Tuesday, 17 April 2018

PERTHSHIRE GAMEKEEPERS ASSIST WITH SEA EAGLE SEARCH


Thirteen Perthshire gamekeepers have assisted Police Scotland in searching for a sea eagle after learning the bird’s satellite tag stopped working in a local glen.
Estates were informed of the loss of signal from the bird’s tag and offered their co-operation with ground searches after heavy snows around the area in recent weeks.
Yesterday, the gamekeepers accompanied Police and RSPB officials in searching areas of moorland and woodland several kilometres west of Dunkeld in the hope of finding either the bird or the tag device.
Two sea eagles have been seen in the glen since the tag stopped functioning and Golden eagles are also regularly sighted in the skies above the moors and low ground farmland.
The gamekeepers’ national body, The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), has asked anyone locally with any information or sightings to contact Police Scotland.
Unknown individuals were seen by gamekeepers quartering and searching the area, days ahead of yesterday’s (Tues) search, and may know something of value to the investigation.
SGA Chairman Alex Hogg said: “When learning about the bird, the gamekeepers- working in the area around where the sea eagle’s tag was reported to have last signalled- were keen to assist the Police and immediately offered their help in the searches. There has been a lot of snow drifts in the area recently which has obviously made searching problematic, logistically.
“The gamekeepers want the bird found, if it has perished. They are first to be accused when any bird of prey goes missing, or a tag stops, so these guys want to find the bird and assist the Police in every way they can.
“They have also pledged to search other areas in the vicinity over the coming days and report to Police. With some tags, there can be hours between one signal and the next so the location of the last bleep is only an indication of where the bird was. Eagles are capable of covering considerable distances in a short space of time. If anyone else has any information on this, they should contact Police Scotland.”
Sea eagles, reintroduced to Scotland, rely on carrion for food, especially in winter.

A study of pellets of young eagles by Leitch and Watson showed 40 percent contained sheep, deer and goats, 48 percent comprised rabbits and hares and 12 percent consisted of birds such as ducks, seabirds, gulls and grouse.

Monday, 9 April 2018

WHAT TO REMEMBER WHEN WATCHING CAPERCAILLIE


Friday, 6 April 2018

GAMEKEEPERS INVITE FIRST MINISTER TO HIGHLANDS TO DISCUSS MOUNTAIN HARES

Picture credit: SNH.
Gamekeepers fingered in a controversial mountain hare film have sent an open invitation to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to learn about hare management on their ground.
Last week BBC Scotland aired a film obtained covertly by animal rights campaigners showing what they described as ‘military style’ hare culls.
The broadcast led to the First Minister describing the practices in the film as ‘unacceptable’ during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood.
Now gamekeepers in the film have written to the First Minister to invite her to the highlands to see first-hand why the hare management is carried out.
They feel it is wrong for Government to obligate land managers to control deer populations then leave high populations of hares to graze the same habitats.
A number of protected sites exist on the ground and gamekeepers possess correspondence from statutory agencies outlining the value of their control of grazing in improving site condition.
Transparent records showing hares taken compared to population numbers will be made available to the First Minister, with Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham also being invited to the highlands.
Head Gamekeeper for one of the estates concerned, Duncan MacKenzie, said: “We’d really like to be able to show the First Minister around rather than discuss these issues in Edinburgh. I think it would be beneficial for everyone to get an understanding of why the hares need to be managed, here.
“We had SNH out a few years ago to see how the hare populations were being controlled. We invited them out recently also, so nothing is being hidden.
“We have good records of the amount of hares in comparison to the amount we have taken off the hill, covering a number of years, and there are still high numbers of hares on the ground.
“What the footage by the anti grouse-moor campaigners showed was working people being
secretly filmed carrying out a legal management activity which is no different to other forms of species management and is well within the laws passed by Scottish Government.
“The ironic thing is that those who are seeking the end of grouse management would also be signalling the beginning of the end for the mountain hare in Scotland.
“Populations are thriving on grouse moors but are struggling badly elsewhere due to predation and loss of their preferred heather habitat and we hope to have the opportunity to explain this in full to the First Minister.”
New methods of counting mountain hares were published by SNH on 26th January and those methods are to be adopted by the estates to inform all future hare management operations.



Wednesday, 4 April 2018

SGA DEER GROUP MEMBER INTRODUCES KIDS IN CARE TO URBAN DEER


A carer in East Kilbride has turned pioneer by introducing disadvantage kids in South Lanarkshire to the wonders of the wild deer that find a home on the city fringes.
David Quarrell wanted to combine his skills as carer and as an authority on urban deer to help connect local kids in the care system to nature and their environment.
Now, after successfully hosting the first organised trip of its kind for children in care, he hopes to roll out the education programme further.
Passionate about the roe deer that share green spaces on the outskirts of Glasgow, the experienced deer manager showed youngsters deer, explained about their lives, how to identify them and where they prefer to live and find food.
He also explained why populations sometimes required management to minimise damage to nature reserves and gardens, to keep populations healthy and to prevent road traffic accidents.
South Lanarkshire Council helped facilitate the trip and kids were given special learning packs and identification sheets from The Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA) and British Deer Society.
Lowland Deer Network also provided funding for costs and a breakfast for the kids and carers, who were out spying the deer at 6.30am before most people were awake.
“It was very worthwhile,” said David, who is a member of the SGA Deer Group and Chairs the South Lanarkshire Deer Group.
“None of the children had ever seen a wild deer before. They have coped with a lot of negative challenges in their lives to date and some of them have not had the chance to experience the positives of the wildlife around them. We saw about 14 deer over the morning and the kids were passing the binoculars between them, very excited.
“We talked about numbers of deer and whether they would expect the numbers to be higher or lower the following year. They also saw Herons at a protected SSSI site as well as pink footed and graylag geese, and enjoyed the whole experience.
“At the moment it is just a pilot but it teaches them a lot about their local environment. It was really good to see them connecting with nature and we hope to do more visits in the future.”
At the end of the visit, carers were given packs of venison sausages, burgers and steaks to cook; prepared by Tweed Valley Venison.
The initiative, taking place in the Year of Young People 2018, was supported by the Social Work Department of South Lanarkshire Council.

Foster carers have since given positive feedback on both the visit and the venison, saying the kids were engaged and enjoyed the experience and getting out into the outdoors.





OFFICE DISRUPTION: PLEASE NOTE

All members should be aware that the office is suffering unforeseen disruption this morning due to weather conditions and issues with phone systems. Please allow for this when contacting the office. Due to the nature of the disruption, email is the best way to make contact. All email requests will be answered as soon as is practical. Thanks for your patience. Team SGA.

Friday, 30 March 2018

CARE ADVISED AS WINTER TAKING ITS TOLL ON DEER

Red Deer continue to inspire Scottish people of all generations- and sell newspapers!
Hill users are being asked to take care to avoid disturbing deer over the Easter holidays as the prolonged winter has exacted a heavy toll on Scotland’s iconic species.
With a return to wintry weather predicted, stalkers are reporting many deer severely weakened by having their food source cut off and are cautioning against stressing the animals further.
The long winter has seen higher than normal levels of wildlife mortality, with sea creatures washed up on beaches and conservation groups urging the public to help vulnerable song birds survive to breeding time.
Some farmers are reporting difficulties with lambing due to the prolonged winter weather.
Deer have also been hit hard across Scotland’s hills with food buried for months under deep and drifting snow which has then crusted over with hard frost, leaving vegetation virtually inaccessible.
Stags already in poor body condition after the annual rut, where they fight for females- sometimes to the death- have been particularly hit by weather events such as the Beast From The East.
In poor weather, deer retreat from the high tops to lower ground for shelter but have not yet returned to the tops in many areas as they are too weak from having food cut off by snow.
It will be more likely that those talking to the hills for recreation this Easter will encounter deer and are being asked to be mindful of their plight, if possible.
“It is probably the worst conditions for over a decade for deer. Normally it is harder for them in the west during winter because it is generally wetter. However, this is affecting deer all over the high ground in Scotland whether numbers in that area are relatively high or number very few,” said Lea MacNally, of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, a professional stalker for almost half a century.
“The food source is there, they just can’t get it due to the length of time there has been full snow cover. Every winter there is an expected natural mortality but there has been much higher than normal mortality this year. Deer are having to expend a lot of energy scraping down through frosted snow to get to food and, in many areas, snow hasn’t lifted for a long time. The deer’s backs have not been dry for months and some calves are barely standing.
“If folk are out and about over Easter, where possible, they should try and give the deer a wide berth so as not to move them out of shelter. Disturbance causes deer to move and, if people take care to avoid that, it could make the difference between life and death for weakened animals.
“It would also be prudent for dog walkers to ensure their pets are under close control.”
Stalkers are warning the public that, should they see deer that have succumbed to the weather, it is likely to be around hill burns where they have moved to seek shelter.
Studies in other European countries like Norway have shown the link between hard winters and deer mortality (2) so, while concerning, this phenomenon is not unusual at the northern edge of the red deer range.
The latest SNH report on Deer Management in Scotland, 2016, reported that increases in deer numbers on the open hill have halted in Scotland in the last 15 years (1), allied with higher culling effort.


1/ Reference: Deer Management in Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, 2016.

“The results indicate that the population of red deer in open-hill ground in Scotland has been increasing. Data from 1960 - 2016 show that deer density increased steadily since 1961 (around 8 deer/km2), and peaked in 2000-01 at around 13 deer/km2 – an increase of 60%. In the last 15 years, the population growth appears to have halted and the estimated deer density in 2016 is around 12.5 deer/km2. Figure 3.1 illlustrates the changes in deer density (stags, hinds and calves) since 1961. The trend supports the contention made by Clutton- Brock et al5 that the population growth rate was slowing by 2000.






Thursday, 29 March 2018

STATEMENT ON COVERT MOUNTAIN HARE FILM BROADCAST BY BBC


SGA Statement: Covert Mountain Hare film obtained by OneKind and League Against Cruel Sports and broadcast by BBC.


A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “In two area shown in the film, the habitats are protected. Land mangers were notified by SNH that one was in unfavourable condition. There are no deer on that holding. The over-grazing damage was caused solely by mountain hares. Another area in the film is designated for dwarf woodland and there is a duty to reduce grazing pressure on the habitat. The other holding has significant areas of forestry as well as moorland. Both of these habitats require grazing assessment and management.

“If SNH and Scottish Government want protected sites to be in favourable condition then refuse to back the management actions to achieve that, then estates should stop being thrown to the mercy of animal rights campaigners with secret cameras and SNH should carry out the management themselves. We are not far from the stage now where people will not want to manage deer and hare populations because they cannot operate without being covertly filmed.

“Thousands of deer are killed annually, under Government instruction and a potential £40 000 fine for non-compliance, to protect designated sites, habitats, crops and trees. Killing thousands of deer then leaving thousands of hares to feed on that same habitat defies any sense or logic. The sad thing is that there are people within public agencies who know that very well but seem ready to let those tasked with carrying out the task, take the flak.

“Welfare is important. However no one managing any species can guarantee human error will never play a part. That is why dogs assist with wounded animals. 

“SNH stated in Parliament recently that there is no evidence available to suggest a threat to the conservation status of mountain hare in Scotland.

“The issue has become a Trojan horse for those seeking to end grouse shooting. Yet, if filming took place on nature reserves, viewers would see numbers barely able to sustain population viability. That is the true, untold story of mountain hares in Scotland and it is time it was told."

Friday, 23 March 2018

SGA STATEMENT: GOLDEN EAGLE, PENTLANDS


Statement from The Scottish Gamekeepers Association regarding statement issued today (March 23rd) by Chris Packham on missing eagle near Edinburgh.

A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: “The SGA repeats its previous message. If you know anything contact the only authority able to deal with such information, the Police.
“If persecution is at play, we condemn that. If this is found to be anything to do with any of our members- and we have no reason whatsoever to believe it is- they will be removed from our organisation.
“We will not, however, be involved in more media trials. If everyone’s job is to lead wildlife crime to court, and we were led to believe it is, then this case has made a total mockery of that objective and the process by which we investigate wildlife crime in Scotland. 
“Piecemeal presentations of evidence to Police by a collective of individuals and groups campaigning together to legislate against grouse shooting, while offering a running commentary in the media on live police investigations, is nothing other than shambolic. We have sympathy with authorities trying to establish criminality.
“Given the public interest generated by the campaigners, all the evidence in this case should be presented in the open so the truth can be established and, if we are to learn lessons, a system must be introduced whereby data from satellite tags can be monitored in future by independent authorities.
“The SGA has not joined in with theorising on blogs or private social media accounts.
“What we do know is that this satellite tag never once pinged on the grouse moor implicated but instead signalled in woodland some distance from a piece of moorland which hosted no commercial grouse shooting in 2017. The wood is close to one of the biggest public car parks in the Pentland Hills Regional Park. In short, there is no more evidence to implicate that landholding, or those who work there, than any other in the surrounding area or any other visitors to the park which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors per year.
“If anyone was intent in causing harm to this bird then, according to the narrative presented, they would have done so on a weekend morning in one of the busiest public areas close to Edinburgh. Someone must have seen that, therefore, and should contact the Police. 
“The fact SNH published a paper on satellite tagged eagles between 2004-2016 has nothing to do with any case happening years later, in 2018.

“To suggest otherwise is to institutionalise prejudice against a community of people: Scotland’s gamekeepers. We will not tolerate this and are extremely disappointed and angry that this attitude now appears to be at large within some sections of our parliament.”

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

SGA STATEMENT: EAGLE

Responding to a press release regarding a missing eagle, distributed by RSPB Scotland, a Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association said: 

“If anyone has information they should contact Police Scotland. If it is proven any harm has come to this bird and if it transpires there is evidence that that harm was the responsibility of an SGA member, they will be subject to our very strict wildlife crime disciplinary code.
“The legal process deserves respect before people automatically jump to apportioning blame.
“It is becoming increasingly impossible to gain full transparency surrounding these incidents when those holding the data are the tag owners who then dictate process and message.
“At the same time, these tag owners are actively lobbying to persuade government to legislate against grouse moors.
“If investigations were to have the best chance of success and procedural transparency, this data would be held centrally by an impartial body who could look into everything such as the reliability of the tag, who fitted it, the evidence of criminality which exists and the full range of other factors which could cause a mechanical device to stop signalling after many months in the wild.
“When a tag from a Hen Harrier stopped signalling on one of RSPB’s own nature reserves in the Cairngorms National Park, the charity stated the last known location of a tag was ‘only an indication of the broad general area’ where that bird was spending time.
“That being the case, the public deserve to see the hard evidence which exists that the lost signal was down to grouse management and not any other cause such as a faltering tag, natural mortality, eagles fighting over territory or any of the other land uses in the broad general area which include farming, forestry and wind energy.”


Friday, 9 March 2018

SGA FISHING GROUP WELCOMES GOVT INVESTMENT IN DECLINING SALMON


This morning (Friday 9th March), Scottish Government announced financial resourcing to assess declining salmon stocks in Scotland.

You can see the full press announcement details, here: https://news.gov.scot/news/support-for-wild-salmon

The SGA Fishing Group has welcomed the investment.

A Spokesman for The Scottish Gamekeepers Association Fishing Group said: "It is heartening to see Scottish Government looking into declines in the round. It is known we cannot get to grips with all the causes of salmon mortality at sea, but we can make sure we are doing what we can to safeguard salmon when they are here. We hope the investment will be targeted at declining salmon rather than all being swallowed up in streamlining governance processes. 
"Conservation measures on rivers were the first steps taken by government so tackling the many other factors identified in the announcement is now overdue. Smolt tagging work on the River Dee recently highlighted the problems of predation. The decisions of Scottish Government around fish farm expansion- currently being reviewed at Holyrood- will be an indicator as to the level of government commitment which exists to addressing wild salmon declines on the west coast."