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PAW Scotland Bird of Prey Crime Hotspot Maps - Q&A

What are the PAW Scotland maps?

The maps illustrate where confirmed poisonings and other crimes against birds of prey have taken place. They show incidents across Scotland and, where there was more than one incident in a small area, these are rolled into a larger ‘hotspot’.

For the maps showing all forms of bird of prey crime, different colours are used to indicate each type of crime.

What happens if a larger 'hotspot' involves more than one type of crime?

Where there are two or more incidents in the same area involving different types of crime, the hotspot will be displayed in the form of a small pie chart, with the circle divided into different colours depending on the numbers and types of incident. For example, if one trapping and one poisoning have been recorded in the same area, the hotspot will be displayed as half-red and half-yellow.

What do the wider crime maps include?

The maps showing all recorded crimes against birds of prey in Scotland were published for the first time in March 2014, using data for the calendar year 2013 only. They show the location of other bird of prey crimes including shooting, trapping, nest destruction and disturbance, as well as poisoning. These are based on incidents recorded as crimes by Police Scotland.

The maps have been compiled as reported crimes demonstrated that other methods were in play and needed to be taken into account when talking about raptor crime. The maps published in March 2017 show data for the 4 year period from 2013 to 2016 and this will continue to be built on year on year, like the poisoning maps, to eventually show a 5 year picture.

How are the poisoning results produced?

The poisoning hotspots are produced using robust scientific information based on toxicological post-mortem analysis provided by Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA).

SASA carries out testing on carcasses of animals that are suspected to have been poisoned. Once deliberate, illegal poisoning is confirmed, the incident is categorised as ‘abuse’. SASA also records accidental – or misuse – incidents involving perfectly legal pesticides as part of their monitoring role.

Why has a map of poison baits been published

Following a request from the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee, PAW Scotland investigated the possibility of producing an additional map showing the location of poison baits which were not already linked to a confirmed bird of prey poisoning. A new map  has therefore been included, showing the distribution of such incidents, based on the following criteria:

  • Incident classed as abuse by SASA
  • Not associated with a known raptor poisoning abuse incident already displayed on the poisoning maps
  • Type of poison likely to be lethal to raptors
  • Type of bait attractive to raptors
  • Placed in an exposed, outdoor, location.

This will continue to be published as a rolling 5-year map in future publications, unless sufficient incident numbers warrant the inclusion of a yearly map as well. 

Are all the spots randomised?

To ensure the maps clearly and consistently display these crimes in areas where multiple incidents have occurred, without disclosing the precise locations involved, all spots have been obscured to the origin of the 10 km OS grid square in which the incident took place, and multiple incidents that occurred within a single grid square have been displayed as larger ‘hotspots’.

Changes will only be made manually where this process would result in spots located below the mean high water mark, in which case the spots will be moved by longitude or latitude to the nearest point on land.

Why are they randomised?

We don’t give out exact locations of finds, or ‘name and shame’ the businesses on whose land a carcass is found. While everyone is free to draw their own conclusions regarding these crimes, PAW Scotland considers it to be the role of the courts to determine responsibility for them. In some cases it is also necessary, for the protection of nesting birds, to avoid disclosing the exact location of their nest.

Why are they important?

Looking at robust data showing the spread of the incidents that are recorded should allow us to better target partnership working, prevention activity, enforcement and education to combat this problem.

Is bird of prey persecution a cause for concern in Scotland?

The maps show that persecution continues to be a real threat to our birds of prey and other wildlife. This is not only a stain on Scotland’s reputation as a destination of choice for wildlife tourism, but is cruel and can greatly affect ecosystems and the conservation of certain species.

Carbofuran - and other chemicals used in the poisoning incidents - are extremely dangerous. They are dangerous to both animals and humans. Putting these poisons out where anyone can come across them is totally irresponsible.

The Scottish Government funded a free, confidential Pesticides Disposal Scheme  from February to May 2015. This scheme, supported by PAW Scotland partners, successfully removed more than 700 kilograms of illegal poisons, including over 100 kilograms of Carbofuran, from Scotland’s environment.

Why publish maps of information that SASA already publishes in its annual reports?

It’s vitally important that all our partners and the public understand what these figures are and what they mean. In an age where vast amounts of information are available it is sometimes difficult to know what information is actually of value. By publishing these maps PAW Scotland sends out a clear message to those who are looking for reliable information.

The poisoning maps use only the SASA data of confirmed poisoning and by aggregating five years’ worth of information on one map we can gain a better understanding of the where the problem areas are.

Wider crime data is sourced from Police Scotland for the same benefit.

Why are details of some incidents not included in the maps/background data?

It is not always possible to identify the location where a bird of prey crime took place, for example, if a bird is found to have survived a historical persecution incident which took place at an unknown time and location. In such cases, these incidents will be included in the background data but will not appear as a hotspot on the maps.

Additionally, Police Scotland and SASA may sometimes need to temporarily withhold specific details of some incidents (including location, species, type of poison etc.) for operational reasons. While they cannot be displayed on the maps themselves, these incidents are still counted in the summary tables provided along with the maps. Further details of these incidents will be added, wherever possible, to the maps and background data in future publications.

Who is involved in putting these together?

The maps project has been managed by the Scottish Government with the support of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates, Police Scotland, Scotland's Rural College and the PAW Scotland Raptor Group.

Membership of the Raptor Group comes from Police Scotland, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, RSPB Scotland, SASA, Scottish Gamekeepers Association, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Land & Estates, British Association for Shooting & Conservation & Scottish Raptor Study Group.

What is the PAW Scotland Raptor Group?

The UK Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime identified a number of key priority areas for action in relation to wildlife crime. One of these areas is crime against birds of prey. Formerly known as the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group, PAW Scotland established this group (now chaired by Detective Chief Superintendent Sean Scott of Police Scotland) to develop a programme of work to improve prevention, awareness raising, enforcement and intelligence gathering in Scotland related to crimes against birds of prey.