release...
20 years of Operation EASTER - stopping egg thieves and egg collectors
4 April 2017
Wild birds are nesting and the national campaign to protect them is underway. Egg thieves will go to any lengths to raid the nests of rare species but Operation EASTER is determined to stop them in their tracks.
Operation EASTER was developed in Scotland 20 years ago. The operation is now facilitated by the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) in conjunction with UK police forces and partner agencies. The operation targets egg thieves by sharing intelligence across the UK to support enforcement action.
Read the full NWCU press release...
Appeal for information on missing satellite-tagged golden eagle
1 April 2017
RSPB Scotland has today issued an appeal for information following the disappearance of a satellite tagged golden eagle near Strathdon in Aberdeenshire.
The young male eagle was fitted with a transmitter by a licensed raptor study group member, before it fledged from a nest in Deeside in the summer of 2016. Data received from the tag allowed conservationists to study the movements of the bird, known as “338”, as it explored north-east Scotland’s countryside.
The last transmission was sent on the evening of 5 March 2017, after which no further data was received. A follow-up search of the area by police and RSPB staff could not locate the bird or the satellite transmitter.
Anyone with any information regarding this eagle is advised to call Police Scotland on 101 as soon as possible. Information can also be provided anonymously through Crimestoppers.
A review of satellite tracking data commissioned by the Scottish Government is expected to be published soon.
Read the full RSPB Scotland press release...
Read the Scottish Land & Estates response...
SNH comments on general licence legal decision
29 March 2017
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has welcomed a senior judge’s decision to uphold a decision by SNH to restrict the use of General Licences on land in the Scottish Borders where evidence of wildlife crimes had been found.
The decision had been challenged under Judicial Review by the affected landowners. However, at the Court of Session in Edinburgh Lord Armstrong threw out the case subject to a small change in the boundary of the restriction area.
Read the full SNH press release...
Bird of prey crime maps & NWCU funding confirmed
26% drop in recorded offences during 2016
27 March 2017
There was a 26% fall in recorded bird of prey crimes during 2016, according to the latest information.
Crime maps produced by PAW Scotland show 14 confirmed bird of prey crimes compared to 19 the previous year.
Species illegally killed in 2016 incidents included buzzards and a goshawk, while the golden eagle and osprey were victims in disturbance cases. There were four recorded incidents of poisoning, four shootings, three cases of disturbance and three trapping or attempted trapping offences.
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham also confirmed a further year's funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit, based in Stirling.
Read the full Scottish Government press release...
View the hotspot maps and background data...
Public asked for sightings of rare hen harriers
8 March 2017
After a successful call for hen harrier sightings last year, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Heads Up for Harriers project are once more asking people to report sightings of this special bird.
Hen harriers remain one of Scotland’s rarest and most spectacular birds of prey.
The Heads Up for Harriers Project wants to hear from anyone who is lucky enough to see these birds. The project is led by the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland (PAW) Scotland and encourages people to report sightings, as well as trialling nest and roost cameras, and encouraging land managers to retain hen harrier-friendly habitat.
PAW Scotland has also published a new map showing the approximate locations of hen harrier sightings reported to the project during the 2016 season (April to August).
Read the full SNH press release...
View the April-August 2016 hen harrier sightings map...
SNH report on game bird hunting published
25 February 2017
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has published a report comparing the game bird hunting regulations in other European countries.
This report reviews regulations on game bird hunting in 14 European countries. It focuses specifically on the legal controls on game bird hunting, including licensing and permitting arrangements, as well as on the requirements for monitoring, protecting and managing game birds.
Read the full SNH press release...
Read the full report...
Rare habitats being damaged by off-road vehicles
7 February 2017
Some of Scotland’s rarest habitats are being damaged as a result of illegal access by off road vehicles, warn Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Police Scotland.
Sites at Loch Fleet near Golspie and Ben Wyvis, north of Dingwall, are protected as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, recognising their important sand dune and mountain habitats, as well as the wealth of wildlife that they support. They are also designated as National Nature Reserves (NNRs).
Read the full SNH press release...