Deadly wildlife maiming traps set in the heart of Scottish nature haven

Trapped common gull, geallaig hill 27-6-16

This common gull endured an agonising ordeal before it was put down - its nearby chicks starved death while it was trapped

​RSPB, SSPCA and Police Scotland vow to hunt down wildlife killers

Graham Martin's photo

22nd July 2016 by Graham Martin 1 Comment

Conservationists have sounded an alarm after deadly wildlife traps were found in the heart of the scenic Cairngorms National Park.

RSPB Scotland has appealed for information following the discovery of illegally-set spring traps.

The environmental group has commended the actions of two members of the public who alerted it to a distressed bird caught in a trap they came across while out walking.

However, it is disappointed that, as with many wildlife crimes, the perpetrators are yet to be identified.

The fact that this occurred within the Cairngorms National Park, an area that should be a showcase for the best of Scotland’s wildlife, makes this all the more appalling

While walking down the northern slopes of Geallaig Hill, a few miles north west of Ballater, on 27 June, two people saw a common gull floundering on the ground.

As they approached the distressed bird, they saw that it had been caught by the legs in two traps which were hidden beside a dead rabbit that had been used as bait.

The gull was severely injured and was bleeding profusely. The walkers contacted the RSPB Scotland investigations team, and the incident was immediately reported to the Scottish SPCA and Police Scotland.

Inspectors from Scottish SPCA quickly attended the scene, and having carefully released the gull, found that it had two broken legs. These injuries were so extensive that the bird had to be put down. Its chicks were later found, starved to death.

A spokesman for Scottish SPCA said: “It was only by sheer luck that these traps, well away from normal public access, were found by the witnesses, and it is to their credit that this was reported quickly to allow the gull’s suffering to be brought to an end.”

Wildlife crime officers from Police Scotland, assisted by investigations staff from the Scottish SPCA and RSPB Scotland, carried out a follow up search and found clear evidence that eight similar traps had been deployed, attached to stakes and baited with dead rabbits, in a line stretching two hundred metres across the moor. 

It was also evident that these traps had been removed very recently. Nearby, three dead common gull chicks, close to fledging age, were found.

Ian Thomson, RSPB Scotland’s head of investigations commented: “It is likely that these common gull chicks were dependent on the adult found in the trap, and that they had subsequently starved to death.”

Police Scotland officers later spoke to a number of people involved in the management of the land on which the traps were found, but the identity of who had set the traps could not be established.

Thomson continued: “The deployment of these illegal traps has resulted in the killing of protected birds, with other specially protected species such as golden eagles, red kites or hen harriers also potentially at serious risk from this indiscriminate activity. The fact that this occurred within the Cairngorms National Park, an area that should be a showcase for the best of Scotland’s wildlife, makes this all the more appalling.

“It is disappointing that the perpetrator of these offences has not been identified, as is often the case with wildlife crimes. We thank the two members of the public for their quick thinking in contacting us. We hope that this appeal to the public will yield more information to bring those responsible for this appalling crime to justice.”

“If anyone has any information that may assist in establishing the perpetrators of these crimes, RSPB Scotland is encouraging them to contact Police Scotland by dialling 101 or the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999.”

A spokesman for Invercauld Estate, within which Geallaig Hill is situated, said: “We have spoken with the police who we understand searched the site and we have also undertaken our own internal investigation. We understand the police did not find evidence of illegal activity and our own enquiry has led to a similar conclusion. 

“Nevertheless, we are extremely concerned by the allegations and condemn outright any unlawful activity. We echo the appeal by cabinet secretary for the environment, Roseanna Cunningham, for anyone with information on this incident or any wildlife crime to contact Police Scotland.”

24th July 2016 by Judi. Hewitt

It's very sad that these traps are still being sold - snares and traps are horrific instruments of torture. For this reason these terrible devices should be outlawed and anyone found with these things in their possession served with a harsh punishment.