News : Apr 2012

Dead golden eagle led to poison find

18 April 2012

From BBC news – An Argyll farm manager has pled guilty to possessing the banned pesticide carbofuran. Tom McKellar, 50, kept the highly toxic poison at the Auch Estate, near Bridge of Orchy. Police were first alerted when an adult golden eagle was found dead in the area after being poisoned with carbofuran. Sentence on McKellar, who admitted setting out meat laced with the poison as bait for foxes, was deferred at Oban Sheriff Court. A single grain of carbofuran can kill a bird, while a quarter teaspoon can be fatal to humans. Following a search of his property by police on 17 June 2009, McKellar was found to have quantities of carbofuran in three separate containers and traces of it within a syringe. A group of hillwalkers had telephoned RSPB Scotland 11 days earlier to report finding the body of a golden eagle on the slopes of Beinn Udlaidh, near Bridge of Orchy. RSPB Scotland investigations staff, accompanied by a wildlife crime officer from Strathclyde Police, retrieved the body as evidence. Tests by Scottish government laboratories revealed that the adult golden eagle had been poisoned with carbofuran, which has been illegal to possess or use in the UK since 2001. A follow-up search of land and buildings on the Auch Estate revealed a dead fox, which had been poisoned, and a sheep carcass laced with carbofuran. Sheriff Douglas Small deferred sentence on McKellar until social inquiry reports had been prepared. Defence agents will outline the mitigation for the offence when the case resumes on 29 May. Welcoming McKellar’s conviction, Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said: “The persecution of wildlife is of great concern to the Scottish SPCA and the possession of carbofuran is a serious offence that will not be tolerated. “We are very pleased with this conviction, which demonstrates that when organisations work together perpetrators will be brought to justice.” Scottish Land & Estates, which represents 2,500 landowners across Scotland, said the conviction of McKellar underlined the need for “cool heads and hard facts” in the debate over wildlife crime. Its chief executive, Douglas McAdam, said: “Our members are committed to the eradication of wildlife crime and the possession and use of illegal pesticides is to be condemned out of hand. “This was a very high profile case and when it first emerged a golden eagle had been found poisoned there was a knee jerk response from some quarters trying to imply that landowners or country sports would most likely be involved in some way. “This, of course, is not the case here and it demonstrates the need for cool heads and hard facts when these dreadful incidents occur”. At an earlier hearing in December 2010 at the High Court in Glasgow, McKellar pled guilty to various firearms offences and was sentenced to 300 hours community service. No charges have been brought for poisoning the golden eagle.

BBC news link:

Gamekeeper convicted of illegally trapping owl

3 April 2012

SSPCA press release: A Kirriemuir gamekeeper has been convicted of illegally trapping a tawny owl in a crow cage following a Scottish SPCA investigation. Robert Christie, 58, of Lindertis Estate, Airlie previously pled guilty to the offence and was admonished at Forfar Sheriff Court on Tuesday (3 April). Christie admitted recklessly taking the owl in a cage trap and using an illegal trap, contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Section 1 (a) and Section 5, at Craigton Bank Woods on the Lindertis Estate. The bird suffered an injury to its beak and was extremely thin as the trap contained no food or water. SSPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said, “Cage traps are widely misused, either through poor management or ignorance. The trap which Christie was responsible for failed to meet the legal requirements of the Scottish Government’s General Licence, which states that traps must bear identifications tags and be immobilised when not in use. Christie pled ignorance to such conditions, which is shocking given he was an experienced gamekeeper. We welcome the fact that Christie now has a criminal conviction for this offence. Thankfully the tawny owl received immediate vet treatment before being rehabilitated at our Wildlife Rescue Centre and successfully released back into the wild.” Cage traps are large wire enclosures with a funnel which the bird flies down into and cannot escape. They are typically used to control carrion crows to protect livestock and fruit and vegetable crops. Once caught within these traps birds are offered the full protection of the Animal Health and Welfare Act (Scotland) 2006 when the licence conditions are not complied with. Like snaring, cage traps are indiscriminate and non-target species such as owls, buzzards and eagles are often caught and injured. The welfare of any bird caught within a cage trap is a concern for us as serious beak and wing injuries commonly occur, regularly resulting in the bird having to be put to sleep.

Additional press release from COPFS: