Looking out for Scotland's birds of prey

March 8th 2013. Project Raptor visited an area of South Lanarkshire and whilst walking on Leadhills Estate we came across a large quantity of meat that had been laced with Carbofuran. Even though it is illegal to possess, Carbofuran is still the poison of choice by many wildlife criminals who use it to target birds of prey.

Two game bagsTwo large game bags, often used by game keepers, were discovered hidden behind some undergrowth on the edge of a grouse moor. Inside both bags were a large quantity of rabbit meat which had been cut into small pieces. On each piece of meat there were various amounts of Carbofuran poison. This was in the form of granules, with some meat only having several granules on them whilst others were covered with many dozens of the poppy seed sized grains.

Although one bag contained a large quantity of poisoned bait the other bag had fewer pieces in it. Evidence suggested that the emptier bag had recently contained more of the meat and there was a serious concern that meat from this bag had already been set out on the grouse moor to target birds of prey.

Carbofuran on rabbit legIt was clear straight away that this was an extremely serious and potentially dangerous situation. A single granule of Carbofuran is capable of killing a large bird of prey and just several granules can be fatal to a human being if they were to come into contact with the banned substance. Considering that these bags were in a location where there was public access as well as the strong chance that some of this poisoned meat was already out on the grouse moor, we had to act quickly.

We first contacted the RSPB to report the incident. From previous experiences related to similar incidents that have taken place in remote locations we have found that the police do not have access to GPS devices or operate using Ordinance Survey maps and so in some instances they have found it difficult to attend remote areas swiftly. Therefore, as assistance was urgently required on this occasion and due to the circumstances, it was more sensible to contact the RSPB who were not only familiar with similar incidents to the one that we had uncovered, but we felt would be far more efficient at finding remote locations quickly or helping to guide a third party to the scene.

Game bags and poisonAfter taking GPS co-ordinates, the RSPB immediately contacted the police to report the incident. Three hours after we had made the call to the RSPB the police arrived at the scene in two marked vehicles. The police then proceeded on foot whilst the directions to the poison baits were being given out to them over the phone by a member of the RSPB. Once the two bags of poisoned bait were located the police retrieved them and they then made their way back to their vehicles and left the area.

Since the incident, Project Raptor has assisted police with their enquiries and now we await the final outcome of the investigation.

To date no public warnings have been seen in the area of Leadhills alerting the local community as well as the wider public to the incident or the dangers of coming into contact with Carbofuran poison. 

You can learn more about this shooting estate at raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com

Project updates

Update - 12 November 2013

As part of Project Raptor’s ‘Community awareness’ initiative, we have erected posters and distributed leaflets around the towns of Leadhills and Abington in South Lanarkshire, which have alerted residents of an incident that occurred in their area concerning the discovery of a large quantity of Carbofuran poison.

Download the poster (PDF)

The notices also asked for anybody with any information on this or any other incident, related to raptor persecution, to contact their local police, as well as the SSPCA or RSPB.

These notices were handed out for the following reasons:

  • Since March 2013, when this deadly poison was discovered and reported to the authorities, there have been no local authority alerts or warningsto the local communities as well as the wider public who may use the area for recreation or work.
  • The poison that was discovered was found to be of an extremely toxic variety (Carbofuran).
  • The poison was found in large quantities, enough to kill several adults, children, pets and dozens of wild animals, including birds of prey, which is believed to have been the most likely target.
  • The poison was discovered in a location where access to the public is possible.
  • There was evidence that suggested that some of this poison had been laid out on open hillsides close to a public caravan site and a village
  • Incidents similar to this one have occurred in the area on other occasions.
  • It is important that the community are made aware of the incident and understand the seriousness of it. Also, that they are encouraged to contact the police, SSPCA or RSPB with any information that they may have related to this incident, as well as information which may help prevent such crimes in the future.

Update - 24 October 2013

Project Raptor have contacted South Lanarkshire police and they have now informed us that evidence gathered from the two game bags has come back negative. This means that unless further evidence comes their way then this case is just another in a long line of wildlife crimes that have taken place within the Leadhills area over the years that will never be solved. Shockingly, but not surprisingly, since the bags were discovered in March 2013 other incidents have been uncovered at Leadhills including a shot otter and red kite.

Project Raptor will begin to report the grid reference when reporting on incidents so readers can get a better idea where these crimes are occurring.

We would recommend the website gridreferencefinder.com to quickly look these locations up.

The Grid reference where these two bags were found is: NS89249 18720

Project Raptor

Project Raptor has said in the past that it would neither condone nor condemn the actions taken by the police in relation to any incidents that we report to them. We may make our personal feeling felt elsewhere, but our site will report on the facts only of a case and we will leave it for you to debate the issues raised.

However, there are some questions to ask about this case such as why a police spokesperson gave a statement to the press, in relation to the poison bait, saying that an extensive search of the area had taken place when the two bags containing the poison bait were removed. We know, from on the ground information at the time, that this was not the case and the police who arrived at the location on Leadhills Estate were guided by phone to the bags and then returned to their vehicles and left the scene. If an extensive search had taken place then possibly dead birds and other wildlife may have been discovered as well as poisoned bait that had already been set out on the hill close by.

We would also ask why, instead of attempting to discover who the two bags belonged to once the bags had been removed, that if the police were to have watched the bags then this question may have soon been answered. The meat in the bags was fresh and so we can assume that whoever was using the bait would have returned to the bags within twenty four hours to pick up some more poisoned bait or the bags themselves. This would have saved a lot of resources investigating the case and more importantly could have caught the criminal in the act, which may have even led onto the discovery of more illegal poison and further incriminating evidence.

In addition to these two points, Project Raptor asks why the local community have been kept in the dark about the crimes being committed in the countryside around them, particularly when it concerns the use of deadly poisons that have been deliberately left out in access of the public. We feel that it is way past time that the Scottish Government alerted people of wildlife crime incidents occurring in around their community as they often do when an incident of poaching has occurred in an area. In relation to this final point, Project Raptor is working on this issue as part of its 'Community Awareness Initiative' and so please come back soon to learn more. If you haven't already, then please subscribe to get the latest updates and reports.