Game­keep­ers seek talks over ‘un­sus­tain­able van­dal­ism’

The Oban Times - - OUTDOORS -

THE Scot­tish Game­keep­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion (SGA) is to seek dis­cus­sions with po­lice and gov­ern­ment min­is­ters over an es­ca­la­tion of van­dal­ism and in­ter­fer­ence with le­gal traps by ac­tivists and the pub­lic.

Mem­bers of the game­keep­ers’ rep­re­sen­ta­tive body are re­port­ing in­creas­ing in­ci­dences of in­ten­tional dam­age to preda­tor con­trol traps and snares op­er­ated as part of their em­ploy­ment.

In re­cent weeks, le­gal Fenn traps have been van­dalised, rail traps smashed, wires cut and traps left in the open air in Tay­side, Perthshire, An­gus, Spey­side, Grampian, To­matin and the Great Glen area. In one in­ci­dent in An­gus, 22 traps, ap­proved for le­gal preda­tor con­trol by Scot­tish Nat­u­ral Her­itage, were dam­aged in one af­ter­noon.

The SGA, which rep­re­sents 5,300 mem­bers, be­lieves the num­ber of in­ci­dents is be­com­ing un­sus­tain­able and that law­ful busi­nesses are be­ing tar­geted. It feels spe­cific of­fences need to be worded to tighten up a soft ap­proach to van­dal­ism and in­ter­fer­ence, and is seek­ing dis­cus­sions with Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment and Po­lice Scot­land.

Licences to con­trol preda­tors legally are sub­ject to reg­u­la­tion by Scot­tish Nat­u­ral Her­itage and game­keep­ers are trained to op­er­ate traps and snares legally, us­ing ap­proved equip­ment.

Preda­tor con­trol has been sci­en­tif­i­cally proven to ben­e­fit ground-nest­ing game species and threat­ened birds such as the red-listed curlew.

SGA chair­man Alex Hogg said: ‘Mem­bers are ex­tremely wor­ried. The sit­u­a­tion can’t go on like this. The big­gest prob­lem is the law, as writ­ten, and the lack of a spe­cific of­fence.

‘Ev­ery time dam­age or in­ter­fer­ence is re­ported, po­lice say no crime has been com­mit­ted. Yet, if a trap was in­ter­fered with by a mem­ber of the pub­lic and a non-tar­get an­i­mal was caught in that trap, a game­keeper could lose his li­cence and charges would be brought yet the law wouldn’t touch the per­son com­mit­ting the in­ter­fer­ence. That surely can­not be al­lowed to con­tinue.

‘The po­lice have given some mem­bers ex­pla­na­tions as to why they can­not act, which we wel­come, but it seems their hands are tied as well.

‘Some peo­ple might not agree with some things, and preda­tor con­trol might be one of those things, but that doesn’t le­git­imise peo­ple van­dal­is­ing peo­ple’s work tools or, ren­der­ing them il­le­gal.

‘If a game­keeper’s snares are tied up or some­one has smashed a boul­der through a Larsen trap, that game­keeper can­not per­form his du­ties.

‘It would be like a bus driver ex­pect­ing to drive a bus with the tyres re­moved.’

Game­keeper and SGA mem­ber Andy Smith pro­vided video record­ings to the po­lice of a mem­ber of the pub­lic re­leas­ing a call bird from a Larsen trap on a farm, leav­ing the trap vul­ner­a­ble to catch­ing a non-tar­get species, which it­self could lead to a charge against the op­er­a­tor. worse,

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