Murder in the hills.
As a wildlife guide working in this area it should be relatively easy to show guests Hen Harriers and Short-eared Owls on the ample areas of moorland habitat in the Strathspey/Cairngorms area and the adjoining Monadhliath mountains, but it isn't; I'm lucky to see one or two of each a year; and there's only one reason why, the illegal persecution of raptors on grouse moors.
A recent report by S.N.H. entitled 'Analyses of the fates of satellite tagged Golden Eagles in Scotland' revealed that out of 131 eagles tagged between 2004-2016, 41 of them (31%) died under suspicious circumstances on or near grouse moors and were shown to be caused by direct persecution. Add to this the tagged, young male Hen Harrier killed near Newtonmore last year and the Buzzard found caught in an illegal trap near strathdearn last week the list of atrocities is endless. Talking about the S.N.H. report the RSPB's head of investigations said
'This is a damning indictment of Scotland's driven grouse shooting industry. The irrefutable evidence demonstrating the scale of systematic organised criminality is shocking'
Indeed it's been shown in studies and from gamekeepers admitting it, that it is IMPOSSIBLE to have a financially sustainable shoot WITHOUT keeping the moor clear of raptors, as they and other predators take the natural surplus which the
shooters want to kill instead. Everyone seems to know whats going on but nothing is done about it! What other supposedly legitimate industry could so blatantly and consistently break the law and get away with it? Somethings gotta give! It's not just illegal killing by shooting, trapping, poisoning or stamping on eggs; i read today how some moors use gas guns (a devise which makes a big bang periodically, usually used to scare birds off crops) to stop raptors from nesting in a given area. Some estates even go as far as eradicating Mountain Hares from their moors just because they may pass ticks to the grouse! Do we really want people like this as guardians of our countryside?
Check out the birders against wildlife crime page to get info on what to do if you witness anything whilst out there, they're also holding Hen Harrier day events all over the country so check out when there's one near you. there's also a face book group raptor persecution to keep abreast of currant news. Also read Mark Avery's book Inglorious for the history of this issue.