South Scotland

Galloway gamekeeper Peter Bell admits buzzard poisoning

Dead buzzard
Image caption Bell admitted poisoning a buzzard in southern Scotland last year

A gamekeeper from southern Scotland has been fined more than £4,000 for poisoning a buzzard and possessing illegal pesticides.

Peter Bell, 62, of Newton Stewart, admitted four contraventions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

He committed the poisoning offence by lacing a pheasant carcass with carbofuran in December last year at Glasserton Home Farm near Whithorn.

He was fined a total of £4,450 at Stranraer Sheriff Court.

Bell is a full-time gamekeeper and has sole responsibility for rearing pheasants and organising shooting on Glasserton and Physgill Estates, which includes land on Glasserton Home Farm.

The court heard how he laced the carcass of a pheasant with the pesticide carbofuran and set the bait in a field.

A birdwatcher passing the farm saw something flapping in the field and on closer inspection found that it was a common buzzard, lying on the ground, in the last throes of life.

Subsequent forensic work showed that the buzzard had died as a result of ingesting the poisoned bait.

A search of Bell's home address in March this year found poisonous substances in his tool shed and home which were illegal to possess.

'Textbook operation'

Procurator fiscal Craig Harris said: "The killing of this buzzard was considered and deliberate criminality.

"The laying of bait laced with carbofuran was shockingly irresponsible conduct.

"It was compounded by the stocks of other illegal poisons that were kept."

He said anyone trying to poison wild birds could expect to be brought before the courts.

RSPB Scotland's head of species and land management Duncan Orr-Ewing called the conviction a "textbook operation".

He said: "The level of the fine is also a good outcome in this case, and reflects the true seriousness of the incident, and the nature of the pesticides involved."

Mr Orr-Ewing said while some progress was being made in some parts of Scotland, there were still persistent problems elsewhere, which showed little sign of reducing.

A spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) said it condemned illegal poisoning.

"Mr Bell was a former member of the SGA," he said.

"He will not be allowed to hold membership of the organisation again and was informed of this likelihood back in 2012, when the case came to light, and told not to re-apply.

"The SGA advocates those facing problems with predation of livestock by protected predators should only look to the legal routes and options open to them rather than taking the law into their own hands."

Dramatic drop

Douglas McAdam, chief executive of the landowners' group Scottish Land & Estates, said the organisation fully supported the fine.

"Scottish Land & Estates has repeatedly stated the illegal poisoning of birds of prey has no part to play in modern game management," he said.

"It is also a danger to other wildlife, domestic animals and potentially humans.

"Industry organisations have worked hard to get that message across to their members and the number of such incidents has dropped dramatically in the last three years."

He added that the estate involved was no longer a member of the group.

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