Gamekeepers seek talks over ‘unsustainable vandalism’
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,