Hunt is on for trap saboteurs

Lindsay Kerr
Lindsay Kerr

A north east Fife landowner has voiced his frustration after ‘vicious’ carrion crows were released from legal traps to wreak damage in the countryside.

Sir Robert Spencer-Nairn, who owns Rankielour Estate, near Springfield, has installed CCTV on his estate following a spate of incidents in which the traps were tampered with.

Known as Larsen traps, they are put down for a month or so every spring to catch the birds, also known as hooded crows.

The idea is to trap the birds alive and unharmed using food bait or, more often, a live magpie or crow as a decoy.

But Police Scotland is reporting a rise in the number of traps being tampered with - and Sir Robert says the culprits should be made aware of the consequences their actions can have.

“Carrion crows can do appalling damage at this time of the year,” he told the Fife Herald.

“They rob the nests of other birds, including songbirds, eat their young and steal their eggs.

“They also take out the tongues and eyes of newborn lambs. It is a real problem on estates and farms and people should realise the harm they’re doing by releasing what they mistakenly believe are innocent birds.

“Carrion crows don’t discriminate in the birds they take and as a bird lover myself I find it upsetting that they kill songbirds such as chaffinches, green finches and robins.”

Like other landowners in Scotland, Sir Robert has teamed up with SASA, Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture, who are helping him monitor the traps on his land - and PC Lindsay Kerr, Police Scotland’s wildlife and environmental crime co-ordinator for Fife, has warned that culprits will find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

“I want to take this opportunity to highlight that tampering with traps is a crime and will be recorded and investigated appropriately,” he said.

“Trapping in Scotland is a legal activity and when carried out responsibly and within the law is an effective tool in wildlife and conservation management.

“ Pest and predator control is an integral part of conservation, land and wildlife management and is necessary to reduce predation and damage to crops down to acceptable levels.

“It is the responsibility of all of those involved in pest and predator control to ensure their methods are legal, humane and carried out with sensitivity and respect for other countryside users.”

PC Kerr explained that licences are issued by Scottish Natural Heritage and permit an “authorised person” to carry out activities that would otherwise be illegal.

They cover certain types of activity relating to birds such as for the conservation of wild birds, preserving public health and preventing the spread of disease or serious damage to livestock and crops.

The licences are subject to strict terms and conditions and abuse of them or failure to comply with the conditions may invalidate the licence and lead to a prosecution. These conditions include the target birds, methods of control, use of traps, humane dispatch of target birds and release of non-targets.

Dave Shepherd, of Scottish Natural Heritage, added: “The general licences allow land managers to use crow traps to control crows and magpies humanely and legally. This can include their use to protect game birds as well as other vulnerable ground nesting birds”.

If anyone has any concerns regarding traps please contact the police on 101 or report it to their local Wildlife and Environmental Crime Coordinator.

PC Kerr manages all wildlife and environmental issues for Fife and can be contacted on 07598 141 799.